Richard Cabut's Looking for a Kiss - Reviewed by P.T. Madden

The book is set in north and south London (with a quick excursion to New York) in the bleak post-punk 1980s. Cabut nails down the Camden street names that can often bring the pain of long lost hangovers and dope paranoia. His sharp confessional and Gaussian blurred fiction (un) romance can sometimes be unsettling for someone who knew, like I do, the intimidation of Agar Grove, and who doesn't want to time travel back to its Murray Street misery with its corner pub and washeteria. Reading this novel sometimes felt like I was dreaming a nightmare together with the writer and the descriptions are often too real to take, but if you were born after the punk rock wars this is an ideal guide to the mood and flavour of that sick mess of time of passer-by destruction and dustbin flowers.

The story begins as art acid trip, something I’ve never experienced thank the overlord, then develops into a revelation of realisation and comprehension, and it’s the second part that has the most affect. Throughout the book Cabut references shared influences; the films of Chris Marker, Peter Greenaway and Derek Jarman, and also The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle and the seminal Withnail and I (a film shocking in its conjuration of NW1 epitomised by Withnail's villain speech in London Zoo). Cabut also covers the shit of Warhol’s screen prints, the VU and the PEI and Nat Finkelstein the in-house photographer who seemed to approach The Factory as Bosch approached The Last Judgement.

Camden was the location of the incredible Situationist nirvana of the Compendium Bookshop, which is also referenced – Cabut supplies a bibliography at the end that is an essential reading list, most of the contents of which he probably bought at that shop himself. I particularly smiled at his entry ‘Raymond Chandler – Everything’ for like Chandler, Cabut’s world is heavy on atmosphere.

I survived the weird out-of-joint late-70s/early-80s and this book, as far as I’m concerned, is a crucial, scarily true, head-on account of the post-Pistols punk era by an actual WRITER. ●

Looking for a Kiss is available for purchase here.

PT Madden is an artist, writer and composer. In 1975 he witnessed the Sex Pistols debut at St Martin's School of Art. In 1987 he managed the psycho-mod band Boys Wonder and signed them to Sire Records. In 2005 he designed the cover for Buzzcocks' album Flat Pack Philosophy. In 2016, his first fine art solo show Sex Pistols April 1976 at London’s Wilkinson Gallery was reviewed for the Guardian by Jon Savage.