You Don't Get There From Here. #6 My conversion to perzines continues. Carrie McNinch's zine is made up of comic strips faithfully charting her daily life. They confirm Harvey Pekar's claim that ordinary life is pretty complex stuff. Even on days when not much happens, Carrie documents it, proving that 'nothing to report' is a state that's worth reporting. The clear black and white drawings are beautiful in a minimalist way; nothing's wasted in them. I guess a lot of the skill in drawing, like in writing, is in choosing what to include and what to leave out. You can't help but be in awe at the amount of work and love that's gone into this zine. Although it's small in format, this zine feels like a packed and substantial read. Contact Carrie at www.myspace.com/carriemcninch or PO Box 49403, Los Angeles CA 90049
Fight Boredom. #1 I grew up in a small town and hated it, so ahead of reading this compzine I had doubts, given its theme of fighting small town boredom. But as it turns out, it's a real pleasure - an ideal zine for dipping into. The theme's broad enough for all the contributors to make it their own. Highlights are articles on life in Portadown, a piece on being a twin and a how-to guide to making a diy notebook. All the writers have their own distinct style, but glueing it together is Amber's writing which has got a generous tone to it that I really liked. In all I came away from reading Fight Boredom feeling like I'd learnt a load of stuff. Check out www.myspace.com/fight_boredom .
Al Foul. Shitty Little World.
As a general rule of thumb I like quite basic music, with lyrics that are either clever, funny, or at least intriguing. This track definitely fits the bill. Al's a one-man band purveying a sort of grumpy rockabilly - grumpabilly! The track's title gives you a pretty accurate idea of where the lyrics are coming from. What makes it work and what makes it funny is the sense that it comes out of bitter experience - there's a definite air of autobiographical authenticity! I've never had an excuse to use the word mordant before, but that's what this is.
The Creeping Nobodies. Psychic Weapons. Imagine the Fall with a less drunk Mark E Smith. Tough I know, but it'll give you a feel for what The Nobodies are like. But that's doing this band a disservice - I like them a lot in their own right. This track really makes the most of repetition as a device; a brilliant scratchy, loping riff gets pushed and pushed to the edge of annoyance, then the song veers off in another direction under crashing guitars or a strident bass part. The song lasts over six minutes, but never outstays its welcome, partly because there's such a great tense, menacing atmosphere to this track.
The Creeping Nobodies. Blowing on Knots. Again there's a great riff holding this together; a great lumbering, grinding thing with an overlay of male/female call and repsonse vocals. There's a bit of a PIL feel to this, which is no bad thing.
CDs. The Capstan Shafts. Chick Cigarettes. I could've picked any of the umpteen Capstan Shafts cds to gibber about but I picked this one, from the mighty (and soon to fold :( ) Asaurus records. There's so much to love about the Capstan Shafts I hardly know where to start. The 'band' consist entirely of the super-prolific Dean Wells. It'd be misleading to say they churn out CDs as this'd make them sound mechanical and weary. Instead, they spray them out in great spurts of gusto. Any band with an eye for the main chance would pace themselves and think of their career - but the Shafts apparently only understand the word career as a verb.
So what about the album? The songs are mostly very short, like little bursts of sunshine that know just when to call it a day. If, for some perverse reason you don't like a particular song, you know there'll be another along in a minute and a half. Their common feature is exhuberance, which even the sad ones share. The music is hard to categorise. Polished it ain't - it's lo-fi for sure. At a pinch you might call it anti-folk, but it's nothing like as tame. It's not quite acoustic punk - Dean Wells knows there's no need to shout.
A casual glance at the CD sleeve tells you that the Capstan Shafts give good title. But unlike some other bands with that gift, they don't use up all their ideas before they've sat down to write the lyrics. The words repay repeated listening. They're a long way from obvious but they aren't wilfully obscure to mask a lack of anything to say. I won't run through all twenty (!) songs, but standouts are the three minute epic Dying Sun , the irresistibly sing-along Too Much Shit and Not Enough Ass, and the infectious chugging jug-band weirdness of Revenge Sex Theater. Enough gushing already - just buy the thing.
Art. I really like the sketches on this blog. Nita's got a clear, unfussy style and her choice of colours makes her drawings really vivid. I especially like these shoes .
Podcasts. The Bovine Music Show Apparently presented by the sister of Professor Stephen Hawking, this show features, in Sally's own words, music made by people 'at home or somewhere similar'. This show really demonstrates how market forces reduce the choices available to music lovers. The music on offer here is genuinely eclectic. There's something for everybody, but the show isn't a complete dog's dinner; an organising mind's clearly at work. This filtering means that things don't default to the curse of home-recorded music - the mithering 'sensitive' singer-songwriter type. The mix tends towards weirdo pop, glitch, post-punk and the odd bit of home-cooked quasi-classical stuff thrown in. Every show has an average of 2 or 3 tracks that make me want to investigate the artist further.
Film. The Fun Guy. Nobody'd claim it's up there with Eisenstein, but this no-budget short put together for the Straight 8 competition made me smile and stood up to a second and third viewing. It's not big, but it's quite clever.
Websites and blogs. Artist Stamp News. There are lots of websites that give you the chance to have a bash at mail art, by listing calls. This is my favourite. It's clearly laid out and uses a fair and reasonable rating system for calls so you can judge which ones you want to bestow your efforts on. Give it a go!