BOOK REVIEW: Off the Record: 25 Years of Music Street Press (ed by Sean Sennett & Simon Groth, UQP)

The free weekly street press is a bible of sorts for music lovers around Australia. While the quality of writing and editing in these papers is sometimes frustratingly bad, the street press informs music lovers of weekly gigs and CD releases, and promotes bands via interviews and gig advertisements. Sean Sennett, editor of Time Off magazine (Brisbane’s street paper since the mid-70s) and Simon Groth have compiled a selection of ‘best of ’ band interviews. Beginning with Hunters and Collectors in 1986 and moving chronologically through almost 100 interviews to Angus and Julia Stone in 2010, Off the Record covers vast ground. It can be dipped into at any page but a chronological read provides a fascinating look at how the music industry has changed over the years, from vinyl to CDs through to the influence of iTunes and myspace. Personal favourites in this collection include Jello Biafra discussing Queensland’s censorship laws and the confiscation of his albums in 1989 and a Jeff Buckley interview from 1996 (a poignant reminder of music’s sad loss). The interviews are concise and not always in-depth, but there’s enough variety within Off the Record to appeal  to music lovers of all styles.

Deborah Crabtree is a Melbourne-based writer and bookseller