When I learned of the existence of "We Never Learn: The Gunk Punk Undergut, 1988 - 2001", I ordered it immediately and started reading Against the Day with extra fervor because I was so excited to get at this thing.
Authored by Eric Davidson, frontman of the New Bomb Turks, it's a history of the low-fi garage rock resurgence of the late-80s to late-mid-90s . . . no, I'm not talking about the Hives, the Strokes, and the White Stripes, I'm talking about their predecessors, bands like the Gories, the Oblivians, the Mummies, the Devil Dogs, the previously-mentioned New Bomb Turks, Thee Headcoats/Thee Mighty Caesars, Teengenerate, Guitar Wolf, etc. etc. etc., bands that never had any fame ever. These were bands I got turned onto at the beginning of college and while they're all now pretty much defunct, I remain loyal to and still-amazed by my favorites of the bunch.
The book was good, Davidson tells the story of just about every band, label, and scene-figure of the era . . . looking back, the book is a lot more like an encyclopedia without headings than a narrative of the era and I read most closely when bands I was interested in came up (I found the section on the Japanese bands [such as Teengenerate and Guitar Wolf] particularly interesting) and sometimes almost skimmed the book when bands and people I had never heard of or didn't care to much about were under examination. I dug all the details but was expecting a little more rock-historian pontificating bringing the whole thing together, I would have liked some thesis statements and stuff. But that wasn't Davidson's game and I'm down with that. It was interesting to read stories that I had heard about these bands via word of mouth back in the day, there was no internet for the spreading of these tales, so they all seemed awful tall but seeing them in black and white, now I guess they're true.
For me the most interesting parts of the book was learning more about how none of these bands made it big/were included in the Hives/Strokes/White Stripes explosion. The Hives are actually given a fair shake in the book and treated like late comers to the scene, I hypothesis I can accept and there's some good dirt on how the White Stripes made famous instead of fading like the rest of these bands (a fate they were good candidates for). Also, any book with a lengthy Billy Childish interview is going to keep my interest in a pretty tight grip.
Footnote: The New Bomb Turks opened for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones at my first-ever concert but the Bosstones (appropriately) weren't mentioned in the book anywhere. My friends and I, we weren't particularly impressed by their set (we didn't know better, I guess . . . but I remember it being kind of lousy) and when I got to college I was surprised to find the New Bomb Turks cool with the people who's taste I trusted (meaning: Shane Holmes, who introduced me to all this stuff) and after getting my hands on their first record, !!Destroy Oh-Boy!!, I wished for a redo on that concert.
And Footnote #2: For a book with a title claiming a time range right on the cover, there sure is a lot of pre-1988 going on here.