The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon Review

I just finished listening the autobiography of John Joseph McGowan, the vocalist of the hardcore band the Cro-Mags, and, more recently, Bloodclot. Though McGowan has a life of remarkable hardships and perseverance, the book is tainted with his homophobia and tough-guy mentality. This ruined my enjoyment of the book, though I did finish it.

McGowan's childhood was full of abuse and violence. His retelling of those tragic years is emotional and heart wrenching and the strongest part of the book. The monsters he met while surviving the foster care system really makes the reader of his book question humanity.

Beyond his brutal childhood, McGowan describes years of struggle in a rough New York City. Believe it or not, once upon a time, the inner cities of America were filled with violence and poverty. McGowan spends a good amount of time describing the characters he knew at that time and the trouble he got into, inlacing selling drugs, going AWOL from the navy, and getting into a lot of fights. Actually, a lot of this book is fight stories. You get a good feeling of how gritty parts of New York used to be.

Eventually McGowan gets into his time with the Cro-Mags, but that is almost a minor part of this book. And the focus ends up being on the beef McGowan has with his former bandmate Harley Flanagan. Apparently Flanagan wrote his own book recently. It'd be interesting to read that and compare the two sides of the band's drama of who stabbed who in the back.

McGowan definitely has a chip on his shoulder and likes to talk shit. He seems proud of all the violence he dealt out in his live, the scams he pulled on people, and the music he played. He loves name dropping and talking about all his exploits. Listening to this book as an audiobook really captured a lot of this attitude, especially since McGowan still has a clear New York accent.

The problem with this hardcore tough-guy attitude is that in McGowan's case it lives hand in hand with homophobia and misogyny. McGowan has no hesitation about using derogatory terms for homosexuals, transexuals, different ethnic groups, and women. It's a big turn off.

McGowan also goes into rants about vegetarianism, religion, and athleticism. It's an interesting dichotomy, reading about violence that McGowan seems to be proud of, while also reading about his Hare Krishna beliefs.

A lot of people will read this book because they are fans of McGowan's music. I have a feeling they might be let down because the focus really is on McGowan's life outside of the band. If you do choose to read this book, know that you are going to be reading about a man growing through a very difficult youth. Also be aware that the author does not hesitate to disrespect individuals for their sexuality, ethnicity and gender.