Attention Span 2011 | Michael T. Fournier
Mike Brook | Hotel Homo Sapiens | Fronch |2010
Dry as a desert and pithier than a biology lab, Mike Brook’s debut novel serves up the tale of Ike Lightningfoot, a hotel employee who spends most of the novel locked in the basement of the hotel that serves as the title’s namesake—and also as a commentary on the state of tourism, the digital age, and colonialism.
Aaron Cometbus | Cometbus #54: On Tour With Green Day ?!? | self-released | 2011
It’s incredible to think that Aaron’s been at it for thirty years. There were a few in the middle of the last decade where it appeared the fanzine which bears his name would be permanently stalled at issue 49 as he started publishing tiny novels—and power to him for that—but the day when I find a new issue remains a national holiday for me.
The new issue is one of the most poignant I can remember: his old Gilman Street friends take him on tour to Southeast Asia, where he contemplates the ways in which their relationships—and successes—have changed them over the years. Of course, using old friends also allows Cometbus, in his inimitable style, to also reflect on himself and the ways he’s changed. Arresting and engaging—he hasn’t lost a step.
Byron Coley | C’est La Guerre: Early Writings 1978-1983 | L’Oie De Cravan | 2011
I caught the last issue of Forced Exposure on the newsstand and promptly had my mind blown. Byron Coley’s writing was (and is) a blend of encyclopedic knowledge and direct, acerbic wit, which I’ve since sought out (and occasionally stolen from) with fanboy urgency.
L’Oie De Cravan’s collection compiles Coley’s early writings about—among others—Devo, the Minutemen and Suicide, from his early days writing for Take It! and the New York Rocker. It’s no Forced Exposure rerelease—a treatment similar to the one ‘Touch And Go’ fanzine was given in 2010 is overdue—but it’s a joy to watch Coley’s turns of phrase and immediacy develop in his early work.
Jonathan Franzen | Freedom | Farrar | 2010
The smallest (biggest) bit of minutiae, and show of nuance, in Franzen’s novel was a conversation between Walter Berglund—nominally the book’s main character—and Richard Katz, the aging rocker-turned-alt.country-icon, about the former’s imminent move to Washington DC: nothing good has ever come out of that town, the men agree—except for Bad Brains and Ian MacKaye (co-owner of Dischord Records, frontman on straightedge bulwarks Minor Threat, and singer/guitarist of Fugazi).
Later, Berglund, when thinking of name for a youth initiative, briefly considers using “Youth Against Fascism,” a song by Sonic Youth, as its namesake. Both men agree it’s one of the band’s best.
When reading, I got the joke immediately: of course a bunch of music geeks think that song is one of Sonic Youth’s best—it’s the one song in the band’s catalogue featuring guest guitars by (wait for it!) Ian MacKaye. Well done, Mr. Franzen!
James Joyce | Ulysses | Vintage | 1933
Got that one out of the way.
David Markey, dir. | Reality 86’d | We Got Power Films | 1986/2011
The director of ‘1991: the Year Punk Broke’ and ‘Desperate Teenage Lovedolls’ also played drums in Painted Willie, one of the bands in SST Records’ bloated late 80’s stable. Painted Willie—along with Greg Ginn’s side project Gone—toured the United States in 1986 on what turned out to be Black Flag’s final tour.
For years, rumors swirled regarding ‘Reality 86’d,’ the film Markey shot while on tour. Greg Ginn, Black Flag’s guitarist (and owner of SST) blocked the film’s release, citing fuzzy legal reasons, adding to the film’s apocryphal status.
One day in May, the film surfaced online—Markey says he was inspired to post it on Vimeo by a Henry Rollins column which lambasted Ginn for never paying royalties to bands on his label— and disappeared just as quickly. (Enterprising surfers can track it down, I’m sure.)
‘Reality 86’d’ has always been a great story. As a movie, it’s not too shabby, either. Plenty of Super-8 performances with soundboard mixes, tour jokes, and road montages, as well as footage of the well-oiled last Black Flag lineup (with rhythm section Anthony Martinez and C’el). The rawness of the footage serves the band—and their aesthetic, and legacy—well.
Medications | Completely Removed | Dischord | 2010
Sufficiently mathy to keep me scratching my head when I try to figure out time signatures; sufficiently poppy to induce head-bobbing, with virtuoso sung (not shouted) vocals in the midst.
Patti Smith | Just Kids | Ecco | 2010
I wasn’t expecting much—as with Talking Heads and Elvis Costello, I missed the developmental stage I probably needed to really grok Patti Smith’s albums. But wow! Smith’s late 60’s New York City navigation full of sentiment without resorting to the ‘-al,’ with a cast of characters familiar in name but fully developed through Smith’s observations.
Mike Watt | “Hyphenated-Man” | Clenchedwrench | 2011
dos | dos y dos | Clenchedwrench | 2011
Quite a year for Mike Watt: “Hyphenated-Man” intertwines a typically weird set of concepts (characters in a Bosch triptych become the cast of ‘Wizard of Oz’) in his third rock opera, the first since 2004’s ‘Divine Comedy’-inspired rumination on illness ‘The Secondman’s Middle Stand.’ “Hyphenated-Man” is written in the style and spirit of the Minutemen, Watt’s early 80’s punk band which ended tragically with the death of singer/guitarist D. Boon in 1985. Watt used Boon’s Telecasted to write the songs on the new record—his departed friend’s presence is stamped all over the album, which blazes through 30 songs in 48 minutes. Easily Watt’s best and most cohesive work since 1984’s ‘Double Nickels On The Dime,’ due in no small part to the musical agility and endurance of his backing band, the Missingmen (guitarist Tom Watson, formerly of Slovenly, and drummer Raul Morales).
As if that’s not enough, Watt and Kira, late of Black Flag, released their first album as dos since 1996. It’s an odd concept, to be sure—two bass players, no drums, half-sung vocals—but the duo successfully wrestle each other for both dominance and the listener’s attention with ping-pongy blurts and rumbles which occasionally approach something resembling structure.
Billy Wimsatt | Please Don’t Bomb The Suburbs | Soft Skull | 2011
The artist formerly known as Upski bust through with ‘Bomb The Suburbs.’ Since then, he’s advocated for philanthropy via the ‘Cool Rich Kids Movement,’ the dissolution of prisons, and in his latest, not working in the non-profit/lefty sector. The old chestnut about “fucking shit up from the inside” is explained as credibly as I’ve ever heard it.
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