Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock

Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock

By Matt Bissonnette

A review of Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock by Matt Bissonnette

Published on October 1, 2008

Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock
Matt Bissonnette

Exile Editions
$22.95
paper
205pp
978-1-55096-100-3

Matt Bissonnette’s Smash Your Head on the Punk deals with young people coming of age and coming to art, chronicling a group of friends growing up in Montreal in the 1970s and ’80s. Moving between scenes of youthful debauchery and slightly less youthful debauchery, the narrative attempts to capture the energy, sexual angst, and confusion of that turbulent period. Central to the novel is an abiding love of punk rock music as expressed by the book’s multiple narrators, who emphasize the importance of bands such as Black Flag, The Clash, The Ramones, and The Replacements. For Henry, Bug, Frances, Stephen, and Ryan, these bands form the common language of their social context.

The novel’s setting, in what Stephen terms “our sad little city,” is ultimately a celebration of Montreal. The friends witness the Habs riots, invoke Mordecai Richler and Leonard Cohen, and hold strong opinions on language politics. Unfortunately, Bissonnette’s characters are left vaguely defined and attempts at introducing depth with heavy themes like sexual abuse, HIV scares, and economic hardship are handled clumsily. The novel’s language is imprecise, while the dialogue is uninspired and grating. In his quest for gritty realism, Bissonnette often sacrifices artfulness, and as a coming-of-age narrative, his novel largely misses its mark. However, fans of punk rock will still appreciate this homage to the music of a generation. mRb

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