Book Review: Keep Your Eyes Open: The Fugazi Photographs of Glen E. Friedman (2nd Ed.)

Catboi Kropotkin kept his eyes open just long enough for this photo and then promptly went to sleep. He respects Fugazi very much and apologizes for his nap-based lifestyle.

Note: My book review rubric is a fifteen point scale with five points available in three categories: quality of writing, quality of content/information, and general aesthetics.

Initially, the members of Fugazi did not encourage Glen E. Friedman to make this book; they did not want him to end up losing money. The thing about Fugazi, though, is that they will always have a base of extremely passionate fans to whom such a book would appeal very much. Now in it’s second (expanded) edition, with a new interview with Ian MacKaye and Glen E. Friedman, it has clearly stood the test of time and economics.

This book gets a 5/5 for aesthetics. It is a visual art book, so I would expect it to rate highly in this category, but there are even more incredible aesthetic features beyond Friedman’s powerful and iconic photos of the band! The pages are each given the title of a Fugazi song or album instead of being numbered, which means you have to know the chronology of their albums and the order of the tracks to find anything with relative ease. Aesthetics that support music nerdiness are exactly my speed. The paper is of good quality and I feel like the shape and size of the book are exactly perfect to hold in your hands.

I am also giving it a 5/5 for quality of writing. The book features a fairly absurd essay written by Ian Svenonius (of Nation of Ulysses, the Make-Up, many other bands, and Sassy magazine’s “Sassiest Boy in America” in 1990) titled “Fugazi and Rock ‘n’ Roll.” In addition to conducting a thorough investigation of the fundamental contradictions in rock and roll and how those have been handled through its permutations into punk and hardcore, he is also enormously entertaining and quite silly, but not at the expense of valuable information and analysis. I laughed often and also learned a lot of great words along the way; he has quite a vocabulary.  The only other written content is a section from Friedman about his concerns and considerations when photographing the band and how Fugazi changed photography for him, which is also valuable and interesting, and an interview with MacKaye and Friedman that is full of discussion of arguments they had over time and disagreements they still maintain!

Considering that most of this book is photographs, there is still a lot of information here that I found valuable as well. It is certainly intended for fans, so if someone was investigating Fugazi for the first time, I would probably direct them to Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981–1991 (which was just released on audiobook last year if you prefer book listening) by the wonderful Michael Azerrad, all of the records, and of course the documentary, Instrument, to understand the band and the scene it emerged from better in advance, but only because it will help them appreciate and understand this more! Even on its own, this could be an interesting read for a curious person, or even just a person who appreciates great photography–5/5.

This book gets an A. Fugazi always gets an A, because they never approve the creation of anything that isn’t absolutely worth our time and attention. (Yes, I am reprimanding you very specifically, Bob Christgau.)


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