Records, Punk Economics and Why the Artist and the Product are not Separate Entities
In the interest of full disclosure I didn't actually read many of...moreRecords, Punk Economics and Why the Artist and the Product are not Separate Entities
In the interest of full disclosure I didn't actually read many of the words in this book. I just looked at the pictures. The words could be total bullshit, as one reviewer pointed out, who is rightly annoyed that the author/publisher has seen fit to copyright the book, and then state that reproducing images in the book is against that copyright. They also state that they have made every effort to trace accurate copyrights to the images and words used in the book.
This probably didn't take them very long to do, since I'd wager like a bazillion dollars that over 99% of the records in this book have no copyright.
Of the words I did read in this book, which were about ten that weren't part of the 'art' or the copyright info, there was a mistake. The book says that the 1996 LP released by Crudos was screen-printed on folded sheet. It wasn't. It was screen-printed on cumbersome cardboard that was then folded.
It also missed noting all of the other stuff packed into packaging.
I only mention this because it was one of the most intricately packaged LPs I ever bought for eight bucks.
If I read the words in the book I might have read something about the reasons why such innovative packaging was used then. It might even be my own idea for why, but I have a feeling that their reasoning would be more artistic than my feelings about looking at some of these records I owned about twenty years after the fact.
My theory is that by the mid-90's it wasn't conceivable to release a record (and as a side note, the title of this book is DIY Album art, but quite a bit of the records shown aren't albums, but rather 7"s. We were a judgmental and picky bunch back in the day), and not lose money on it if you went with the conventional route. To make a 7" record cost roughly a dollar a record, so if you pressed a thousand it cost you a little under a thousand dollars. I didn't know anyone who figured out a DIY way of getting around this cost. If you mailed your record out to someone the postage was a little under a dollar. Again, this is a cost you had to spend, unless you had some mail fraud going on, or worked in an office, or someplace else with a postage meter that you could get someone else to pay the postage. So at this point you are at a little under two dollars. Now if you used an envelope that was another ten or twenty cents, you know if you bought it yourself. So on the low end lets say that brings up the cost to $2.10. Of course, the envelope could be created in some DIY manner from materials laying around your house.
$2.10 cents doesn't sound like too much to send your nine minutes or so of musical genius out to the world.
Here is the kicker, though. Back in the day a band called Minor Threat released their 7"s for three dollars, and now about fifteen years later you were expected to do the same. Maybe you could get away with charging four, but you better have made it something fancy to justify that extra dollar.
It was pretty difficult to actually make a record and sell it for that price. Nevermind the background costs of recording the thing, or the time it took everyone to make the record, money you might have lost because you called out from work, or whatever else.
So you got creative with the cover, really the one place that you spend about as little money as you wanted to, if you were willing to be innovative and maybe put in lots and lots of hours of labor (ignoring the simple fact that if you factored in the time you were spending it might have just been cheaper to pay a printer to do it the normal way).
Fortunately, and totally uncynically, the results were sometimes amazing (and sometimes they sucked, but lets forget about those times). This book captures quite a few of the more amazing instances. It doesn't capture all of them. It's pretty much solely focused on the HeartattCk sort of (post)hardcore/emo of the day. It doesn't have any of the Profane Existence / Crass influenced stuff that was just as impressive for some of the DIY package design they came up with (although it wasn't as arty. And of course it doesn't include everything I would have liked to see. There is no Bacteria Sour releases (although it could be argued that there wasn't anything DIY about Pushead, even if a lot of the bands he was working with were staunchly on the DIY hardcore side of the musical world.
(for the record, I never produced a record, I did research it quite a bit though at the time, and kept planning to do projects that never went anywhere. I did do a zine, which was also under similar financial constraints. With grumbling from people I could sell my zine for a dollar, anything more I could have had a hard time justifying the cost, unless I turned to the un-punk response of, but it's costing me money to produce and sell this thing at a dollar, which was true. Paying for my photocopies the thing cost a little over a dollar to print, nevermind postage, envelopes, and all the time it took to write the thing, poorly edit it, do the layout, then collate the pages and then fold and staple them, and that also didn't take into a account the cost of new x-acto blades or glue-sticks. But then again I was asking someone to give me a dollar to read my opinions about things, so I should have been (and believe me, I sincerely was) grateful anytime someone did give me their dollar).
This isn't the point of the book, or records, but it does have something to do with the little aside I just made. I'm well acquainted with producing content for free, on my own time, in ways that more capitalist minded folks may even say at my own cost, since I could be (have been) doing something more productive with my time (like right now reading a book for my volunteer position as a reader for an award (ok bad example)).
But do you know what I'm also an old hand at (a hint is I sort of mentioned in a parenthetical aside above, and also alluded to it in the title)? Judging the creators of a work of art and letting that knowledge come into play when I decide if I'm going to give support to that work of art with my hard-earned money.
Growing up in the DIY punk world there was always lots of judgments going on.
For example. I was called a sell-out in a chatroom once by a fairly angry person because my band was playing the next day with those fucking rock-stars Blanks-77 (wait, you never heard of them???) In this I was paying the gas to drive a total of five hours to and from the show and receiving nothing for playing, and those fucking rock-stars were getting about $150 for the show.
I should have had that motherfucker TOSed.
So and so has a fucking cell-phone, sellout. Dude from the band that has caused all this weird economic problems in the punk world dumps motor-oil in a creek behind his house? Motherfucker. Angry guys band is on the soundtrack for put out my Warner Brothers, nevermind that no one ever saw the movie or listened to the piece of shit soundtrack? Ostracize him. The dudes in this band treat women like shit? These other dudes in this band are now wearing gold chains? This band has allowed Tower Records to put a UPC symbol on their record? These guys have a copyright symbol on their record? This guy allegedly raped some girl. Those dudes actually eat meat. And those guys now drink and smoke. Those three guys went on tour with that band that broke punk.
These are all real things that people made real deals out of in zines, in columns and in online forums back then. For some of the more absurd sounding ones people and bands were pretty much blacklisted from the little microcosm.
You could say, what the fuck does it matter if someone once dumped their motor oil in a creek. If I like their music I'm going to keep listening to them. That's fine. But some people do care, and some people don't want to give their money to a band that does that. Some people don't want to support a band that is made up of closet fratboy sexual predators. And it's good to know that while you might enjoy the aggressive music coupled with grrrl-positive lyrics of that DIY band the singer is quite possibly a rapist, and yeah maybe you don't want to support that. And maybe if one of your friends was thinking about going to one of their shows you'd like her to know that the singer is a sleazy fucker.
Or maybe it doesn't matter to you, and you hear these things and you just don't care, or you hear some of these things and you care about some of them, but don't really care if some kids who were sxe at 16 no longer are at 23, but you still like the music or you don't really care if so an so's band now has a upc symbol on it, but yeah someone else does because the the former instance it's the message that is more important, and well you feel cheated to find out they weren't true till death like they said they would be, or in the latter that you really think the economics of DIY is more important than the possibility of getting bigger distribution through a chain store. Or whatever the reason would be.
Or maybe you are like me and don't want to support an artist who threatens people you know because they didn't like the artist's work. And maybe you think that even people who you're not friends with should also have the opportunity to know that you should engage this person's work at at their own risk. Or maybe you might want to know that this artist was in the Klu Klux Klan, or was a pedophile, an Anti-Semite, or a proto-Nazi? Or maybe you think that people should be aware of an artists stance on a topic you care about, say gay marriage, and that knowing the author is an outspoken opponent to the issue, and that you're money would be going to someone who you view as your opponent and knowing that your money could be used to support issues you don't agree with through the artist might make you decide not to make a particular purchase, or seek out a way to engage the particular work of art in a manner where no money is changing hands.
Or maybe you hear that the artist was one of these things and it will make you want to seek out their work that much more. Maybe I want to give my money to a homophobic artist who creates space operas, and until now I just couldn't figure who to give it to.
Yes, the actions of the artist might not have anything to do with the work of art. Yes, very despicable people have created works of brilliance and beauty. No, the actions of an artist shouldn't be cause to censor a work of art, but the actions of the artist are relevant. And especially in the context of commercial transaction you are not just buying the access to a work of art, but you are also financially supporting someone who is a living, breathing, doing, acting creature and it is your right to not support artists whose actions you find reprehensible.
What you find reprehensible is of course up to you. You should have the right to make up your own mind though, and if you so feel inclined support or not support someone because of what they believe and do as much as for the quality of art they create.
Limiting information is censorship. It's not hyperbole. If someone has the right to implement censorship or not is another issue, but just because they have the right or it is their infrastructure doesn't make it any less a form of censorship. (less)
In my head the opening verse of the Jawbreaker song "Boxcar" is:
You're not punk and I'm telling everyone. Save your breath, I never was one, You don't...more 1.
In my head the opening verse of the Jawbreaker song "Boxcar" is:
You're not punk and I'm telling everyone. Save your breath, I never was one, You don't know what I'm all about, Like killing cops and reading Cometbus.*
An Albany scene friend of mine once went into a sputtering frenzy trying to describe how much he loved Crimpshrine. He claimed they were the only band that ever captured what it was like to be a teenager in song. He was a teenager at the time.
He might have been right.
I'll throw in some Crimpshrine songs throughout this review along with a couple of other songs by some other bands that Aaron Cometbus played drums and wrote the lyrics for. "Pretty Mess"
I read my first issue of Cometbus in early 1995.
I'd written the first issue of my own zine a couple of months earlier. The first issue of mine sucked, MaximumRocknRoll called it something like, "the worst thing I ever read. Avoid."
They said avoid!
The reviewer was partially correct. It was best to avoid that issue. But it wasn't the worst zine ever written, I read quite a few that were just as bad or worse. I didn't know what I was doing at the time. I was more in love with the idea of the medium than knowing what I should say or how I should say it.
If you were able to look back over all the issues of my zine, you might be able to pick out pieces here and there where you could see me trying to emulate parts of Cometbus, but you'd more need to know what was going on in my head at the time to know how much I was influenced by him.
Even though stylistically there isn't much similarity between the way I try to write and the writing in Cometbus; you have him to thank for just about every one of these rambling, self-obsessed, non-reviews. But don't hold that against him.
He's a much better writer than I am.
If Mike (that's the guys name from above) was even partially correct about Aaron Cometbus's words capturing being a teenager perfectly in the Crimpshrine songs, then I'd also add that he's also done a mighty fine job at capturing the other parts of life too in his other bands and fanzine (as he calls it, I may have said in another review that I hate the term fanzine, and think that only parents and 'poseurs' ever used that term, if I haven't written that on goodreads yet, believe me when I've said it and written it in other places. Aaron Cometbus is an exception to using that term, since his zine is the gold standard of zines, and if he wants to use the term fanzine, then who am I to say he is wrong (everyone else is though)).
It's been quite a few years since I read an issue of Cometbus. I've bought them when I've seen new ones appear, but for some reason I never felt like reading them. They looked like they had changed from the Cometbus I had known. But then again I wasn't really interested in reading a forty year old still writing the same kind of things that the younger Aaron would have written.
I felt like he and I had gone in different directions, and I'd still give him my three bucks, because it's a small price to keep paying for someone's writing that had meant so much to me.
Something about this issue felt different though, and maybe it will make me dig through the mess of things in my apartment to find the unread issues I have stashed away somewhere.
I'm happy I read it.
One of the themes that pops up here is the tyranny of our youthful ideals, the promises and oaths we make to ourselves. The ones that are almost impossible to maintain as you get older.
Do you have those oaths, too? I've got quite a few, and a tattoo to remind myself of them.
This issue is about someone who he had promised to never write about in his fanzine. A friend who didn't want to be put into print. A large part of his life that he had left out of the twenty something year excursion of seeming to lay bear everything about himself to a world of strangers for three bucks a pop. With this part of his life being exposed Cometbus takes on a slightly different character than then the one I had made up from his earlier writing.
He wasn't as cool. He's now more awkward. A closed up person exposing himself to strangers more than he can in real life. Less the uber-punk scribe and more of a disillusioned kid who clings to the punk world, because, well, it's just about the only game in town if you have certain inclinations.
Maybe I'm just reading myself into some of what is here. Thinking about my own history with the genre. I can't say I hated, but I generally disliked punks. I couldn't stand 'the scene'. Today, I don't know if I can even say what I liked about the whole thing, why I spent so much energy on something called punk. Drove thousands of miles to see and play in shows, spent hours and hours going to the shows, standing around watching 6 shitty bands all to see the one band I wanted to see, all the hours writing my own zine and doing all the shitwork of putting it out, the money spent, the hours talking to strangers on the internet, in email forums and chatrooms where everyone seemed to have a 77 after their name or x's bracketing it, giving a shit who sold out or what band was charging too much for their shows, doing radio shows, waking up at 5 in the morning on Friday's to play obscure bands over airwaves that no one was ever going to tune into.
All of the things that I did for years baffle me now, because I see looking back that there was nothing I actually wanted from all of this. I didn't want to be part of a scene, I had more interest in annoying and smashing expectations than in being accepted. I was blindly reaching out for what was missing in my 'real life', but if I ever came close to getting what I maybe thought I was looking for I would pull back, change course, or just retreat back into myself.
I think now that if anyone had actually been really listening I would have just fucked everything up and started again.
I don't know if I've changed much.
A girl from LA who I sometimes talked to in the AOL "Punk Chat" room told me about seeing Aaron Cometbus at a party. He had bleached blond hair, some crazy clothes and looked sort of like the father from the Munsters. That's what she told me. This must have been in 1995.
On more than one occasion when I went to buy some zines at the now defunct zine store See Hear, in the East Village, I'd be told I just missed Cometbus, the copy of his zine in my hand had just been dropped off by him.
I think I finally spotted him for myself a few years ago while Karen and I were leaving the Brooklyn Book Fair. I'm not positive it was him, but I think it was. He was selling books on the street across from the park where the festival was held.
A few weeks later the same guy kept snagging books at the Housing Works book sale by reaching right over Karen. He was tall, like the father from the Munsters.
The second half of this issue is about his selling books in New York City. It's what he does now. He sells books on the street, with a vendor permit. He also partially owns a bookstore in Williamsburg. I don't know where he sells his books, if he is always across the street from the park that we saw him at, or if that is just where he set up that day knowing all kinds of booknerds would be flocking to the festival.
He deals with a lot of the same bullshit questions I do in my role as a corporate bookstore employee.
I don't know if I'd want to trade places with him. There is a part of me that finds it satisfying that we both ended up as booksellers though.
That wasn't always the case. I used to, more than kind of, dream of living a romanticized version of the life he described in some of the issues of Cometbus.
The younger ones.
He made me want to live in Richmond. He had nothing to do with my aborted attempt at moving to Berkeley. I did that for different reasons, and no amount of romanticizing the exploits of the city were probably going to make me want to go back there to live.
The way he described all the little parts of life were the ways that I wanted my own life to be. Of course, this wasn't his real life, it was the life he was giving his readers. I doubt even a highly edited version of my own would ever seem as interesting or cool as the one he created, and I had enough problems in my own head and in the the way I got along with people. And besides I had school. And then I had some other things come up. And more school, and then things just changed and went different for me.
Aaron, do you sincerely mean what it says on the title verso page? No part of this may be reproduced, even in a review? Sorry, if you meant it.
Yet she may have been right to say that I confused creativity with the need for popularity and approval. There were so many things I wanted to write about but didn't because I though-or was informed-that no one gave a shit.
Where did the always present PO Box one could write to you go? Are you just not sharing it any longer? Of course there are fifty something other issues one can find it in. It's weird to see you writing about the silence of writing a zine, not hearing any feedback. I thought a bunch of times of trying to write you, 'back in the day', but I always figured you must have gotten tons of mail, and what would I have had to say anyway?
Yula preferred to be detached, while I yearned to be accepted. She was the one who really needed the P.O. box and the nom de plume. The anonymity and isolation of a writer would have suited her better than it did me.
Those solemn, youthful promises are what Yula and I are still trying to live down. But are we any happier for having offered up our lives as proof?
...As for me, I'm steeped in it (debt). I'll never repay the gifts laid at my feet, nor avenge the things that have been done to me. I'll spend my whole life trying to pay them back-just as I promised I would.
In the meantime, I'm still learning new things and still making new friends. I've found this nice spot to sit. One good days, that feels like a lot, or at least a good place to start...
Growing up took longer than I thought it would, and by the time we'd finally proven ourselves, we'd laid down new roots, that make it hard to move.
I did a zine for six years. I can't imagine doing one for as long as he has.
Doing a zine was like yelling into an empty room.
Very rarely did anyone actually comment on what I'd write. I'd get a handful of reviews, reviews that generally grew more positive as I started to get a clearer idea of what I wanted to do, but most of them were in the dominant MRR style of reviews. Four or five sentences. Usually little more than a laundry list of topics covered.
Actual people had little to say about it. And I didn't trust them to say anything, anyway. Most of my friends had lied to me about the first issue. They said they liked it when it was crap. I think they were just surprised I made something at all. I'm very distrustful of anyone offering praise.
After five or six 'good' issues, I got tired of the format. I started second guessing everything. I thought about continuing on but other things would get in the way.
Ironically, this time corresponded with the time I was working overnight shifts at Kinko's. A zine makers dream job. Forget any scams needed to get free copies. All the copies I could need were at the push of a button. Everything I needed to cut and paste the originals were there for me to use as I wanted, with no real supervision except for a guy who sometimes spent whole nights working on the cover design for a new Drop Dead EP.
I barely produced anything though. I wrote a lot. Whole nights I was paid to babysit a store and change paper in machines that ran long monotonous jobs while I typed out rants, read books and poked around on this new thing called E-bay, which allowed you to actually buy those obscure 7"s that you'd heard about but never actually seen or heard.
I produced one last issue. I changed the name of the zine for the fourth time, but this time I re-set the number back to one.
It contained a short story, a play and a few book reviews. I gave copies to a couple of friends and never sent any out to strangers, to MaximumRocknRoll or HeartattaCk. I didn't try to hustle free records or trade for other zines. Instead I closed up my PO Box and killed the nom de plume. It's ok though, a google search tells me that someone else has picked it up. I probably wasn't the first to have the name anyway.
Now I write these stupid reviews. I'm sure that some people hate them. I'm whiny and self-obessed. I don't write about the books, I curse too much at times, and I throw stones and burn bridges. If I think about the things people must say or think about me I get nauseous. Then I tell myself to stop thinking that anyone says or thinks anything about you.
This is the only way I know how to write.
I can't write any other way. I try at times. I try to write stupid things like cover letters and they come out stilted and awful. My papers for school were painful to read, so self-conciously and sweated out for each shitty sentence.
I don't consider myself a good writer. I know I mangle the English language. My grammar is beyond terrible. Blah, blah, blah.
On a good day I believe some people like what I write. On a bad day I believe people are just being polite or giving me attention so that I'll repay the favor.
I don't believe my ranking on this site has anything to do with my real popularity. My most popular review makes me groan inside, and some of the ones I'm most proud of have single digit votes.
It's weird to think of but I've been writing these stupid reviews on this site for almost as long as I did my zine.
I guess I've been more successful here than there. I've certainly spent less money ranting and raving here. I've gotten under more people's skin, been read more, and on a couple of occasions been threatened with bodily harm by faceless avatar 'tough-guys'. I've also met quite a few good people through this site. I met quite a few good people because of my zine, too, so I don't know which one wins in that department. But I still have as little clue to why I keep doing this than I had for why I kept doing my zine.
Maybe it's just a way to at least pretend that someone is listening to what I have to say, even if that something isn't necessarily that important to begin with.
Is the age you're supposed to be an adult, right?
What better place than in a review for the seminal-personal zine, than to write about oneself, right? I'd apologize but you probably knew what you were getting into when you started this review.
Once upon a time in the Pacific Northwest a slightly fucked up girl escaped her unsatisfying life by starting to run with some vampires. By paring dow...moreOnce upon a time in the Pacific Northwest a slightly fucked up girl escaped her unsatisfying life by starting to run with some vampires. By paring down some of The Orange Eats Creeps backstory you could almost make the sort of basic premise of this novel sound like a delinquent version of Twilight. The vampires (if they really are vampires and not just a teenage affectation, or the construction of the narrators very disturbed mind) aren't beautiful, nor cultured. They most likely smell really bad, like most crusty punks do, they drink too much cough syrup and are tweakers who jump trains and wander around Oregon wrecking havoc at 7-11s and fucking in the break rooms of Safeways. Except for the vampire thing and the setting this isn't a best-selling vampire romance, but one could almost picture poor little Bella as one of the middle-class girls out slumming with the punks who is now passed out on a trailer floor while being molested by some amoral hobo-punk.
The book is the rambling stream of consciousness of the narrator, a seventeen year old girl who has run away from a foster home to find her 'sister', another foster kid who had also lived in the foster home with her. The narrator along with a small group of hobo boys jumps trains, turns tricks in public restrooms, drinks copious amounts of robotussin and stays tweaked out on meth while traveling through the world of 3rd shift 24 hour supermarkets and convenience stores and attending basement punk shows here and there, all while looking for signs of her 'sister' who had run off with another group of hobo boys. The book takes place sometime in the 90's and on a couple of occasions it appears that GG Allin makes cameos as a performer, but it could just as easily be Poison Idea or some other wannabe GG chaos punx. Some of the references seem to be too late in the 90's for GG to be still alive, but my knowledge of the Northwest scene is mostly second hand. The author does a great job though capturing the different factions of the punk world and the feelings that the West Coast had towards their 'meat-head' Eastern counterparts. In the less swirling and insane bits of the novel I felt like the book was being populated with some of the kids from Oregon and Washington I knew when I was very briefly in Berkeley in the mid-90's. The world portrayed here was more outlandish than reality and nothing like anything I'd ever been a part of but at its heart it still reminded me of quite a few people I'd been friends with over the years and the types of people who I 'knew' just because we'd converge at the same shows week after week.
The first third of the novel or so is fairly coherent. It's non-linear but it has signposts anchored to reality and allows the reader to stay pretty orientated. Then it all breaks down. The 'punk-ness' drops off along with the cast of characters, they return every now and then but the novel explodes in a claustrophobic interiority. What had felt like the stream of consciousness of a very fucked up kid who feels like they can never be destroyed turns while she goes about a nihilistic spree of living turns into impressions from the mind of someone who has lost almost all touch with reality. It's easy after reading fifty pages of this to wonder what the point is, where is the author going? There is still an underlying sense of a narrative but the narrators so mentally unreliable that you can't be sure of anything. Is it the robo-mething taking it's toll? Is the narrator just fucking insane? Is anything in the book really happening? Is it just all just a journey through the dark side of the Northwest with it's junkie-suicide rockstars, Green River killers and a landscape that could contain the creepiness of "Twin Peaks"? Is the narrator traveling anywhere, is there even a sister? Was she even a foster child? Everything unravels in the book and continues to unravel and become more and more disjointed and fragmented as the reader turns page after page.
Most of the reviews I skimmed over seem to find the book off-putting. I have to agree. It's 'difficult' but in a way that doesn't hold out the promise of getting something out of the book, or being enriched in someway by it. It's an unsettling book and I think what is most disappointing about the book is that even at the points where the book is at it's most disorienting I kept feeling like the book would pull back from the edge and deliver something more traditionally narrative, or that it would just jump off the edge and fall into the total madness of nonsensical and usually unreadable 'avant-garde' literature. instead there is always something inviting in the book, the book never feels 'difficult' but it also doesn't deliver what it seems to be promising you, maybe sort of like what the kids who populate this book would be like in real life, they aren't really all that deep and weird when you get down to it, but they aren't going to meet your expectations either.
Stephen Erickson wrote the introduction to this book, and he says, "if a new literature is at hand then it might as well begin here". And maybe that is part of the discomfort of this novel, it eschews the 'theoretical' that most serious 'difficult' literature is grounded in, and it's written in a manner that makes the reader feel like it should be coherent but instead it goes off on it's own. At times the novel reminded me of Erickson's The Sea Came in at Midnight, but it is only superficially related there.
I should probably rate this book higher. I never felt overly frustrated or hated reading it but I didn't know what to think of it. I think something interesting and exciting might be going on here but I just couldn't find the key to unlock the text and fully appreciate what was happening. (less)
'Punk rock love is fucking behind the dumpster down the street from the show. Fucking in the shower at the Hotel Carlton...moreFrom an old issue of Cometbus:
'Punk rock love is fucking behind the dumpster down the street from the show. Fucking in the shower at the Hotel Carlton. Making out in the recycle bin. Looking at her tattoos while she's asleep. Taking showers together. Playing checkers with cigarette butts. Watching her band play. Dumpstering veggies together and then going back to her place and cooking up a feast. Knowing the same parts of the same songs. Both of you having the same ex-girlfriend. Punk rock love is having to tie her shoes for her cuz she's too drunk. Kissing under the overpass. Her sending you her whole diary to read. Her giving you ten rolls of duct tape for your birthday. Her beating up skinheads. Going to the prom on her motorcycle and checking in the helmets at the coatcheck. Getting astonished stares from all the jocks who thought you were gay, now they feel dumb cuz you're with an older punk rock bombshell and they're with their friend's little sister. Punk rock love is meeting her outside the club and her saying come home with me or I'm gonna kick your fuckin ass. Going home with her and she almost kicks your ass anyway. Sharing hairdye. Riding double on a bike. Being loud and not caring. Sneaky eyes and sleeveless t-shirts. The sun coming up and you realizing that there's other people on the beach. A good sleazy one week stand. Still being friends afterwards, most of the time. Punk rock love is her sneaking out in the middle of the night to meet you in the park. Running your fingers over her spikey hair. Her chewing on a flower and you having to call poison control when her tongue swells up. Bringing her to the laundromat for a date. Sharing a sleeping bag and waking up freezing in the middle of the night and her, bleary eyed, trying to heat it up with a blowdrier. Social Unrest playing "Ever Fallen in Love?" at the gig you're both at the night after she dumps you hard. Starting smoking again after that night. Punk rock love is her drawing on you. Her sleeping on your back. Her being mad at you for being such a jerk. Her thinking it's cool that you stink and your hair stands up by itself. Her having weird roommates who worship eggs. You waiting in the doorway for hours hoping she might pass by. Even in the snow. Her singing along with Descendents records over the air on her late night radio show. Her picture on the front page of the morning paper, getting arrested. Her borrowing your favorite black hat and never giving it back. Punk rock love is finding a girl who drinks as much coffee as you do. Going into the cafe where she works and she looks up and smiles and doesn't notice as she trips over a pile of 50 dishes. They hit the floor one by one and when it's all done everyone in the cafe applauds and you both turn beet red. Punk rock love is both of you doing fanzines. Years later her teaching English to college freshmen, you still doing fanzines. Her wearing glasses through her eyes are fine, using crutches though her legs are fine, and talking with a fake speech impediment. You just thinking it's rad girl style, until later when someone brings up the concept of self-imposed handicaps. Punk rock love is getting your first kiss and almost losing your virginity at the same time, meanwhile you're trying not to wake up the other person sleeping in the same bed. Groping in the bushes by the freeway and later you realize that all the passing cars could see you. Exploring the wasteland together. holding hands out on the fire escape. Lying in the grass in her backyard. Lying on the astroturf in her bedroom. Drinking tequila on her porch, on your birthday. Riding on her motorcylce early in the cold morning and you're holding on tight and steam is rising off of the river and you're thinking how she is maybe even better than the Ramones. Punk rock love is both being broke. Love letters. Finding out she sang "Stay Free" at her high school talent show. Finding out she's a little crazier than you thought when you finally get her in bed. Her boyfriend getting mad. Walking around with her and her nephew and everyone giving you dirty looks cuz they think he's your kid. Walking around with her and being happy and proud. Being sad together. Being sad by yourself. Missing her.'
I wanted this book to transport me back to a time and place I only knew from stories from a girl I used to pour all my problems out to on the phone, usually drunk late at night in college, and who I would then listen to her tell me her stories too. I wanted to have one of those mythical places of punk be opened, a place that existed in my imagination from reading zines and listening to records. Minneapolis, mecca of crusty-anarcho punx, the home of the largest anarcho-punk zine Profane Existence, city of Destroy!, Misery, Assrash, a bazillion Dis- bands, Code 13, Quincy Punx, Felix Von Havoc, the mainline from America to the Swedish political bands, a place of cider and cheap beer, guns and rottweilers, Anti-Fascist Action, the city where the political punks forcibly removed the skinhead population and sent them packing to St. Paul......
I've learned to be disappointed with books that deal with punk. I blame myself. My own experiences and what I defined punk as I realize aren't the norm. Back when I still identified myself through this silly label I'd get pissed off about scholarly works or novels that portrayed punk as a bunch of nihilistic drunk morons raging about fucking shit up. These were the type of kids that annoyed me, they were the types of kids who in my own 'scene' I annoyed and who would threaten to beat me up when they were with a lot of their friends (a side story. My senior year in college my friend Tony and I started a joke power-violence band (power-violence was a late 1980's creation out of California originally defined by bands like Infest and Crossed Out, in the mid 1990's a second wave of bands came headed by Spazz and Charles Bronson, very short and very fast songs, that in the second wave started to take on a weird level of humor). We enlisted the help of a few other people and wrote a bunch of songs all based around the ease that we could flail around, fall down, do posi-youth style jumps and act generally act like idiots with nonsensical lyrics and anthem style choruses. It was quite fun, but not everyone got the joke. The people who really didn't get the joke were punks, the leather jacket with stud wearing types who would try to unplug our amps, threaten us with bodily harm and intimidation. The funny thing was when the punks in groups would see me on the street after the show where they tried to stop us from playing they would continue their threats, but if I ran into one of the punk kids by themselves they would be sheepish, claim they thought it was fucked up what their friends had done, etc., Of course I knew they were lying because I had the whole show on video and I knew exactly who did what at the show, since it was a lot of fun showing the video to people I'd seen it quite a few times (I wish I still knew where the video was now, I'd love to share my idiocy with everyone on youtube)). I never understood this type of punk, the drunk, spikes wearing, mohawk spouting type. To me it was just another type of conformity. To me the whole appeal of punk was the community that it created that allowed for you to open up a space for yourself to question and express things. In the pre-internet days it allowed a forum to be dissatisfied and connect with other people. My punk reality was only a small sliver out of the whole world of what would pass as 'punk', most people I was friends with and kept in touch with didn't have mohawks, dressed more or less normally, weren't out breaking things on the street and pogoing at shows. I would confuse my own limited viewpoint as being what was true. I was wrong. Punk in general is stupid. For every Born Against and The Pist there are ten thousand Causalities and Blanks 77. Like everywhere else, the idiots rule.
For the punk parts of this book it does a good job capturing the stupid nihilism of angry kids doing moronic things. I knew people just like the characters here and yep that is them. It didn't capture the time of Minneapolis I was looking for, all of those things I mentioned above didn't even exist in this book. It made me realize that I'd forgotten that bands like The Replacements also came from there, and that most people would think of them when you put the words punk and Minneapolis in the same sentence. Opps, once again my limited viewpoint warps the way I expect the world to be.
This is so far a really alienating review I'm sure.
The book is partly about young punk love, and that is why I included the Cometbus piece called "Punk Love" above. It's sort of the classic on the subject, and it captures the idea better than all the pages in this book do.
This book is ok. It's fun at times and at other times it's kind of tiresome. The author seems a little too fixated on having his characters have sex, and when I look back at the 255 pages it seems like too many of them deal with sex, not that there is any explicit sex, but just kind of mentioning that they are going to have it, or how they look for places to have it. And too many other pages are filled with the characters doing Bukowskian levels of drinking and drugging but without them ever getting seriously fucked up. Sixteen year olds don't hold their liquor and drugs like these kids do. It's a little too sensational, or maybe I'm just a little too prudish and take offense at there being much mention of sex, drinking and drugs and blow it out of proportion because of my own limited viewpoint of chaste sobriety.
The really interesting plot devices aren't introduced until the last third of the book, and I kind of would have liked the author to have started to explore some of these elements earlier in the book. I can't say much about them here in this review because they would spoil the structure of the novel.
Like most punks, this book had it's heart in the right place but it's execution at times was about as futile as throwing glass bottles against the wall of a McDonalds. (less)
In 1995 Ben Weasel wrote a Maximum Rocknroll column about what was appropriate to wear as a punk, be it to a show or just to head out on errands. I wo...moreIn 1995 Ben Weasel wrote a Maximum Rocknroll column about what was appropriate to wear as a punk, be it to a show or just to head out on errands. I won't give all of his rules, of which there are many, but the gist of them are that the only acceptable way to dress, if one must dress as a punk, is to dress like the Ramones. T-shirt, black leather jacket with no spikes and if pins must be attached then they have to be US pins on the collar, jeans, a sneakers, preferably Converse (this is before Nike owned Converse). Ramones t-shirts were I'm sure fine for Mr. Weasel, because in 1995 no one really wore Ramones shirts that didn't actually like the Ramones. Actually in 1995 the Ramones didn't really have that many US fans outside of the punk world, case in point I saw them that year in a shitty club in Massachutes that I also saw The Queers at. They both sold the place out, but seriously the Queers were never bigtime. People respected the Ramones, but they weren't big time. It would take the band finally calling it quits, and three of the original four members dropping dead before you couldn't spit on an East Village Street without hitting some hipster looking fuck in a Ramones Shirt. And those shirts come in all kinds of colors, purple and pink and red and blue, colored Ramones shirts to match whatever outfit one chooses to wear. You'd think that the Ramones had been as big as the Rolling Stones or something, but no.
Where is this going? As an amendment to Ben Weasel's rules, I propose that no Ramones shirts shall ever be worn that come in any color besides black or white. If you wear any other color Ramones shirt you are a tool, an idiot, a douchebag, some kind of fashionista or some other kind of sub-human slime that deserves to be mocked, ridiculed and rejected from all civilized society. It's that fucking serious. Wearing any other color Ramones shirt is like covering a Ramones song but picking UP and DOWN as opposed to only DOWN. You say it doesn't make a difference, and it sounds the same, but really it's just how it's done. No arguments, you are making a mockery of a great band by wearing these shirts and looking like a hipster douchebag.
Now what about the book? It's not very good. It's written in a breezy, very fanboy like manner that reads like something that should be in a magazine like Bop, or in one of those corporate 'fanzines' that were produced in the 90's to try to give credibility to sleazy money grubbing record labels trying to make a quick buck. Not to say this isn't sincere, I believe that the author loves the band, but he's just not a very good writer, and while I know he is old enough to know better, he comes across like a gushing teenage girl.
There is also no critical awareness to this book. If you never listened to the Ramones and read this book you would believe that they got better with every record, so that as a result Mondo Bizzaro is there best record ever, and that even records like Brain Drain and Subterranean Jungle were better than their first record and Rocket to Russia (the book was written in 1993, so the author knows nothing of Acid Eaters or Adios Amigos). This just isn't true, I've yet to meet a single person who admits to liking more than a few songs off of any of their post-End of the Century albums (EOTC being a questionable record also, feelings generally being mixed about it's inclusion into the pantheon of great Ramones albums, some people including only the first four and call EOTC crap that Phil Spector ruined. Myself I believe that the Ramones only really made two great albums, their self-titled debut and Rocket to Russia (album number 3) with Leave Home and Road to Ruin as good albums, End of the Century as ok and everything else as forgettable, with a good song here and there), and it seems strange reading a book where the author keeps talking about how they got better and better over time. They don't though, the Ramones are great when they do what they do best and that is play short fast songs, once they get too thinky about the songs they go bad. To display the authors total lack of critical awareness though one only has to look at the praise he throws towards Dee Dee Ramone's solo rap project under the name Dee Dee King. You'd think that Dee Dee had made It Takes a Nation of Millions or Straight Outta Compton, a seminal hip-hop record, instead of what the album actually was (it's terrible, funny but terrible).
The third to last chapter also was edited worse than my review, but that's not meant to be nit picky, it just looked like the copy editor decided to not bother with that one. All and all the book was kind of breezy and fun, but filled with too many exclamation points and fanboy gushings that made me wince every time they popped up (which was about once a page at least). I would love to read a real biography on the Ramones and not a sugar coated authorized biography that this is.
This is a strange book. It's mainly an expose of new advances that corporate marketing has used to exploit DIY and underground markets, which is kind...moreThis is a strange book. It's mainly an expose of new advances that corporate marketing has used to exploit DIY and underground markets, which is kind of a silly idea since these markets are traditionally not exactly filled with excess money to spend on products. It shows examples from a wide variety of corporations who have used 'anti-marketing', to help strength their own brands. Basically a lot of this book can be summed up in the cliche that there is no bad press, if you can get mentioned, or thought of it's good, no matter if it's in a positive or negative context. So for example when Negativland makes a record sampling a quite popular soft drink manufacturer , even though it is being done in a satirical (or political if that's your way of looking at things like this, which is my personal bent on things like this) it is still working as unpaid advertising for the the good folks who make acidic sugar water. Or when a shoe company appropriates famous imagery from a Minor Threat album cover, even though it sends Ian Mackaye into a fit of self-righteous rage and drawing a backlash from the fans of the seminal anti-corporate band, it's still good advertising. It got people who might normally not have noticed the shoe company to think about it. That's the basic premise of the book, that advertising these days is using subversive forms to turn the critique of their products back into marketing. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone with any kind of background in the theories of the Situationist International (SI). The SI stated almost forty years ago that the dominant paradigm (the spectacle, the system, the man, the corporate world, whatever you want to think of it as) will ingest even the most radical acts and incorporate them into self. That's the power of the system. 60's radicals? You're being used for all kind of nefarious ends. Punk rock? You're the soundtrack to a whole wide profit margin of the early to mid 90's, and now you sell everything via pre and 'hipster'-ish marketing. Crass? You're now for sale at an especially vapid mall store. The Situationists themselves? You're aesthetic can be found in marketing everywhere now. And now it's happening to the self-righteous holdouts of the 90's DIY community, to the zinesters and comic book artists, and whoever else you want to hold this community as encompassing. And it's not that the system wants these underpaid people's money, but they want to tap into the integrity that's implicitly been attached to them. (If you don't think this is a goal, then look at the number of say hipsters in a large urban population like New York, and really look at them with their awful co-opted and not so ironic fashions, their punk rock studded belts, their shoes that look sort of underground, but are produced by an especially awful company, and when you keep looking you'll notice that on a lot of them there is something wrong, the ripped clothes look too neatly ripped, their are still vestiges of their non-hipster self there even amongst their calculated looks, you realize that even with the permanent tattoos and everything else their is something terribly inauthentic about them. They have attempted to buy and produce their integrity, and what makes so many people hate them so much is that they are trying to buy something that isn't for sale (excuse the mini-rant)). Like the hipsters and their rampant consumerism, even if it's in 'cool' things the marketing world is attempting to create more spaces for 'cool' purchases, and they don't mind if it's being bought ironically, or sincerly, they are still getting the money. Or in advertising they are still creating an impression, which makes you think of the company in question. The question of the book comes down to what can we do about this? Now, this book isn't for everyone. In advertising speak, this book is aimed at someone like myself. Someone who spent a good portion of the 90's worrying about issues like selling-out, and making zines, and going to cheap DIY shows and caring about how to make a transition into adulthood with out giving up on core principles. Most people don't think of things like this normally, and most people wouldn't find what is being talked about in this book as being especially evil. To tell the truth I don't find it very surprising, anyone with any sense of history will realize that eventually the underground is mined for it's integrity. It happened in the early 90's with the onset of grunge, when labels fell over themselves trying to pick up bands, produce 'zine' like advertisements, and set themselves up as an 'alternative' to their own mainstream culture. Now it's moved up a notch, and become more transparent. As this book points out even radical acts like the Rev. Billy picketing a store still brings more attention to the store, crowds gather around, and the brand of the store is more firmly entrenched in the spectator's mind. The same is said of the whole agenda of Adbusters. The book doesn't answer the question of what can be done about this. And I think it's a shame. The author missed one big component of this whole picture, you have to let yourself know about these things, you have to concern yourself with the products for them to make an imprint on you. You need to connect with the media for the message to hit you, and this is impossible in a certain extent in our world of ad's and billboards, and graffiti being used to push commodities onto us. I actually didn't know about any of these ad campaigns before reading the book. And ironically the book did more to make me aware of these companies that I lately give no thought to, then it did to open my eyes to any theories or ideas that I didn't already know. In this way this book acted as the same unwilling advertising tool that the author is arguing against. So, as I read this book I thought, in my not caring about these companies, not giving them a thought, not buying their products, not conciously trying to be anything more than the person that I have created by living as closely to my principles for the past 15 years or whatever it's been, I have been missed by these types of marketing, and in a lot of ways by marketing in general (the one wonderful side of having little or no extra money to spend on things, except for books and movies, I'm not perfect, no one probably is). My younger self would hate me for saying this, but one way to personally get around the effects of the marketing world is a certain 'transcendent' apathy. Not just a blind apathy but one based on a defeatist resignation and a turning away from the world that one finds repulsive. Now this doesn't fix anything though, but in my case it worked in that I wasn't affected by any of these ad campaigns because I didn't even know they existed. The other thing that the author misses is the second part of the basic tenet of the SI. Since even the most radical act will be made part of the spectacle, the goal of the artist (in whatever medium, even living can be an art to the SI) is to constantly change, to keep moving, allow the spectacle to eat up the corpses of the past, while creating ever new and more difficult art that can momentarily open up spaces of resistance. Since the advertising world (to represent the spectacle here), is always changing, and ingesting new ideas, recruiting from the ranks of the underground, the goal if you don't want you're way of life to be co-opted is to keep changing and growing. On a non-personal level this can involve the creation of more radical situations that may even eventually threaten the structure of the system if it tries to ingest it. I have no idea what this kind of situation will be, but to date none of the actions done against the companies in mocking them or re-appropriating their logo's has really done any good, or I should say have continued doing any good. The people who are going to react in the positive revolutionary way to these aims have already done so, and now a magazine like Adbusters, has lived beyond it's usefulness, and become a commodity itself, creating a norm that can be easily digested and consumed. The key is change. Change and rejection.
All names of offending corporations were deliberately omitted. (less)
Normally I would say that I enjoyed Henry Rollins more when I was younger and most agnst ridden than I am now. I'd also say that even when I was young...moreNormally I would say that I enjoyed Henry Rollins more when I was younger and most agnst ridden than I am now. I'd also say that even when I was younger and more agnst ridden I enjoyed Henry Rollins as a concept more than as a real person, or for anything he was really producing, be it music in the Rollins Band, or with his writing. I don't know if alot of his books I could still read and enjoy them for all their content. I have a feeling the 'historical' writing that he does in some of his books about touring with Black Flag I would still enjoy though. This book though, while I haven't read it in probably more than ten years, I would still imagine I would find quite interesting. The premise of this book is his journals for 1992, a year which starts off just a week and a half after his best friend was shot to death in front of him. The anger and dealing with his friends death, along with a look at the punk world he was a part of blowing up into the mainstream is quite interesting for me. I don't know if anyone who didn't live through the early 90's complete change in popular music will find this very interesting, or people who don't find dwelling on death and revenge fantasies as a worthwhile way of speding their free time, but for those who do enjoy a little bit of anger thrown into their lives this book will be at least a little rewarding.(less)
What I learned from this book is that Griel Marcus is a Sex Pistols fanboy, who placed way too much importance on this band and didn't even think to l...moreWhat I learned from this book is that Griel Marcus is a Sex Pistols fanboy, who placed way too much importance on this band and didn't even think to look beyond the illusion of Johnny Rotten and Co. to more authentic 'situationist' inspired moments of punk. The SI sections of this book are interesting, and as a history of the Sex Pistols this book is vaguely interesting, but really the book is a lot of over-hyped crap. (less)