Mods, casuals, ravers and football fans: a review of Matteo Sedazzari’s new novel
🇮🇹 Attenzione! Questa recensione di Tales of Aggro (2018) di Matteo Sedazzari è disponibile anche in italiano.
Matteo Sedazzari and ZANI
Matteo Sedazzari was born in 1966 in Sunbury-on-Thames – a town in Surrey, not too far from London – to an English mother and an Italian father.
The author has been immersed in the world of music and subcultures since his adolescence. After embracing modernism during the ’79 revival, he went through a casual phase and then approached the club culture and the acid house scene: it is, in hindsight, a path crossed by other mods and skinheads of his generation.
Matteo refined his skills as a writer first through the fanzine (then a webzine) Positive Energy of Madness, and then with ZANI, a beautiful site active since 2009 and dedicated to pop culture and subcultures, as well as some music genres that we like (soul, hard rock, rock and roll, etc.).
Matteo’s cultural influences are wide and disparate, ranging from George Orwell to Irvine Welsh, through the Marvel and DC comics and British cinema, with the inclusion of the horror genre, of which we spoke about with ranting poet Tim Wells during his interview.
ZANI, in addition to being a site, is also a publishing house, which has so far published four books: A Crafty Cigarette – Tales of a Teenage Mod by Matteo Sedazzari (2015), The Secret Life of the Novel by Dean Cavanagh (2016), Feltham Made Me by Paolo Sedazzari (2017) and the new novel by Matteo, Tales of Aggro (2018).
“Tales of Aggro”, the book
While the previous novel by Matteo Sedazzari, A Crafty Cigarette – centred on the life of a young mod passionate about The Jam – boasts a contribution from the punk poet John Cooper Clarke, who wrote the foreword, Sedazzari’s new novel Tales of Aggro – which is available, so far, only in English – has received nothing less than the blessing of Irvine Welsh, whom called it «a real slice of life told in the vernacular of the streets».
Tales of Aggro is a collection of short stories related to a small gang known as “The Magnificent Six”, formed during the mod revival by six young men from the working class. The narration therefore goes from the end of the ’70s to the 21st Century and speaks of the lives of these guys among petty crime, football, music and youth cults.
It is not, therefore, a book focused on a single subculture, even if the word “aggro” (which stands for “aggressive and violent behaviour”) and the presence of a pair of boots on the cover could suggest a monograph dedicated to skinheads.
The topics covered reflect the life and stylistic and music tastes of the author, therefore – in the 210 pages that make up the volume – you will meet skins, mods, casuals, soul boys, scooter boys, punks and ravers, and you will hear about music genres like the ’79 mod rock, punk rock, soul, acid house and others:
The summer of 1979 was the summer when me, Ron and Eddie became Mods – well, Dino was a Rude Boy for a while – but I was the first to become a Mod, don’t let Eddie tell you different.
The Who, Shepherd’s Bush boys, made an LP about the original Mods from here, Quadrophenia, in the early seventies.
The film came out the same year my father was released from prison. I remember us seing the cameras, the scooters, the actors, but it didn’t really sink in then, what it was all about. What mugs we were.
The Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones and Paul Cook are from around here – went to the same school as me, Christopher Wren – so the Bush certainly has a lot of soul.
The author’s gaze often turns to those aspects of pop culture that have shaped his generation: we refer, for example, to pop phenomena such as the TV show Happy Days and BMX bikes, which in the United Kingdom experienced a huge spread since the early 1980s.
However, apart from the enjoyment of the stories – some of which are told in first person – to us it seemed quite interesting the path of the characters – which reflects, in large part, that of the same author – through the youth cults and certain music genres:
Ron points through the smoke-filled pub to a well-worn and torn red felt pool table, which has certainly seen better days. As the smoke subsides, I see two chaps, about my age, playing pool.
Casually looking on are three more blokes. I must give credit where credit is due – these boys are well turned out: an array of smart, button-down and polo shirts, chino trouser, Levi’s jeans, all sporting smart shoes, not a trainer in sight.
Three of them have short and smart haircuts, one still has a bob hairstyle from 1988, and the other, long blond hair tied back in a ponytail.
I bet they are former ravers now smartening themselves up again, probably ex-Mods or Casuals, or both, like we were.
“Tales of Aggro”, the music
Simultaneously with the release of the book, an MCD with the same name was released, which includes three pieces by “ZANI”. Actually, it is two songs, plus a club mix produced by Nick Philpin.
The songs – written by Matteo Sedazzari and entitled after his two novels – obviously reflect the music tastes of the author and lend themselves to serve as short soundtracks of both Tales of Aggro and A Crafty Cigarette.
Here is the tracklist:
- Tales of Aggro (Bovver Boy Edit)
- Crafty Cigarette (The Revolution is Coming Edit)
- Tales of Aggro (The Undercover Cockney Remix) – Nick Philpin