June 7, 2008
Erick Lyle’s On the Lower Frequencies is at once a manual, a memoir and a history of creative resistance and fun in a world run rotten with poverty and war. Whether handing out fake starbucks coupons for free coffee, dropping flyers on mall-goer’s heads that say “aren’t you glad this isn’t a bomb?” or having punk shows in laundromats, Lyle (formerly known as Iggy Scam) has shown the world over the years that you can resist consumerism and have fun and have a sense of humor at the same time.
Lyle, an icon of the samizdat zine scene of the 1990′s, is equally at home on mainstream radio, where he has done several commentaries for This American Life. His “Secret History” traces the evolution of cities, for sure, and of neighborhoods, and of dissent, but also of his own thinking under the pressure of experience, from his early focus on the more outre forms of resistance, through more contemplative times as he becomes preoccupied with the passage of time and starts to articulate an affirmative vision of the type of society he’d like to live in and fight for. In writing, for example, on Reagan’s death he feels relief that came from realizing that by the time Reagan had actually died, his teenage rage had ceased being the motivating factor in his life, that what keeps him going is the sense of what he wishes the world actually looked like, inter alia, public art, squats, free breakfast programs, illegal peace demos in san francisco, punk holidays (joey ramone day, in which people gather and do a secret santa exchange of mixtapes), even a booklist.
But he never seeks refuges in the abstract. In one of the book’s key set pieces, “The Epicenter of Crime: The Hunt’s Donuts Story,” Lyle celebrates the history and passing of a donut shop that was once a nerve center in San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood. On one level, it’s an epitaph for a beloved hangout. On another, it’s a metaphor for the racial and economic tensions that can accompany gentrification. And on yet another, it’s an untold history of an entire neighborhood via a single retail establishment.
Scam gives the reader inspiration for living defiantly in these times.
“Forget statistics and pretentious analysis of urban society. Take a walk through the city with Erick Lyle and discover the reality of how people live in an American city. — Howard Zinn
“Erick Lyle puts his ghetto-blaster of a book upside the head of the urban bourgeoisie, turns up the volume, and lets them feel the pain of the streets. Everyone talks about ‘guerilla art’, but Lyle and his crew are the real deal, Viet Cong in the interstices of gentrification.” — Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz
“The attitude, the politics, the writing, the adventures, the crowbars! — I loved it all. SCAM quickly became my favorite zine.” — Dishwasher Pete Jordan
The book is available from the following places: