DIY: The Rise of Lo-Fi Culture, By Amy Spencer

It's difficult to know quite what to make of this book. Spencer is an enthusiastic writer with some good things to say, but maybe she isn't the best person to say them. That's the problem with the DIY ethic and the people who remain rooted in it. Hard work regularly wins out over inspired creativity and in her earnest, leaden way, Spencer's writing epitomises what you regularly find when you dip into lo-fi culture. There's a reason why most of the best artists who begin by doing things for themselves either messily implode or cross over into the mainstream, finding their niche on record labels, in galleries or at commercial publishers: doing things for yourself can force bigger compromises on your energy and time than coping with the soulless demands of business.

The book is at its strongest when it stays in the present, discussing contemporary 'zine writing or the current music scene. The historical sections, the major part, are horribly dry and have very little new to say: "Punk was, in part, a reaction to the era of supergroups, glam rock bands and disco. Popular music at this time, which was predominately hard rock and disco, was seen by many as uninspired."

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