I never really grew up with zines. By the time I got into interesting things like indie rock, weird movies and veganism, the blog era was upon us and zines were at best cute, at worst sort of irrelevant. There were now far more efficient ways of sharing stories, comics, music reviews, random writings and everything, and it was free and instantaneous. However, I came to find out about and love zines anyways because they are their own thing: small, short, cheap, diy, physical, and invested with more time, love and energy than a blog generally requires. They’re awesome to have on the shelves for others to peruse or borrow, and in my old apartment I used to like to keep them in the washroom as reading material for myself and anyone making use of the space (maybe don’t borrow those ones).
Ironically – but predictably – it was through the internet that I found out about Cometbus, the beloved, long-running zine of San Francisco punk Aaron Cometbus (er, Elliott). I decided to check out the first result in amazon, the collection Add Toner. There are a couple of Cometbus collection books, each grabbing a bunch of issues or parts of issues and wrapping them up in a nice little book – I haven’t read any others yet so I can’t compare them, but this one was pretty solid, in any case.
Each ‘issue’ that the book is made up with is its own thing. Some are just collections of short musings, possibly diary entries or something along those lines that (often poetically) reflect current aspects of his life: his relationships with his friends, family, lovers, Judaism, music, politics, culture, etc. These are often very interesting and sometimes beautiful. He writes elegantly despite the casual-ness of the medium and his interests and education are apparent throughout, as when he quotes the Hebrew prayers or Trotsky. I remember in particular how he writes about loving the latter’s last words, spoken to his wife: “I do not want them to undress me. I want you to undress me.”
Other ‘issues’ in the book are collections of interviews: one is with the scene around a cool cafe in St. Louis, another is with ‘Back To The Landers’, those who were part of a movement of moving from the city to the remote rural countryside in the late-60s/early 70s.
Read as a book from start to finish, the whole thing felt long and I got a bit tired of it after a while. But I would imagine that if one were to read the issues each as their own individual thing then that wouldn’t be a problem. But it still wasn’t a problem – each issue was interesting and educational and I wound up liking not just the zine but this person Aaron Cometbus that I was reading about. He seemed cool and smart and like someone I could relate to. Maybe in the future I’ll check out the other collections of his work, as I now understand why his zine was so loved.
If you’ve heard about Cometbus before or are just kind of interested in zines, there’s no reason not to pick up this collection. It’s good stuff, and some things about zines blogs just can’t replicate perfectly.
“They’re like My Bloody Valentine but more math rock,” was how Trevor (of Doomsquad) described Toronto’s Whimm to me the other night at the Magpie. After actually listening to them, I wouldn’t say they’re really all that shoegazey, but they do make some nice guitars sounds. Turns out these math-gazers are playing tonight at the aforementioned Magpie as part of a little Buzz Records showcase. Also – they put out an EP in February. Here are some tracks.
Re-evaluated is a feature in which albums that are under-appreciated get some much deserved love in the form of a little blog write up. Hey, better than nothing.
The focus of this week’s re-evaluated album is the 1988 classic 16 Lovers Lane by Brisbane’s The Go-Betweens. If you have never heard of the band or the album it is indeed tragic but not surprising – sometimes great bands just never get their due (or it just hasn’t come yet). Basically, The Go-Betweens are like the Australian Big Star: an incredible pop band that wrote brilliant should-have-been-hit songs that simply weren’t. Or at least they weren’t as big as they should have been, as the band did have some success in their home country and their sometimes-home-base of the UK. But here in North America their success and legacy has been, and is, almost nonexistent.
The band’s masterpiece appears undoubtedly to be the last album of the ‘original lineup’, the aforementioned 16 Lovers Lane. The album’s ten songs range from pretty good to astoundingly beautiful both musically and lyrically, but its best songs, like “Love Goes On”, “Your Quiet Quiet Heart”, “Streets Of Your Town” and “Dive For Your Memory”, have the timeless feel of the hits you listen to when first falling in love. They’re so perfect and poignant with lines like, “There’s a cat in my alleyway/Dreaming of birds that are blue/Sometimes girl when I’m lonely/This is how I think about you” and “If the cliffs were any closer/If the water wasn’t so bad/I’d dive for your memory/On the rocks and the sand.” It would appear that the album’s big, beautiful, often tragic sentiments were brought out by the ending of the relationship between one of the band’s principle songwriter’s, Grant McLennan, and bandmate Amanda Brown.
16 Lovers Lane is the kind of album that should be listed in top 100 albums of all time lists. It just has that classic album feel, as though it’s reached that sphere of quality reserved only for the greats. The Go-Betweens made a lot of good music, but none of their albums feel as absolute and perfect as this one. To be fair, few albums exist that do. Please seek it out and listen to it. If there’s such a thing as criminally under-appreciated, this album may be the ultimate example.
Toronto hard-punks Greys are coming out with a full-length called If Anything that’s gonna be released June 17th on Carpark and beloved Toronto punk/experimental/cool shit label Buzz Records. First song off it is “Guy Piccioto”, named so, of course, for the badass dude who played in the legendary D.C. hardcore bands Rites Of Spring and Fugazi (but you knew that). The song, as well, is pretty badass. (via Pitchfork)
London based experimental-psychedelic-folk project Grimm Grimm has an upcoming split with also-experimental electro duo Tapers dropping May 25th on So I Buried Records. Now don’t get me wrong, Tapers‘ contributions were cool too, but it was Grimm Grimm – the project of Koichi Yamanoha, formerly of Screaming Tea Party – and his weird tapestry of reverb-addled sounds that really caught my ear. Below are the Grimm Grimm songs I was really into, but you can listen to the entire split EP here.
Initially published by Colosse in French, Montrealers Francois Samson Dunlop and Alexandre Fontaine Rousseau’s Pinkerton - now translated into English – is a comic that uses the classic Weezer album as a means by which to explore the way in which today’s indie/intellectual 20-30-somethings, who grew up in the 90′s, approach and understand romance.
Set in their hometown of Montreal, the premise of the comic is that, upon being dumped, one nameless young dude is found by his friend crying alone in his room listening to the Pinkerton. The two begin talking about how growing up in the 90s ruined their romantic lives because all their idols growing up were sad sack 90s guys like Rivers Cuomo, Kurt Cobain and Thom Yorke. When they began their romantic lives all they ever expected was to be hurt and dumped – they weren’t primed for happy, positive relationships.
To combat this and change their fates, the two decide that they are going to go through all the songs on Pinkerton and try to deal with the issues presented by them in their own real lives. In the end, they mostly just end up discussing them at length, winding onto numerous tangents that have nothing to do with the album but are nonetheless interesting and entertaining. Even in one great segment where one guy is encouraged to hit on various apparently intellectual girls (“And-this-one-is-hesitating-between-two-Tsai-Ming-Liang-films-I-mean-one-couldn’t-do-better-really”) he never actually does anything: “I-mean-it’s-like-all-he-can-see-is-sadness-sadness-SADNESS…”
Pinkerton – the comic – is another great little graphic work that, like Scott Pilgrim, appeals to the kind of person who grew up in the 90s and became a college-educated literate indie rock type. Also Canadian. So yeah, I liked it a lot.
Okay, I left Israel two months ago and I have no plans to go back for at least a year or two – I need a break from that crazy country – but every now and then I come back to this song, which in English would be called “Germany”. It’s by an artist named Dudu Tesa who I know nothing about. Honestly, I don’t really care, because I don’t think he’s that good, but the song is very interesting. I remember hearing it for the first time on the radio one day when the army was giving another lone soldier and I a ride to Jersualem from our base in Hebron. I remember thinking that I didn’t like the mainstream-y radio production, but the song’s odd synth-poppyness and its epic, almost suite-comprised construction all were very interesting. It goes from one section to another, new, totally different, a number of times and each is filled with inventive melodies and lush synth-chestra paddings that at times sound Magical Mystery Tour Beatles-esque.
As for the lyrics, after reading them, it seems as though it’s a story about a guy – presumably Israeli – who’s in a relationship with a girl who wants to move to Germany and maybe start a family there. (Note: this is not an unheard of thing in Israel; for a cool, young person to want to move to Germany where living is easier and there’s more exciting culture – despite the history of the Jews with the country.) The guy, however, does not want to move to Germany – very likely because of the historical stuff – and so they’re arguing about everything and it’s not clear if this relationship is going to last much longer. It’s a very interesting example of how the personal lives of Israelis are so tightly and inextricably bound with politics and history.
I haven’t updated the Print section in a while, which might lead you to think that I haven’t been reading anything cool. But you’d be wrong. I just haven’t finished reading it…
But right now I’m travelling around a bit, and one thing I love to do when visiting cool cities is check out local comic shops and grab small indie comics or zines that are hard or impossible to find elsewhere. While in Vancouver, I went to a couple comic shops and couldn’t resist some, so I’ll be blogging a bit about what I found in the next couple days as I work through everything.
The first purchase I made was Vancouver comic-maker S. A. Hill‘s little graphic zine/comic A Brief Accurate Graphic History Of The Environmental Movement. For those who don’t know, Vancouver and British Columbia in general is insanely naturally gorgeous, with the rocky mountains, rivers, lakes, the Pacific Ocean, and lots of beautiful forests – it’s no wonder it’s home to a strong environmental movement, not to mention the patron saint of Canadian environmentalism, David Suzuki.
Hill’s little graphic novel does a rundown of environmentalism (mostly in Canada and America) from the 1960′s until today. Her work is kind of on the cute side, with playful use of visuals to make her points. She looks at both the societal issues with environmentalism, as well as the political, focusing less on the science and technical aspects of it and possibly solution aka renewable energy. But she doesn’t really have to – the point she seems to be pushing towards the end of the book is simply that people have to come together and really push the issue to make change, and also stop thinking in terms of environment vs. economy, which is a point that Suzuki makes also. And it’s true – the economy needs the environment, not the other way around.
So is her work going to blow people’s minds and change the way they look at the environment? Convert all readers who were thinking otherwise that now they have to go vegan and drive Tesla’s and vote Green? Probably not. But it’s an informative, simple, and well-written work that I enjoyed as a long-time environmentalist, and would recommend to anyone who might want to start learning about the environmental movement and issue.