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Banksy – Wall And Piece

Century Publishing

It’s amazing the sort of fame you can achieve whilst remaining completely anonymous. Nobody knows what street cred feels like from the shadows more than London artist, Banksy. Wall and Piece is a collection of the artist’s three books that showcase his genius and provocative work. Some call it vandalism, others street art, in any case the street art that Banksy stencils on any surface definitely gets you thinking. Whether it’s a rat with a ghetto blaster, an ‘authorized graffiti area’ or the Virgin Mary listening to her I-pod, each of Banksy’s pieces are on the spot and spot on when it comes to witty social commentary. Sometimes the subtlety of the statement is what makes its beauty.

In this book, Banksy declares war on the advertisers that blemish our surroundings. They didn’t ask anyone for permission to see their biased comments and rants, so why should we ask theirs? That’s the question that Banksy has an answer to. But, Banksy doesn’t stop with a quick stencil piece in the street- No, he takes his art to the galleries; places he refers to as ‘trophy cabinets for the millonaires’. The urban subterfuge has found its way into the Louvre and Tate, but also into the Zoo of Madrid where the artist voices the distraught feelings of the caged specimens. The strongest piece, in my eyes, though, is the visit Banksy pays to the Segregation Wall in Palestine where he paints disillusions of hope and freedom on a canvas of oppression.

Wall and Piece is a must-have book for anyone that needs help to look outside of the box, and like Banksy says himself: “Think outside the box, collapse the box and take a fucking sharp knife to it.”

For more insight click : www.banksy.co.uk

Ralph Lloyd-Davis

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Taking The Train

Joe Austin
[Columbia University Press]

We’ve all seen graffiti adorning the walls near our houses, lighting up drab walls and boring train journeys, but unless you’re really interested, you won’t know much about the history of writing. And that’s where this tome comes in, because it charts the rise of simple tagging of a neighbourhood to the full scale bombing of subway trains and the writers’ battle with the various Mayors of New York.

What is most impressive about this book is that Austin is able to keep the pacing and narrative interesting and easy to read, despite having to explain sociological reasonings behind the writers’ efforts and go into detail about the various institutions that were trying to rid the subways of what they considered to be aggressive vandalism.

Starting in the late 1960s and moving through to the mid-to-late 1980s, Austin goes through the first and second “wars” on writing, which saw huge amounts of money being spent trying to rid the city of murals and tags, despite huge unemployment and housing problems needing the money. Graffiti was targeted as the reason for the citizens leaving in droves, but Austin maps out the truthful reasons, including a look at how New York’s economic plight compared to the rest of the USA.

I was deeply interested in the history of writing, and excerpts from magazines and papers from the time as well as interview clips from the various kings of writing enable the story to be told by the people involved, rather than having to speculate. Though the author is extremely pro-graffiti and makes this clear throughout, it is a great read to see just what problems this youthful art culture caused for stiff Government officials and middle-to-upper class citizens, even when graffiti became a brief favourite of the art galleries.

Thankfully, graffiti continued and grew stronger thanks to its community, and this book is a brilliant at showing how powerful this movement was, and still is. A definite must for anyone interested in the hip hop culture and art.

Abjekt

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The Library

Art Skateboarding and Life

Andy Howell
(Untitled Publishing and Gingko Press)

Most skaters would choose a magazine over a book any day if they wanted to find a connection with their skating…but this hard-backed autobiographical colour explosion is an exception to the rule.

Andy Howell’s Art, Skateboarding and Life is exactly what is says on the cover displayed through endless painted pictures, timeless graphics and two bonus DVDs- one being a documentary about Andy, and the other being a collection of out of print skate videos Andy worked on (New Deal, Underworld Element, Sophisto…). For that last fact alone, this book is worth its weight in gold!

Andy, along with Amely Greeven, has managed to merge the lines between the pretty pictures that adorn your skateboard, and actually riding that skateboard. You see, often when artists release books of their work, it is hard to visualise just how important some of their pieces were to skaters. On the glossy pages, their designs look unblemished and ready to be framed in some art collector’s house. When Andy put pen to paper, he also put truck to coping and needle to vinyl. Andy was a professional skater, a DJ/Producer and an artist all rolled into one, and this book visualises it all.

In a loose chronological feed, friends, fans and associates lay testimony to the skills Andy possess’, alongside Andy who tries to explain his creative process and inspirations. There are sweet anecdotes like Andy being Tony Hawk’s No.1 fan, or the emotional drive Andy felt when his father passed away. It’s all in here, and in Technicolor!

I’m not much of an artist myself, but I really find this book enthralling. Between stories, graphics and audio-visual stimulation, this book has me hooked. Art, Skateboarding and Life is available in the UK from www.hypestore.net

Ralph Lloyd-Davis

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The Library

Firestarter

I have just finished Catherine Forde’s new book Firestarter and I have to say it was surprisingly refreshing and just what I needed to cheer me up in my post flu weariness.

The book is aimed at teenagers but I recon it will appeal to anyone 11 years or older looking to kill a few hours over a good, quick, and easy read.

The central character is fifteen year old Keith. Keith’s mum has to go on a week-long course so his dad offers to pay him to look after his little sister, Annie, while he goes to work. A nice simple little earner thinks Keith until his next door neighbour fosters a new boy called Reece. Blue haired, pyromaniac, Reece. As soon as he moves in strange things start to happen – like the pizza place burning down.

Reece is a suspect but Keith doesn’t want to tell Dad for fear of being sent to Grandma’s and loosing out on his pay. Keith has to make some difficult decisions as Reece’s behaviour becomes even more erratic. Should he face the truth about Reece or face the consequences of keeping shtum?

Read and see! Recommended.

Other books by this author are The Drowning Pond, Skarrs, and Fat Boy Swim (also recommended)

Firestarter is available via Egmont books here or you can check out www.catherineforde.co.uk

Chris Arundel

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The Library

Bomb The Suburbs

William Upski Wimsatt
Soft Skull Press

If I had to review this book in just one sentence, I’d say simply this: It’s the best book I have ever read. However, clearly I shouldn’t just leave it there, I should go into detail about just how much I liked this book, and what an impact it had at the time it was first released and its subsequent re-birth when it was reprinted.

Upski, it says on the back cover’s blurb is the “only down white boy in hip-hop” according to Cashus D of the Zulu Nation and it is obvious that Upski does know exactly what he’s talking about. A white boy growing up in Chicago, he decided at a young age that hanging out with the black community would be cool, and became a [graffiti] writer. His tales in this book cover the state of graf, the community it surrounds and embraces, hitch-hiking across America, b-boying, rapping and everything else that you might think hip hop involves and even things that you don’t.

At the start of the book, he warns the reader that this won’t be a well organised book and indeed it is set out as somewhat of a fanzine, with chapters starting halfway down a page and sometimes completely changing the subject. But you never get the impression that things don’t fit together perfectly, it really does read seamlessly and that’s down to Upski’s flow, which is as familiar and warm as your best friend, but as informative and educational as a lecture.

It’s not just Upski’s narrative in this book either, there are interviews with writers, rappers, and even a homeless Chicago native which gives the book so much depth, because the words come from those who have lived what they speak of. He includes letters that he wrote to editors of magazines and stories of people that ran with him back in the day and it is this personal spine running through the book that gives it the edge over other more rigid books I’ve read on the subject.

The opinions in this book over the state of hip hop and the sorry decline into gangster rap still stands true today despite the original copy being published over 10 years ago. And because it stands the test of time, you can be sure that what you’re reading is important and should be consumed as quickly and as readily as possible. This book is a must buy, without a shadow of a doubt.

Abjekt

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The Library

Everything But The Burden: What White People Are Taking From Black Culture

Edited by Greg Tate [Harlem Moon]

When I first picked up this book, I was a little daunted. There are 18 chapters covering a multitude of subjects as each writer attempts to focus their ideas upon one particular medium or topic and show how important black culture is to the world we live in today.

Some of this book is quite heavy going and I think it is only because I did a Communications degree that I was able to grasp the various concepts of semantics and semiotics that appear throughout some of the chapter, especially the opening effort which looks at the effect Eminem has had on the rap world and beyond, entitled “Eminem: The New White Negro“.

But what makes this collection such an interesting and enjoyable read is the wide variation on topics and relative shortness of each chapter. Consequently the point has had to be made concisely and clearly and it is done with brilliant effort and end results. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on how pimps are now a culture fetish surrounding the black community, the chapter looking at the history and origins of the word “Thug” [from India, in case you wondered] and the chapter which looks at the different black boxers throughout the ages and how they were portrayed [from Ali to the various comebacks of Foreman].

Greg Tate has done a good job gathering a group of well educated and clear speaking [or in this case writing] individuals and this books flows well. There are a few points where I was drowned in terminology [especially in the final chapter, which looks at art] but that was certainly in the minority and this books is a great way to start looking at black culture, from its origins in Africa, to the views of a white person living in a black neighbourhood, to the rise of gangster rap.

Abjekt

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The Library

Life and Limb – Skateboarders write from the deep end

Paperback by Justin Hocking & Jeffrey Knutson

I usually cringe when I listen to professional skaters talking, but this collection of short stories had the exact opposite effect on my attention. Life and Limb is a selection of writing -some fictional, some factual- from various people that work and play with skateboards. In fact, there aren’t any actual pro recitals, and there are even a few stories that have nothing to do with skateboarding, but the general under-current revolves around the four-wheeled plank. And even if some of the authors can’t land a 360 flip or carve a pool, they can definitely string words and emotions together to create great writing.

In the book you will find an introduction by Jocko Weyland (author of The answer is never) and pieces by a diverse bunch from Dave Carnie (Big Brother) and Micheal Burnett (Thrasher) to Lori Domiano and Jared Maher. However, my favourite chapter had to be Niall Neeson’s; Niall, editor for Kingpin Magazine, finds an interesting parallel between the skate industry and the adult entertainment business.

So, if you are sick of skimming through endless magazines, and the Tony Hawk autobiography doesn’t quite hit the spot, I assure you Life and Limb will!

Ralph Lloyd-Davis
16/01/2006

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Compression

By Tim Cundle
www.booksurge.com

There have been innumerable attempts to write the definitive punk rock record, and a fair number to sum up the spirit of punk on celluloid. Far fewer attempts, however, have been made to sum up the spirit of the punk movement in a fictional novel.

Tim Cundle, editor of underground punk fanzine Mass Movement and veteran of numerous punk and hardcore bands, has thrown his hat into the ring to do just this with his debut novel Compression. It tells the tale of Flanagan, who having forged a successful music career in the US with the band he started with his mates as a teenager, returns to his hometown for his high school reunion. The familiar surroundings bring back some long-suppressed memories surrounding his involvement in the death of a homeless man as a teenager. His return coincides with the re-opening of the police investigation into the incident and. well, if I say any more I’ll ruin it for you!

Originally self-published (under the nom de plume Martin Crisis), the fact that Compression has been picked up by a commercial publishers demonstrates it’s quality. Immensely readable, with authentic characterizations informed by Cundle’s background in the scene, it is a compelling read. It is somewhat on the short side, and could perhaps have been improved somewhat with a little more fleshing out, but then that could have detracted from it’s impact. The Ramones never wrote any fifteen minute epics, after all.

Compression is a riveting and original read, just the right size to fit into a Christmas stocking for the be-mohawked one in your life. As for Cundle, I await his next work with great interest. Good stuff!

Eddie Thomas

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The Library

Hello Duudle 2

The Duudleville Tales by Jon Burgerman and Sune Ehlers
www.helloduudle.com

Jon Burgerman’s unique art has always inspired us here at Crossfire. This concertina book printed on thick matt laminated art-board, folds out to reveal a wondrous inter-connecting sprawl of characters and colour. It can also be displayed as a stunning frieze.

Details are hidden amongst the intricate drawings with secret characters popping up throughout in specially screened spot-UV. The reverse introduces you to some of Hello Duudle’s key characters, giving an insight into their eccentric shenanigans. In addition to the book, Hello Duudle – The Duudleville Tales comes with a selection of fun stickers and an original hand-drawn, signed and numbered drawing from either Jon or Sune. Some 1000 individual drawings were made for this project, that’s a lot of doodles! All of these precious and lovingly crafted items are bought together in a beautiful luxury box adorned with sultry characters in lush, deep hues and dazzlingly hot, eye-catching gold foil.

Go get it for Xmas as it is one to keep, go to www.helloduudle.com for all details.

UK Pre-orders available now – £14.95 (+ £2 in postage) = £16.95

Visit Jon Burgerman’s site here.

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The Library

Things I Don’t Remember

A book by Andrew Pommier
Holy Water
www.holy-water.co.uk

Wow, this book is a real treat. If you skate then you may already know that Andrew Pommier has designed insane graphics for Toy Machine Skateboards and also Momentum Wheels over the last 2 years, and if you do not skate, this book has to be read for some of the most twisted art you will see out there. Pommier’s sketches come across as being, sad, lonely, oppressed and pitiful, but this is the view from the artists eyes, that maybe after a deep interview will come to light just how they did eventually end up on paper. With the use of animals including rabbits, squids, bears, dogs, bumble bees and deer’s Pommier creates images of humans connecting with these species like you have never seen before, all with a subtle message added for confusion and thought.

His fascination with rock and roll, cigarettes and the dark side of life are features that you simply cannot ignore in this amazing 40 page full colour book released by Holy Water in the UK.