Saturday, December 31, 2011

Spread the Santorum!

Doing our part to spread santorum:


Also, if you're bored at work or whatever, you should google "Rick Santorum" and then click on the spreading Santorum site. For a full explanation of why you should do this, click here, though I'm sure you've probably heard all about it. I just don't want that fantastic asshole to enjoy his moment in the sun. Fuck Santorum. Actually, fuck and then get santorum and then spread it all around. (I wonder if anyone has a santorum fetish. I think it's time to send Dan Savage an email.)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Review: Hawks and Doves

Hawks and Doves
Year One
No Idea Records
Even though Gared O’Donnell’s musical reputation—and voice—precede him, the songs on the Hawks and Doves’ debut album Year One are more or less a departure from those of his previous band Planes Mistaken for Stars. While the songwriting and vocalization are unmistakably those of O’Donnell, there’s a depth and melody throughout the record that contrast the sheer intensity of his previous endeavors. Recorded with a backing band that includes familiar names like George Rebelo (Hot Water Music) and Chad Darby (Averkiou), the songs originated from the group’s initial incarnation: O’Donnell and an acoustic guitar. The album's opener “Another Hellfire Sermon” is somber, cathartic, and sweetly melodious in a manner of minutes. The following track “Hush Money” is the record’s catchiest, most harmonious song, even though its coda—“What would you have me do, love? Look what you made me do”—is perhaps its most agonizing. “North of Tenth,” the album’s closer, looks towards a future not so stained with the confusion, pain, and agony of failed romance and broken bands, or as O’Donnell croons at the song’s end, “…It’s time to tell them goodnight and come alive…” Unlike Gared’s previous efforts—that really had to be witnessed live to truly appreciate—Year One is a near-flawless album that sonically documents a time of uncertainty and melancholy with the sweet melody of catharsis and healing.

Buy the album here!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Checked Out

Items I Borrowed From the Library This Month

By Brian Polk


By Kurt Vonnegut

Sadly, in my pursuit to read all the Vonnegut books, I have come to the end. This was the only one of his novels that I had yet to read, and it was a most marvelous book on which to finish. Bluebeard tells the story of Rabo Karabekian, a one-eyed veteran of World War II, who as a youngster serves as an apprentice for a world-renowned artist named Dan Gregory, only to serve in said war where he lost said eye. When he returns to the states, he hobnobs with Abstract Expressionists, buying their paintings and eventually amassing a priceless art collection, which he displays in a mansion he inherits from his late wife. Eventually he meets Circe Berman, a pill-popping author of novels for young adults. Berman cajoles Karabekian into writing his autobiography, which serves as the prose for Bluebeard. Throughout his book, Karabekian constantly refers to his career as a failed painter—who was often on the receiving end of criticism because his paintings lacked soul, and because the paint he used, Sateen Dura-Luxe, eventually detached from all his works, leaving blank canvasses—and to his potato barn, where he kept his biggest secret under lock and key. What’s the secret, you may wonder? You’ll find the answer in Bluebeard, one of the author’s best novels, and an absolute pleasure to read at the end of my Vonnegut journey.

Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now—Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything

By David Sirota

About halfway through Back to Our Future, I realized that I’ve heard of this David Sirota character. In fact, he hosts a liberal daily talk show on KKZN-AM760 and he is a resident of the Mile High City. How about that? And he reminds me of Matt Taibbi—who, incidentally enough, writes a blurb extolling the virtues of the book on the back cover—in that he’s just as smart, funny, and critical of injustice both on the right and left of the political spectrum. When I read a review in the Onion AV Club assuaging my suspicions that this book might be a bad nostalgia trip, I checked out a copy from the library. What I found in the text within affirmed what I assumed: The 1980s ruined America both culturally and politically. As Sirota explains, it was the decade that the yippies became the yuppies (cue Jerry Rubin), being a hippy was passé (the number-one sitcom was Family Ties, a show whose main attraction was a young Republican named Alex Keaton who constantly mocked his hippy parents because they weren’t self-centered, money-obsessed pricks), and the right blamed liberals and liberal politicians for the U.S. Military’s defeat in Vietnam (you’re forgetting one thing: Rambo). And then there was Reagan, the biggest asshole of all. The cultural shift was aided and abetted by a slew of propaganda, which included everything from movies (Red Dawn and Top Gun), television shows (The A-Team and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous), and even sports (the deification of individual athletes like Michael Jordan, while de-emphasizing the team effort). Unlike the 1960s when the youth was obsessed with justice for all, the 1980s gave us one of the most self-centered, greedy, mean-spirited generations of all time. The result is weak-willed liberals (see Clinton) and the money uber alles/me first attitude that continues to pollute our culture. Back to Our Future offers compelling evidence for why our culture is in the toilet and how the decade of the 80s put us there.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Interview: Kilgore Books

By Brian Polk

If Wax Trax opened a bookstore, it might look a lot like Kilgore Books and Comics, which is fitting, since it occupies the storefront next door (the one that used to house Across the Trax a few years back). Much like the record store, Kilgore is fiercely independent and offers a nice selection of new and used underground gems that are lovingly and carefully stocked by its owners, Luke Janes and Dan Stafford. Throughout the store’s DIY shelving units, one might expect to find reasonably-priced used books by Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Robbins, Kilgore-published issues of Noah Van Sciver’s comic Blammo, or zines like Cometbus and even The Yellow Rake. On a bustling afternoon, I spoke with Dan about the essence of Kilgore while a cavalcade of 13th Avenue regulars thumbed through the shop’s selection of books, zines, and comics.

Brian: What was the motivation behind the founding of Kilgore Books?
Dan: Luke Janes is the guy I run the shop with. He and I were roommates at a place on Marion and 13th. He was working at Cap Hill books and I was doing non-profit, mostly environmental work. And we were having one of those three-or-four beer conversations on the porch, like, ‘What’s your dream job?’ And we both realized running a used bookshop would be the coolest job in the world. So we basically went from there into a critique of all the used bookstores in Denver. I mean we have great used bookstores in Denver, but the big thing that was lacking was that no bookstore had a huge science fiction section — except maybe Fahrenheit’s; I don’t want to cast aspersions — but we wanted ours to be better. And then a lot of kind offbeat stuff that we like to read — not even that offbeat, but like Kurt Vonnegut or John Fante, that kind of stuff — you couldn’t find used anywhere. It would always blow my mind that I would go to a huge used bookstore and I couldn’t find a single Kurt Vonnegut book, and he’s one of the biggest writers of the 20th century. We needed a bookstore that always has the really good shit. And of course the other thing that was really woefully missing from the Denver scene was independent comics. Tattered Cover wasn’t really doing comics at the time and the zine library was closed at that point. The zine and comic scene in Denver was really lacking in terms of a space for people to sell their stuff. So that was the rational: Both of us wanting to be our own boss and to run the kind of bookstore we would love to go to. The kind of bookstore where you’d literally want to hang out for four hours because there’s good music and a good vibe and it smells good and there’s an uncrotchety guy behind the counter.

Would you consider the decision to open the store a success?
Yeah, I would. It’s funny; I had these two guys in the store today who are old Denver book guys — one is in his 80s and the other in his early 70s and they’ve run different shops throughout Denver for the last 40 years. One guy said, ‘How’s it going?’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s good. We’re making a living.’ And his jaw dropped, and he said, ‘You’re making a living selling books?’ Luke and I have really understanding wives with good jobs, so that helps. But I’m really happy we’ve done it. It’s opened a lot of doors that we wanted open: being able to do publishing stuff like comics and being able to provide local writers and local artists with a venue that wasn’t just a gallery space. So I think it’s been really successful. I do think we’re at an interesting crossroads right now where the space is great, but we’re at a maximum capacity. This is the amount of space we have and we’ve filled every nook and cranny of it. Only so many people will come here on a given day, so it will be hard for us to grow. And while we are making a living, it’s not a great living. Our hope is to figure out an expansion plan so we can incorporate more mini-comics, more zines. Since there are only two of us, we can only do so much outreach to people to say, ‘Hey, come sell your stuff here.’ And until we can do more of that, we’re not going to get more customers who come in looking for a wider variety of things. We’re looking to find a bigger space if we can, but we don’t want to move, because that would suck too.

Is it nice being next to Wax Trax?

It’s awesome, are you kidding? I’ve expanded my record collection. It’s doubled in the last three years. But more importantly — well you interviewed Duane [Davis], right?

That guy’s awesome. Him and Dave Steadman are the last of a dying breed of really respectable DIY businessmen. The other day I went to get a thing of water and I was walking past Jelly and Beauty Bar and I was thinking about those two businesses that are new in the past year. And both of them are the kind of thing where the people had some capital and they spent a 100 grand and they got the nice sign made and the fancy lighting and whatever. And I thought, ‘Huh, we didn’t do any of that at Kilgore.’ Every single thing here we built with sweat and getting our friends to do it — just going the cheapest possible, DIY route versus the ‘take a big loan’ and do it that way. That’s kind of the Wax Trax spirit, punk rock thing that we love and seek to honor and emulate in some way. And honestly as our landlords, those guys are great. We have a handshake deal with them and we’ve paid the same rent every month for three years and it’s a really low amount of rent. That’s the thing that allows us to make a living at this. They could have charged us a lot more but they don’t need to so they’re not going to, which is unheard of in a landlord.

You do have a kind of Wax Trax vibe here, kind of a non-pretentious shop that appreciates independent, creative expression. That’s probably the kind of thing you wanted to begin with, right?
Yeah, when I was a kid my friends and I would make zines. And one of my best friends bought a photocopier from the school supply auction for $50 and we would make zines and send them off to Factsheet Five. When I was doing the political stuff, I kind of got out to that whole scene, but my memory of it was like, listening to the Dead Milkmen, riding a skateboard, and photocopying funny shit — maybe writing Jello Biafra a letter and hoping he’d write back. Getting back into it, it’s funny because there is there hyper-pretension of the small press community of these precious art object books, which I think are really beautiful and have a place. But that was something I discovered. It’s like the concert poster thing. I used to collect concert posters because I was like, ‘I was at that show and it was awesome. I’m going to put that in my bathroom and every time I take a piss I’m going to remember Butthole Surfers or whatever.’ And now show posters are limited edition and screen-printed with 14 colors and they don’t hang them up anywhere. I guess our one pretension is that we try to be anti-pretension.

You worked for non-profit campaigns before opening Kilgore, and you’re still very connected with that, obviously. You ran as a write-in candidate for city council in the 8th district. By the way I’m not in your district or I would have voted for you.
Thanks. [Laughter]

Oh yeah. Anyway, do you miss working with non-profits in more of a political oriented atmosphere?
Yes and no. I think that to me, all of that stuff is wrapped up in who you are as a person. The way you live your life, the way you treat people, the way you operate a business, the way you engage civically, the way you treat your kids, the way you treat your partner — all those things are who you are as a person. When I did political organizing work, I never thought, ‘This is my job, and then I have a separate life.’ I was fortunate that I got paid to do something that I believed in strongly. That same ideology blends itself into the Kilgore thing. I think we treat people fairly when they come in to sell stuff. We pay for stuff up front because we know consignment kind of sucks. We push local people because we want those people to be successful. It’s just that spirit of doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. To me, whether I’m involved with politics or some creative venture or business venture, it’s all the same. But I still do a lot of the political stuff. I spend about 20 hours a week working for this organization. I still have a toe in each water anyway. And the election thing was just dumb luck — well luck isn’t the right word because someone died. But it was a crazy confluence of situations where our City Council woman — who was pretty good — passed away so it was definitely going to be a write-in election because hers was the only name on the ballet. And I though I was the only person that I trusted to actually be a progressive voice on the City Council. So that’s what I was going for.

Is there anything else you wanted to touch upon? Does Kilgore have an underlying philosophy of sorts?
The only thing we try to do is we try to say yes to as much as we can. For example we had a lady come in the other day who just wrote a kid’s book. And she said, ‘Do you do anything with local authors?’ And I said, ‘Yes we do.’ Because anyone who’s taking the time to try to create something—it’s a hassle to try to deal with the bureaucracy that is involved with disseminating your creative vision. And so if we can help with any of it, even a little bit — if we can sell one book by a guy who really put his heart and soul into it, and that makes his day and it makes our day and it makes the reader’s day — it’s the greatest thing on earth. Of course, Luke and I can get curmudgeonly about some of the people who come in from time to time.

Who wouldn’t?
Yeah, it is retail. But the idea is like, ‘Yeah, let’s say yes to everything.’ And some of it will work and some of it won’t, but at least we’ll try. It’s a pretty good philosophy for us.

Music I’ve been listening to in a sentence or two

By Brian Polk

The Knew, Before It Ends, SFP Records
Holy shit, a band that manages to successfully mix the likes of Alice Donut, Television, and Elvis Costello (at least that’s what I hear as I play it over and over again on my record player). My new favorite seven-inch.

Citizen Fish, Goods, Alternative Tentacles
I don’t know what it is about this record that makes me so happy, but it probably has something to do with the fact that it’s the best album the band has ever made. (My name is Brian and I acknowledge the boldness of this statement). Best ska-punk band ever.

Rumspringer, Empty Towers, Traffic Street Records
For the longest time, I thought good pop-punk was a thing of the past, and then I bought this record and realized I was wrong. Great for enthusiasts of the poppier punk.

Cat Stevens, Very Best of Cat Stevens, Some label
I don’t want to be one of those guys who grows old and refuses to listen to anything other than the music of his formative years. With this in mind, I checked this CD out from the library and I have to say, I am quite pleased with the result.

Street Eaters, We See Monsters, Bakery Outlet Records
Awhile back my band played with Street Eaters at the 404, and I enjoyed the set so much, I bought the record. The singer was in the Fleshies, his wife plays drums, and they write politically inspired punk/rock. What’s there not to like?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Yellow Rake Release Party

The Yellow Rake is celebrating the release of its 26th issue on Friday, August 26th by throwing a party where ALL the proceeds benefit Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary! For a mere $6, you can see Charly “The City Mouse” Fasano and Dave Paco reading from their new books, Dan Landes reading from his forthcoming book, and Cuatro, 66 Days, and Joy Subtraction rocking and rolling through the evening. So come on down and support local literature, music, and of course, the animals at Peaceful Prairie!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review: Next Analog Broadcast

By Charly “The City Mouse” Fasano
(Review by Brian Polk)

The common misconception with the cultural output of punk is that anyone can do it. Supposedly all you need is the audacity and determination to plug in a guitar or slap together a zine and — presto! — punk is made. Of course it’s not so easy, is it? Sure anyone can make a trite, forgettable band or zine, but the remarkable punk music and literature weren’t just really good for what they were, they were really fucking good, period. Charly “The City Mouse” Fasano grew up ensconced in the punk scene, and though he didn’t have a band or a publication, he still contributed with his genre of choice — poetry. And sure it takes courage to revivify such a haughty style of writing in the name of the everyman, and Fasano would’ve failed miserably if he weren’t so achingly sincere. But of course, as his new book — his first for the Buffalo, New York imprint sunnyoutside — Next Analog Broadcast demonstrates, his words go beyond sincerity. In fact, all his poems seem to be linked by a common thread of smirking bemusement at the absurdity of human behavior, not only in the ostentatious characters that provide the poet with constant entertainment, but by the self-aware awkwardness and posturing of the poet himself. The poem “What’s Your Name Again” perfectly encapsulates this eagerness to take satisfaction in his curious world: “If she says something about herself, it will give me a break from showing off.” In the poem, “Hard On Everyone,” he muses about past relationships in a similar manner: “The woman I was dating at the time didn’t believe that I went to the porn shop for sodas. She stopped sitting on my side of the booth at dinners. She made me leave my shoes outside when I’d visit her house. She didn’t want me to track in where I’d been.” But the poet is at his best when he takes pride in his socially perceived shortcomings. In the poem, “Wallet” he writes, “A lot of folks think my USA is all about winning and the wallet … I lost my wallet two days ago.” Fasano’s self-deprecation, bitter sense of humor, and celebration of underachievement are most definitely by-products of the punk culture that reared him. And since his poems so easily relate to the proud underclass of society with humor and forthright earnestness, Next Analog Broadcast isn’t just a good book of poetry inspired by a subculture and printed independent of the mainstream. It’s a good book of poetry, period.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Greed First Institute: Rich are Ones at Bottom of “Trickle Down” Theory of Economics

By Brian Polk

Cornelius Albert Randus, chief executive of The Greed First Institute, confirmed at a press conference on Tuesday what economists have been saying for generations, sort of. According to Randus, the popular “Trickle Down” theory of economics, a seminal tenet of Reaganomics, benefits those at the foot of society, but that the “Trickle Down Triangle,” or TDT, is inverted, so that the rich are actually the ones at the bottom.

“Basically, the rich are on top of everything,” said Randus. “Society, financial markets, government — you name it, the rich are on top of it. It’s in this one area, the TDT, that the rich are actually at the bottom. You see, now we know how it feels to be down and out for once.”

The TDT, which was revealed for the first time at Tuesday’s press conference at the group’s Filthy Richie Center, demonstrates the success of the controversial economic theory by placing the richest 1% of Americans at the point of the upside-down triangle. Meanwhile, the richest 10% occupy a very small strip near the richest 1%, and after a considerable gap, the rest of Americans are at the base of the triangle, which, according to the model, is the “top.”

“As you can see here,” said Randus, pointing to the chart, “The poor are up at the top, trickling down what little riches they have to the wealthy at the bottom here. So basically, laissez faire capitalism, while terrible for the poor, is actually working wonders for people like me who don’t even need anymore money."

“So don’t let anyone tell you that Reaganomics doesn’t work!” Randus exclaimed to the crowd, prompting a standing ovation.

Throughout the press conference, hardy guffaws often tore through the overweight, tuxedo-clad audience — many of which wiped tears from their eyes with $100 bills — as Randus humorously underscored the irony of ruthlessly denying Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security to the poorest of Americans, while the billionaires in attendance continued to refuse to pay taxes they could easily afford 6,000 times over.

“I mean we could pay taxes,” said Randus over the bedlam, “but that wouldn’t be putting Greed First, would it?”

After the crowd quieted down, Randus steadied himself, and expounded upon the significance of his revelation.

“When Reagan enacted this theory of economics, he led average Americans to believe that they would somehow benefit from our wealth,” he said. “That it would ‘trickle down’ from our overflowing bank accounts into their dusty pockets. Of course we knew all along that the only trickling was from their bare refrigerators onto the massive buffets of our luxury yachts. I can’t believe that no one put it all together until now."

“Oh, and thanks for the bailouts, suckers!”

Meanwhile outside of the convention hall, a dozen or so protestors from the People In Need Charity held signs advertising slogans like, “Greed is wrong,” “We’re all in this together,” and at least one placard quoting Matthew 19:24, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

“We’re basically here because we believe hoarding wealth is wrong when there are people in this country who lack access to basic medical care and healthy food to eat,” said Ricky Peate, one of the protestors. “At what point do these people say, ‘I’m rich enough. I don’t need anymore money’? I mean, these guys make more in a day than I made in the last three years.”

When asked to comment on the scant turnout on behalf of the protestors, Peate responded, “Well, several hundred of us planned on coming, but everyone else is hard at work, making these assholes even more money.”

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Issue Number 25

A Day at the Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary

By Brian Polk

“Your neighbors must think you’re nuts,” said one of my fellow guests.
“Oh yeah,” said one of the operators of Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, “but that’s how we know we’re doing the right thing. It’s once we start fitting in that we’d have to worry.”

It’s strange that we live in a culture where doing the right thing is considered eccentric. If you quit your lucrative private sector job to become a social worker, for example, a lot of people will think you’re damn crazy—including some of those very people you’re helping with your social work. (Side note: My brother is a social worker who helps at-risk youth. Certain members of those at-risk youth make fun of him for driving a car that’s far from its prime. His response? “At least I have a car.”) If you make a concerted effort not to watch television, a lot of people resent the hell out of you for even mentioning it. And if you eschew the flesh and milk of animals because you think it’s unnecessary and wrong, a whole lot of people will find your decision detestable, and they won’t hesitate to say so.

But doing the right thing has never been easy. And that’s why people who make personal sacrifices in order to do the right thing never cease to impress the hell out of me. So when I spent an afternoon at a “Veganize It!” cooking class at the Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, I couldn’t help but admire all the folks who ran the place. They’re kindhearted souls who have devoted their lives to creating a refuge for rescued farm animals, such as goats, llamas, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and other animals not commonly accepted at shelters. And while the cooking class was geared towards those at the beginning of veganism—and not seasoned vegan cooking professionals like myself—the experience was nonetheless soul-rewarding.

Check them out online:

If you have money burning a hole in your pocket, consider donating.
They have a lot of mouths to feed!

Review: Egghead

Would Like a Few Words With You
Rating: Thirteen stars out of fifteen or so

Good-humored pop punk hasn’t exactly been inundating what’s left of the punk scene. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because even back in the 90s — when this type of music was ubiquitous — there weren’t a whole lot of pop punk groups that were any good. But occasionally a band like Egghead would come along and remind you why anyone listened to pop punk in the first place: It can be a whole lot of fun when it’s tongue-and-cheek, genuine, and catchy — and Egghead’s songs have all these traits in spades. Let’s start with the album’s best song: “My Daughter Can Fuck up Your Daughter,” a tune about how the singer’s rough-and-tumble toddler can mop the floor with all the other daycare toddlers. (Oh, to be a proud father.) Then there’s the insanely catchy “Stuck Inside a Stuckeys (with Leonard from the Dickies),” a ditty that beckons to be played over and over again — at least if you’re someone like me who appreciates a good pop punk tune. And don’t forget “Holy Okatodden!” which isn’t that great of a song, but I mention it because mentioning three songs makes for a well-rounded review. Egghead’s Would Like a Few Words With You has been in constant rotation in my CD player (mainly because I don’t have very many CDs, but still). It’s pop punk in all its goofy, goodtime glory.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Review: Citizen Fish

Citizen Fish
Alternative Tentacles / Bluurg Records
Rating: How could this possibly not be good?

Wouldn’t it be weird if Citizen Fish came out with an album with songs about their favorite television shows, making lots of money, and trusting government to do the right thing? It would be the Bizzaro World Citizen Fish album and it would only be available for download on Amazon. Of course, with Goods, there are no such songs. In fact, all of the problems the group began singing about all those years ago still exist — and they’re much worse than they were before. That’s why it’s still so relevant to sing about the damaging effects of television (“Human Conditioner” and “Click”), waking up (in the aptly titled tune “Wake Up”) and the perils of fear and hate (“Better”). With each new punk generation discovering the group (I bought my first Citizen Fish album in 1998), the importance of conveying the message of self-reliance, anti-greed, and pro-giving-a-shit cannot be understated in such a self-destructive, vain society. Of course if a band can put these messages to a danceable, catchy soundtrack, then why the fuck not? Citizen Fish helped shape my personal and political outlook as much as Dead Kennedys and Propagandhi. It’s music for the soul.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Review: The Inactivists

The War on Jazz Hands
CD + bonus download

“We’re envious of everyone who isn’t us,” proclaims The Inactivists on its new CD, The War on Jazz Hands, after name-dropping more commercially successful Denver bands like the Fray and Flobots. Of course, its comparative impact doesn’t really seem to bother the band all that much (aside from a bit of envy), especially since the five-piece is back with all its notorious calamity and sarcasm. While the songs on the disc navigate a variety of genres, they all have certain similarities: That is, they all seem to hatch a lyrical concept and then lock into some kind of groove, whether it's traditional pirate folk (in “Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash,” a name borrowed from the Pogues or Winston Churchill), American tavern funk* (“Press the Spacebar”), or space lounge (“I Fail at Life”). The CD’s titular song functions as a musical declaration of both its style (apparently The Inactivists are both a be-bop and hip-hop band, among other things), and its courageous battle against jazz hands. “You Give Me a Hard-On,” is a sinister ballad cover of a Little Fyodor track; it's about boners and everything boner-related. And then there’s “Vegan Zombies,” a fancy little number mocking vegan stereotypes (i.e. all non-meat eaters are hacky sac-playing dirty hippies with dreadlocks). The best thing about this release is that it has to be the only CD that comes with a free download of a whole other CD. And on the back cover there’s a “Nice Price” sticker, so you know it’s a bargain. With The War on Jazz Hands, The Inactivists are doing what it does best: Making provocative upbeat songs that separate those who have a sense of humor and like to have a good time from those who don’t.

*I just branded this genre. (Think pub rock but American and funk.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Recipe: Tap Water Soup

Back when I was a lad eking out an existence in a shanty on the muddy banks of the Cherry Creek, my evil Auntie Eris — who took custody of me and my blind little brother after a gory bubble wrap accident claimed the lives of my parents — used to serve up this dish whenever the mighty rumbling of our stomachs became so loud that she couldn’t concentrate on feeding and grooming her 16 evil cats.

Tap Water

Fill up bowl with warm tap water. If you’re especially evil, allow water to cool until it’s somewhere between lukewarm and tepid. Garnish with air.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Deviants and Devices: An Interview with Charly Fasano

It’s certainly no secret that the digital revolution has been commandeering the artifacts of artistic creation for years. Records, tapes, and books are all being replaced by digital downloads — mainly because our ears are too precious for skips and pops, and our eyes wouldn’t know what to do if it didn’t have a screen to stare at. Of course, with every digital innovation unleashed in a thoroughly saturated market, there are artists who eschew the brave new virtual world altogether. Charlie “the City Mouse” Fasano and his twin brother Vincent Fasano both have two feet firmly planted in the world of analog. With an ever-expanding catalogue of books, tapes, and paintings, the Fasano brothers have no plans to completely digitize their creative output (though they do often include accompanying downloads, but even then, they’re generally more of an afterthought). Their upcoming show, Deviants and Devices, is a celebration of the non-digital world, featuring a collection of paintings, collage prints, instant photography, short films, and books (Charlie Fasano is releasing two new books, Deviants and Devices, a handmade journal of linocut prints published on his Fast Geek Press imprint and Next Analog Broadcast, a book of poetry published by the Buffalo, New York-based Sunnyoutside Press).

So what’s the allure of analog?
I like how tangible and imperfect it is. Analog gives you mistakes; it’s more human in that aspect. With digital, I feel like it’s in a vacuum. It’s too perfect. And digital is easy; you just press a button and it’s done. With analog, it takes more time to create. And of course, it breaks, you know? It’s not forever. If all the lights ever went out, the analog people would handle it much better.

What does "Deviants and Devices" mean?

It’s a title I came up with because when I got home from Chicago, I started working on Colfax again. And working in the evenings, I stand there and watch people. So I’ve been getting into linocut prints and I just started making portraits of deviants and the devices they use. The show incorporates a bunch of linocut prints, short films that both me and Vinny shot, some stamp collages, and paintings by my brother. There’s going to be recordings of poems that I did and put together and played all the music on. It all culminates into releasing a handmade, hand printed, linocut illustration book that’s going to come with seven recordings of the poems and that’s called Deviants and Devices.

So you handmade the book?
Yeah, it’s a little thirty-page hand bound, hand printed chapbook. It’s going to be thirty prints with a download card with recordings that I put together. I played organ and my $80 pawnshop guitar called The Amigo, made in Romania. I sat and taught myself how to do all this stuff. I’m hand binding them as well. It’s one of those things that I did everything for it myself, and taught myself. Usually I have a lot of other people I collaborate with, but this is the one time that I tried to put it all together.

Why did you try putting it together yourself?
I don’t know… It teaches you how to do things really quick. This was a project that if I was going to do it, I wanted to try to work through all the problems of learning how to do things. It’s inspired by the shenanigans on Colfax Avenue, so there’s a level of shankiness, I guess. Or just kind of an unfinished thing about it. That’s the subject matter. Colfax is like a kid acting out.

A lot of times when people talk about Colfax and the people on it, there’s a level of patronization, like I’m better than those people. So with this book, how are you presenting the people on Colfax?
It’s a subjective look. I started out making these prints and these portraits and I started doing those before I wrote the poems because I wanted to stay as a partial observer. It’s just little photographic clips. There’s humor involved, but I’m not pointing the finger at anything or anybody specific. It’s not to degrade any sort of person or anything. There’s a spectrum of different characters in it, from a lady that goes and prays every day at seven o’clock at the Cathedral to a yuppie swinging his briefcase at bunch of skateboarders, or video store workers looking the same in every town.

What is it about Colfax that’s inspiring?
It’s funny because people who live in the Capitol Hill area walk through it every day and they don’t notice what’s going on. I’ve stayed at a stationary point at Colfax and Lafayette for years where I work, and there are the same reoccurring characters, and it’s a big cross-section of characters. When it used to be the main boulevard, it was the center of Denver. And then when they build the interstate, it was gone. Now it’s a dilapidated stripe and no matter what developers try to do with it or how bureaucrats try to change it into an attractive area, it still has that level of seediness. From the richest person in Denver walking past a student walking past a guy asking for change in front of a liquor store, it all happens at once.

How many books are you making?
50 total. 30 for the show. It takes awhile.

What about the Last Analog portion of the show?
I had this idea in Chicago about the last analog television broadcast. I did a bunch of woodblock and rubber stamp prints of analog devices — like it’s the analogue apocalypse. I did a nine-minute stop-action animation film that we’re showing during the event.

More information on the event:

Listen digitally:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fingers Of The Sun: Under The Influence With No Apologies

By Josiah M Hesse

Well the old world may be dead
Our parents can't understand
But I still love my parents
And I still love the old world
I want to keep my place in the old world
Keep my place in the arcane
Because I still love my parents
And I still love the old world

--Jonathan Richman

“There's an old rule in rock and roll, that if your parents like it, it can't be any good,” Paul McCartney tells me as a waitress hands us our drinks in a Denver bar. “And we've ignored that. We're playing the music that we want to play. We're not out to just piss people off.”

Okay, okay, it's not really Paul McCartney telling me this.

But if you saw him you'd forgive me for thinking so.

The man sitting across from me in this booth is the pure doppleganger of 1967 McCartney; complete with slug mustache, psychedelic tie and shaggy brown hair with trimmed sideburns — you'd swear he just fell out of the video for “Penny Lane.” But this is 2011 and the man's name is Nathan Brasil. He is currently surrounded by his bandmates, who collectively make up Fingers Of The Sun, the band that has been (begrudgingly) labeled Denver's sixties revivalist troubadours, carrying on that great tradition of eulogizing an era they never lived in. The time of mini-skirts, acid, and music with a distinct romanticism.

“A lot of bands in this city are afraid of not being original,” says Suzie Allegra, the other half of the Fingers Of The Sun songwriting team. “They don't want to admit that they're taking something from someone else, or not coming out with the new happening sound. And we've had that fear, but we've overcome it.”

The bar we're having this conversation in contains a few of those Denver bands. They sit in tight jeans, warming their hands after their fixed gear bike ride down here, probably listening to a Sonic Youth cassette on a Walkman, celebrating finishing an albums worth of one-minute noise songs on a Mac laptop. It's difficult to see where Fingers Of The Sun fit in with a city like this; when I ask if the Denver scene has any influence on their music they all say no, that they could make their music anywhere, some referencing Portland or Austin. It seems that, unlike those aforementioned cities, Denver's underground music scene has yet to find it's own distinct sound and culture. And in this insecurity many musicians will lazily drift into the abrasive, unromantic sounds of the avant-guard. Hiding in cynicism, masking inability with experimentation, a lot of musicians in this Colorado town deliberately avoid all of the things that make up Fingers Of The Sun.

“When I lived in Portland there were a lot of poppy bands,” Nathan explains, ordering another round for everyone at the table, “there were a lot of bands just playing nice music because that's what they wanted to do. A lot of Denver bands are riff based, and we're not. Most of them will come up with a cool riff, then put some stuff on it, then the singer will come in and just say something. But Suzie and I will have a chord progression. We like to have a melody over a rhythmic structure.”

“There's a real stigma in this town against being in a poppy band,” Suzie agrees.

Though it doesn't seem like Fingers Of The Sun are enemies with any of the riff-based bands that fill this bar. They play the same venues and have compliments for all of them, but this group of hippies four generations removed don't really fit. Not only does their sound harken back to a very un-punk era, but the songs leave you with an optimistic sense of the future. Their upcoming self-title debut (available Feb 12th) is the kind of music that could be used as therapy for Seasonal Affected Disorder, tunes with a vaseline around the lens type of romanticism, something that can rescue you after your family mocks your haircut at Thanksgiving Dinner.

On the jukebox of this bar The Modern Lovers “Old World” comes on. Jonathan Richman's song about not fitting in with a scene that hates its parent's generation is an eerily poignant commentary on Fingers Of The Sun's place in this bar and this city. Whether it is conscious or not, the band have taken the same route that Richman did with his entire career. Being unwillingly thrust into the role of punk-rock icon, Richman rebelled against the scene that had no use for his old world; his rebellion was in direct contrast to theirs, by using a drug-free cheeriness and love for his parents, Richman out-punked the punks. And whether it's conscious or not, Fingers Of The Sun are using the same tactics, embracing imitation and cleanly structured songs in opposition to the sounds of their contemporaries. After all, when you're a band in a city like Denver, whose underground music scene has pigeonholed itself into demanding a lip-curling sneer and ear splitting feedback as a prerequisite for cultural acceptance, the only route left for insubordination is to make music with a commercial sound.

“I'm definitely living out a lot of fantasies in this band,” Suzie tells me. And if there is one consistent thread throughout my conversation with her and Nathan, it's that there were a lot of things they weren't allowed to do in other bands, and that now the flood-gates are open. You want to have each band dress up as their favorite planet, collectively making up the solar system? Sure. You want to write ridiculously accessible, happy songs about thrift stores and cups of tea? Why not?

Having met years earlier, back when “Fingers Of The Sun” was just the name of a 1968 song by The Fugs, Nathan and Suzie had been in two different bands together before they formed this one. Their second, The Pseudo Dates, gained a significant group of fans in Denver and while they did have a decidedly trippy sound, Nathan proudly states that Fingers is “the most unapologetically sixties band I've ever been in.” The Psuedo Dates broke up unexpectedly in the spring of '09, but at the time it was still clear to Nathan and Suzie that they had uncommon songwriting chemistry. Continuing along the path of the Pseudo Dates, the pair began writing some even more unapologetically sixties music. Like most Denver musicians, each of them were in several other bands at the same time; Marcus (the snail) Renninger was plucked from his and Nathan's David Bowie cover band, Width Of A Circle, and recruited as Fingers second guitarist. Despite never being in a band before, Jamie Bryant, a petite olive skinned cutie, was hired on to play organ. Fez Garcia, a slim, hairy man with the look of an A-list 70s porn star, was brought in on drums, and the blindingly (yet not obnoxiously) cheery Megan Wilson was found, miraculously, on craigslist as the fourth vocalist and percussionist.

Collectively the band pulled from a deep pool of talent and creativity, writing songs that display each member's incendiary ability, yet never do they distract you from the songs with any kind of impressive instrumentation. Marcus and Nathan's dueling guitars contain a heartbreaking reminiscence of early Love records; Fez's drums at times seem dangerously sloppy, yet they hold the glue of the music together and add a subtle personality to each song; Maria's organ is minimal yet expansive, like the undertow of Al Kooper's contribution to those great mid-sixties Dylan hits; Megan's voice is strong but never arresting, delivering an opiate shot of mushy, sweet-tempered harmony right into the darkest of hearts. And Suzie is the foundation of it all, keeping those weighty yet polished songs together with simple bass playing, lacquering it all with a voice that is at times so confident and projecting it can make you squint.

Being together less than a year, Fingers Of The Sun have garnered an impressive following. Fans will come out to their shows, singing along to each song (despite the fact that they have yet to release an album). “Sometimes there are people at the shows in black hoodies that look like they never would be into what we're doing,” Suzie explains, “and they're the ones who are most into it.”

I've eves dropped on a few conversations about Fingers Of The Sun; those Denverites in black hoodies who typically only listen to cassette copies of Metal Machine Music or something by The Raincoats. And they are “into it.” They love the music of Fingers Of The Sun. But typically these statements of praise are suffixed with an apology. Just like no one will consciously admit to liking a U2 or Bruce Springsteen song without dismissing it as a “guilty pleasure,” they hang their heads in shame for liking Fingers Of The Sun and will subtly ask for your forgiveness. “I like them,” someone will say “but I don't think you will. They're just too...happy. And they sound like a band from the sixties.”

Similarly, critics will dismiss them for being too derivative. Their album received a glowing review in The Westword, but in Robert Flemming's local zine, The Pink Shovel he refers to them as “a very fun, proto-sixties garage band who excel in their musicianship so much you'd swear it was a different band on each song. But in the end they are too indebted to their sixties influences, to the point where they will be seen as a tie-die equivalent to The Darkness. In the end they are a very talented group of kids who've simply shown up to the party forty years too late.”

“It's a lot cooler to be an eighties band than it is a sixties band,” Nathan says.

Is there any decade in American history more often mimicked than the sixties? In a 1996 essay, hippie novelist Tom Robbins offers sympathy for those (like Fingers Of The Sun) who were born too late to experience our nations pop renaissance: It must be really irritating to have come of age in the 1980s or 90s to find your decade — your very own historical moment—persistently overshadowed by The Decade That Will Not Die, the ten years that have stolen the show of the twentieth century and hogged the cultural limelight for as long as you can recall.

For some, the sixties evokes disgust, a frustrating indignation at the movement that created pretentious music and self-righteous politics; even Stephen King, a man who himself lived through the time, dismisses his generation as those who “could have saved the world, but instead sold their souls for the home shopping network.” But for some, the sixties are historical gold. For those of us who were born a few decades too late to have any taste of the era, what we absorb through documentaries, albums and Time-Life retrospective coffee-table books creates a sense of longing, like the middle aged married man sighing at the sight of a mini-skirted college girl laughing at the bar. We are dissatisfied with our own time and want to leap into the photograph of Golden Gate Park, or to just stand in the back of the UFO club as Syd Barrett plays that deliciously frightening music. And romantic authors like Tom Robbins do little to help our generational blue-balls, describing his youth as a time when “music was less superficial, authority less respected, violence less tolerated, wealth less worshiped; beauty had yet to be voted out of office by the art community, flirting hadn't been demonized as sexual harassment by the cops of correctness, and tickets to any number of nirvanas could be easily obtained at any number of outlets, ancient or futuristic.”

Grace Slick is known for a lot of things (sleeping with every member of her band, trying to spike Nixon's tea with acid, drunkenly heckling a German audience about WWII), but her most enduring legacy is coining the phrase “if you remember the sixties, you probably weren't there.” And it seems like every generation since hers has been trying to remember the sixties for her.

There have probably been more sixties revivalist bands than there were actual sixties bands. Which is surprising, considering that only a few years after the murder at Altamont Speedway (historically known as The End Of The Sixties), the punk movement inspired a hatred of hippies with all the fever of ethnic cleansing. Punks hated hippies the way tea-baggers hate Obama. They saw them as hypocritical losers with all the conviction of a limp handshake. The Clash's “Hate & War” was written as a direct confrontation to the sixties slogan of Peace & Love; and journalists had so much fun with Johnny Rotten's “I Hate” slogan scribbled above the logo of his Pink Floyd t-shirt.

But around this same time The Television Personalities released their first album, And Don't The Kids Just Love It, featuring a cover with pictures of Twiggy and Avengers star, Patrick McNee, and songs with titles like “I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives.” The Television Personalities (like Fingers Of The Sun) were unapologetically sixties influenced, at a time when nothing could be farther from cool. But while their brazenness may not have earned them many record sales or appreciation from anyone but DJ John Peel and pop history nerds, they did have an impact on a burgeoning California music scene, looking to reclaim their roots of sunshine drenched pretty pop.

By the mid-1980s the LA punk movement had abandoned any sense of melody that may have come from predecessors like The Ramones and The Buzzcocks, and stripped everything down to a primal rhythm, leading many adolescent males to punch their way through the crowd with an amphetamine mania. Many bands in the city felt little kinship with this scene and, following the tactics of Jonathan Richman a decade earlier, began embracing pop sounds that were like garlic to the vampiric punks of California. Known to history as The Paisley Underground, bands like The Three O' Clock and Rain Parade had more in common with The Byrds than they did with Minor Threat, and began plucking their way through happy, jangly tunes with no hint of apology. Wearing frilly collars inside a crush velvet suit, recording videos on sets seemingly stolen from The Smothers Brothers show, bands in The Paisley Underground were in love with the sights and sounds of a time when they were most likely in diapers. At the same time legitimate sixties bands like The Grateful Dead and The Rolling Stones were trying to modernize their image, wanting to look as eighties as possible in day-glow suits and laser light concerts. The scene reached its zenith when pop royalty, Prince, formed Paisley Park Records, signing The Bangles and The Three O'Clock and recording his own album of trippy throwback music, Around The World In A Day.

And in the nineties the trend continued. Traces of Neil Young can be found throughout the grunge movement, with their long hair & flannel uniform, and Cobain's quotation from Young's “Hey Hey, My My” in his suicide note. (Though in another infamous piece writing by the messiah of the flannel army, Cobain said, “the only way I would wear a tie-die shirt is if it was made with Jerry Garcia's blood and Iggy Pop's piss.”) Across the pond Rock & Roll Stars Oasis brazenly stole from sixties music as if they owned the copyrights to the whole decade — all while blasphemously claiming they were “better than The Beatles.” In the Ondi Timoner documentary, “DiG,” west coast hipsters The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre battle it out to see who is the most relevant band to their generation, all while sounding like they're playing for a bunch of dancing zombies at a Merry Prankster Acid Test.

And there is no shortage of sixties inspired bands today. Thee Oh Sees, Best Coast, Ty Segal and Tame Impalla all owe a significant debt to the garage pop of 1960's Detroit. Though these groups have been afforded punk-rock credibility by recording music that is washed-out by a thick filter of Lo-Fi grittiness.

Fingers Of The Sun have no such filters. Their music is as clear and accessible as an LP by The Mama's & The Papas. While the album was recorded with modern technology and instruments, the sound is seriously indebted to Phil Spector and Brian Wilson. Titles like “Heaven Only Knows” and “Goodbye Summer” are clear signposts to the vocabulary of The Beach Boys; “Cup Of Tea” is a slightly slowed down version of The Hollies “Bus Stop,” continuing with the theme of flirtation and community cool; “The Leaves Were So Green” could be a Rubber Soul-era B Side; and “Dinner & A Movie” is clearly a Shangri-La's song without the monologues.

And yet, when you hear these songs you can't help but be floored by the pleasure of them. They are expertly crafted and recorded songs, pushing all the right buttons in your mind and heart. Songs like “Cashmere, Paisley, Polyester” and “Mystery Remains” speak with a clarity of vision you wish you saw more often from Denver bands. Even the most ignorant philistine could hear the sixties in every second of Fingers Of The Sun's album, but never does it feel like a deal-breaker. There is enough talent and passion in there to drive the songs into the present.

Not all of the members of Fingers Of The Sun have the same sense of Carnaby Street fashion as Nathan Brasil. Megan comes close, in short dress with maracas in hand she could be the little sister of Michelle Philips, while Suzie Allegra is pure Portland Punk, with tattoos and labret piercing, she's like a mix of Kim Deal and Zia McCabe. Marcus Renninger's look is probably the most unique of the band, unable to pin him down to any cultural stereotype, his dress is at times tragic but always distinct. If you took Nathan out of the equation, a picture of Fingers Of The Sun would look simply like any other hipster band.

“There are a lot of bands who are, like, totally retro-sixties pop,” Suzie explains, “and we're not really like that. I feel like it would be a lie if I told people we were and then they came out to our shows expecting to see something like that.” And for anyone who has heard their music this is somewhat exasperating: Fingers Of The Sun are probably more heavily drenched in the music of the 1960s than anyone listed in the history lesson above. Nathan somewhat disagrees with Suzie, stating that he will sometimes tell inquirers of his band that they are pretty sixties sounding, but he understands why Suzie would be apprehensive to label them that way. “Musician's never want to be pigeonholed into something,” he says.

When the question of influences comes up everyone at the table has something to say. They have no shortage of bands to list that have inspired their music, but not one of them mentions a single band from 1964-72. Jaimie is into Cat Power and Beach House, Marcus likes late 70s bands like Wire and Richard Hell, Suzie lists categories like Space Rock and Shoe-gaze. Even Nathan, the band's resident Mod, only brings up K Records bands like The Beat Happening, and jazz records by Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington. When I bring up Love or The Mama's & The Papas, they will nod their heads and say, “yeah, we like them too,” but never take it further than that. It is clear that the members of Fingers Of The Sun do not want to be portrayed as a sixties revivalist band...which means they are probably at least a little annoyed at being featured in an essay about sixties revivalist bands.

“Sometimes I worry that I'm ripping off a melody,” Nathan says, admitting that their music is indebted to several other bands, “but I don't subscribe to the idea of pure inspiration 100 percent of the time.” And he defends his band's borrowing from flower children culture, by explaining that the icons of the sixties were stealing from their grandparents playbook just as much as anyone today. “A lot of Paul McCartney's music could be traced back to the thirties. And at the time everyone was wearing antique clothes from the 1890s, drawing posters like Aubrey Beardsley and wearing haircuts from the twenties. That skinny, flat chested look had come back, which was totally from the twenties.”

Nathan has a point.

Every societal movement has been at least partially indebted to the generation before them. Without The Pixies there would be no Nirvana, etc. But there's no denying that in the years 1964-72 there was an oil reserve of magic tapped into by the music makers of that time. And it could be argued that it was much too heady an elixir for them to handle, all of them playing with a fire they couldn't understand or control. Screaming girls, crying and scratching their faces; the sleepless months of amphetamines, recording several albums inside a year; the mania building up to violence, overdoses and ideologies that crumble like rotten cake. Perhaps it's taken all these decades for one generation to sift through the ash and pluck out the diamonds that still remain, only now able to touch the great monolith without being destroyed by it.

And if that's true, then Fingers Of The Sun are perhaps the only Denver band with the courage to face that challenge down. In Suzie's song “The Sailor” she sings about being, “stranded between painters painting each other,” which sounds like the perfect metaphor for the Denver underground music scene. Bands that are afraid to look outside themselves for inspiration. It is obvious why Fingers Of The Sun would rather not be seen as a sixties revivalist band, such a designation pigeonholes them into being simple theater, like Civil War reenactors or Renaissance Fair jesters. But either way they are music nerds and are highly indebted to their influences, and they are also unafraid to write happy songs their parents (probably) enjoy, all in a city where if the music isn't steeped in an ear-drum splitting riff, then it just isn't worth a damn.

A week after my conversation with Fingers Of The Sun, they headlined a show at The Gothic, a Denver mega-venue that typically hosts sold-out shows by Coco Rosie or The Dandy Warhols. It was a Hot Congress Records showcase, highlighting the labels best bands. Fingers were probably the youngest band on the bill, and yet they were the headliners, bringing the sparse crowd collectively to the front to dance and sing along to songs most of the kids in the black hoodies knew by heart. A few acts before them, The Kissing Party performed equally cute songs with a delicate, early Marianne Faithful-type singer. The Kissing Party have been around for a few years, establishing themselves at shows all over town. And yet they eked through their songs, seemingly embarrassed by their own sound. Their set was like one long apology, begging forgiveness for making the audience suffer through it. It was like watching a high school freshman at his first slam-poetry night.

But when Fingers Of The Sun came on stage they projected a confidence unseen by any other band that night. There was no self-conscious posturing, no second guessing the worth of their songs. No desire to try and convince you of what and who they were. The band and the audience all disappeared inside those songs, forgetting where (and when) they were; no trace of the ideology that any art worth liking needed to be 100 percent self-inspired. Suzie and Nathan are finally living out the fantasies that so many other bands they were in denied them. Playing music that owes more than a little debt to their grandparents radio stations.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Review: Lion Sized / Accordion Crimes split 7”

In order for traditional 7-inches to work, they have to be really good. That’s because the tiny records require more participation from the listener — instead of flipping the record after five or six songs as you would with an LP, you have to change sides after one song. Consequently, the two songs on the two sides better fucking blow you out of the water if the record has a shot at not getting filed away with the other lesser seven-inches that only graced the turntable once. Fortunately for this split 7-inch, Accordion Crimes and Lion Sized arrange two captivating — and complementing — songs that prevent the single from entering the nether regions of your record collection.

Lion Sized: “Three Bed / Two Bath”
On “Three Bed / Two Bath,” Lion Sized meld elements of Fugazi and early-Milemarker with its own interpretation of tom-pounding, bass-heavy, emotionally-charged zeal. It’s fine-tuned post-hardcore perfection, replete an intricate rhythm section and vocals that aren’t so much sung as they are yelled in key.

Accordion Crimes: “Academy”
“I would kill for an original thought,” singer Brian Parker shouts over Accordion Crimes’ latest effort, “Academy.” Much darker and less melodic than a majority of the band’s previous material, the song is driven by a relentless bass and drum intensity, and adorned with lyrics that are hollered with a sense of urgency and vigor. It’s a welcomed new direction for Accordion Crimes, who continually seem content to pen songs that aren’t as easy to digest as, say, “Planes Over Milwaukee,” but are nonetheless exceptional.

Pins&needles: An interview with a zine

By Brian Polk

Pins&needles could just as easily be called Mulling It All Over with the Nineties Guy, (though I must admit that its current handle is much catchier). It’s what happens when ‘90s punks still believe all the things they used to believe (like zines and records are the pinnacle of punk print and audio), only now they have to do things like work and pay a mortgage. Its author manages to keep a sense of humor about himself while contemplating the finer points of life, like "Seinfeld," sports radio, crappy record stores, dogs, and various existential crises. His prose is engaging, humorous, and above all, relatable, which is the ultimate goal of any good zine. And as a fellow zinester, it’s always nice to know that there are others who, despite all the advantages of going digital, still bend over backwards to create something that can be read in the tub. As you can see below, The Yellow Rake was so impressed with Pins&needles that the zines felt compelled to exchange a few words…

The Yellow Rake: Why would you even think of starting a zine now? Haven't you heard of blogs?
Pins&needles: Two reasons: (1) I am an album guy not a digital download-type guy. I love the whole package, so a print zine makes sense to me. (2) I don’t ever want to be referred to as a “Blogger.”

What do you want people to take away from your zine?
Plain and simple: to be entertained. Pins&needles is more of a sitcom than it is a film. There’s nothing overly deep or controversial, but hopefully there’s a little something for everyone. The best thing that I take away from it is when people relate to some of my neuroses and share theirs with me.

I think every zinester has been the recipient of unflattering criticism from Maximum Rock 'N' Roll. What did you think of yours?
In short, it was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. The reviewer did comment that Pins&needles is really “Just some guy musing on life,” which I believe they meant as an insult but I loved it and used it for the homepage of my website. On the cover of this particular issue of MRR there’s a guy wearing a “New Order Fact. 50 1981 Movement” shirt. I’m either not punk enough or not intelligent enough to understand what that means—or both, which is why I expected a worse review.

Which do you prefer, early Fugazi (Margin Walker, Repeater) or later Fugazi (Red Medicine, The Argument)?
This answer is not going to gain me many readers. I am actually not a fan of Fugazi’s music, but it’s certainly not for a lack of trying. The only album of theirs that I own is 13 Songs and it’s because I love the song “Waiting Room.” Because I respect Ian Mackaye immensely and I love that Fugazi had a code of ethics that could not be compromised, it truly pains me that I do not enjoy their music more than I do so about once I year I revisit their catalog to see if I “get it” yet. So far…no dice. But I have read the chapter of Our Band Could Be Your Life that is devoted to them upwards of four times if that helps at all. (I think it helps. —ed.)