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Joe Keithley

Joe Keithley - Talk - Action = 0

Talk - Action = 0
Arsenal Pulp Press - 2011

Michael Panontin
Back in the day, those D.O.A. reviews used to just about write themselves. "Fast and furious", "diehard punks", "breakneck speed", "socially conscious lyrics", "punk's elder statesman"...there have been many cliches to describe Joe Keithley (a.k.a. Joey Shithead) and his band of west coast punks, but "sell-out" is definitely not one of them. The resolutely DIY punks have clung to their original ideals - some might say stubbornly so - for over 30 years now.

There were those days of couch surfing and indifference when the band tested the waters in Toronto as the Skulls way back in 1977, and then a few years of heavy gruntwork piecing together a scene back home in Vancouver. A pair of by-now-classic LPs, the caustic Something Better Change and its spiky mate Hardcore '81, would help usher in a new North American hardcore scene for all those bored suburban teens stranded across the continent. And then of course there was the real hardcore stuff, the band's political activism, starting with 1979's anti-nukes Rock Against Radiation show in Vancouver, and the one-off benefit singles, like 1983's Right to Be Wild seven-inch in support of former Subhuman bassist Gerry Hannah and the Squamish Five after their arrest for the bombing of arms manufacturer Litton Industries.

Talk - Action = 0 follows up on Keithley's earlier autobiography, the straight-up, no-bones, and also brilliantly named, I, Shithead (Arsenal Pulp, 2003). This time, though, Keithley's terse, almost punk-like (and occasionally grammar-spliced) prose - so well-suited to those travails unique to outlier rock and roll - is accompanied by reams of visual ephemera, from photos and record images to posters, ticket stubs and assorted curios.

In this post-Green Day world, where punk seems more quaint than quake, Talk - Action = 0, gives a peek at just how truly scorned early hardcore was. Keithley relives those days in full colour, like at the 1980 Republican convention, where D.O.A. and Ohio's Toxic Reasons were attacked by throngs of angry red-meat Americans. "...As we were playing, we saw a rather large contingent of people approaching the park from one of the side streets. In the distance it was hard to see what they were up to, but there was a lot of them. As they got closer, we could see they were waving American flags and holding placards with slogans that read "We Love Ronald Reagan", "America Love It or Leave It" and "Commies Burn in Hell". It was the Pea-Brained Americans-for-Reagan chapter. Before we knew it, a riot started. We were still on stage playing when a phalanx of Detroit police burst onto the scene and tried to get between the two warring factions. We finished the song we were playing, then our manager yelled out, 'Play Fucked Up Ronnie!' We did, then we got the fuck out of there." With Keithley, talk + action = a damn fine read.


     Arsenal Pulp Press

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