Alone and Gone – The Story of Toronto's Post Punk Underground 1979-1984 By Nick Smash
Published Aug 10, 2015Alone and Gone – The Story of Toronto's Post Punk Underground 1979-1984 uses past and present content to tell the tale of Toronto's early post-punk scene. Bands like Rent Boys Inc. and the Dave Howard Singers are explored in-depth amidst a plethora of other dedicated local acts. It traces the establishment of Toronto's diverse DIY alternative culture pre-internet, as punk evolved into post-punk, alongside international socio-political issues. It depicts how Torontonians shared music via key venues and record stores — following the rise of campus radio, cassettes and zines as the source for underground music news.
The book's big draw is its obscure content, not readily available online (with some lifted from early '80s zine Smash It Up). Intimate accounts and brash attitudes alike are compelling, with writers from tiny, truly independent publications' exciting encounters with internationally recognized acts.
Alone and Gone's photographs by former Toronto zinester/musician Nick White and his brother Simon, were previously featured in the Toronto Calling exhibit (2010). They captured vital performances from 1979 to 1983, including the Ramones, the Clash and U2's first Toronto show (El Mocambo, 1980), as well as local bands like the Rheostatics.
While the zine aesthetic is effective for individual issues, it doesn't work as well with the volume of information in this comprehensive book (small font, 94 large pages). It's unclear at times if commentary is from the present or past, who's speaking or why they're relevant. Details coming from various sources and times may convey the '80s chaos, but for readers accustomed to easily digestible content today, the admitted "crazy jigsaw puzzle" format is overwhelming. The book would benefit from the inclusion of issue numbers/dates, more consistent headings/captions/table of contents entries and overall editing.
Alone and Gone does pay tribute, however, and since a lot of the music is difficult to come by, it also creates a mystique. It's a shame that it doesn't come with a cassette like some issues of Smash did or a CD or download link.