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Gary Goodman : 21 More Memories [02 Oct 2007|11:58am]

Pale yellow card cover; hand-lettering for the title/author details. Panel (on black background) runs across the spine, thus covering front and back. On the latter, a photograph of railway tracks, shot through a metal grille on a bridge from the look of things.
More perfect snapshot memories, intensely perssonal and sensitive, the shortest being two lines, the longest getting close to twenty, presented two to the page save for the first, stand-alone piece. A wide variety of locations : a library; the Baltic; the countryside; the outskirts of Munich; a hospital.
Subjects range from eating dodgy squid to roadkill; art; railway encounters and sightings; a depressing zoo (there's a real sympathy for Gary's fellow creatures evident within this booklet); an unexpected squirrel on a freezing cold day; a priests' football match. The work is illustratd with four photos of paths through trees, each on its own page.
I'm not sure as to whether or not these memories are of events which occurred after Gary's previous booklet appeared, or if they've been arranged in chronological order or are just as they arrived. Whatever, this collection is another little treasure, and it's superbly constructed too, the photos coming in twos (printed back-to-back), each pair providing a nice break after four pages of text.
As Gary wrote upon seeing the aforementioned squirel, "...life is beautiful in its details".

Received : 3rd September 2007.
Size : A5. 20pp plus cover.
Web address : http://www.gary-goodman.co.uk.
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Lucid Frenzy # 10 [29 Sep 2007|12:38pm]

Plenty to chew over in this latest booklet of critical writings from long-term small press good guy Gavin. Didn't realise that LF had made it as far as double figures status until I received this : seems I've missed a whole bunch of 'em down the years.
Here we have Gav's lengthy analyses of a selection of movies, four-fifths of which I've not had the pleasure (?) of seeing myself : Spider-Man 3; Shane Meadows' early 'eighties-set youth flick This Is England; the documentary The USA Vs. John Lennon; Wim Wenders' Wings Of Desire (the one with which I am familiar); and Alexander Sokurov's Russian Ark, filmed in one day in St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum using just one 96-minute shot (Gavin amusingly compares the puff about this technical accomplishment to the way prog fans would insist upon "track length as a measure of quality" !). Plus there's an appraisal of a Gillian Welch album (CD) which - surprise, surprise - I haven't heard.
Difficult, in that case, to know what to say - save for that these are all good, strong, substantial pieces, well-considered
and nicely personal - between two and a half sides of (fortunately legible) titchy-print prose to almost five. Gavin's not shy of pointing out flaws, of exploring concerns - f'r instance, the all-too-simple equation of skinhead with Nazi in the Meadows film, and the use of oi music as signifier, shorthand : he rightly points out that oi "...was as fractured as skinhead tribes themselves, some of it anti-fascist and much of it crude drinking songs". Still, it's a picture which - like its director - Gavin ultimately broadly supports.
Refreshing to see a fanzine discussing modern culture in this sort of depth, weighing up pros and cons, when the medium is more traditionally associated with an uncritical gushing over favourites : that understandable, perhaps laudable "Why spend time/ waste paper lambasting the enemy ?" notion so prevalent in the 'zine world. More power to Gavin's elbow !

Received : 9th August 2007.
Size : A5. 28pp.
Price : ?
Address : Gavin Burrows, 8 Brewer Street, Brighton BN2 3HH.
Email address : gavinburrows@btinternet.com.
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Attack !!!! # 7 [15 Sep 2007|06:14pm]

The second Attack !!!! collecting reactions to one particular piece published in issue five of this ever-interesting 'zine. Creamy paper stock; bright blue card cover decorated with illustrations of a man in a bear suit by Ben Platts-Mills, the author of the prose piece All I wanted to do was - the subject of the responses this time round. The ten contributors don't just stick to literature but veer off into other areas : drawing, a cartoon (by the enigmatically named Zeroten), even embroidery. Refreshing : last time I reviewed Attack !!!! I hoped for a few pictorial offerings. No music in this one, though, by way of contrast.
Ben's story included some winning imagery : a part-squashed can of coconut milk ("Fagin's top hat"); and a traffic light leaning back at forty degrees.
Nick Beech's Opening Doors is a study of the different ways of doing just that, as well as how to enter a room and how to prop open a door (both "Standard" and "Dramatic"). I'm not certain how it relates to Ben's original tale, precisely what within that went to spark it. Gethan Dick's embroidered patch shows tools in outline : saw, hammer, screwdriver, pliers et al. She made it to cover a hole in a skirt, which I guess relates to the ideas of imperfection in Ben's piece.
Satori In Tesco by Steve Leighton sees an orphanage's ugly baby equated with the unwanted dented kidney bean can of Ben's story. And in the superb Damaged Goods by Erica Viola there's speculation as to the condition of the accommodation of the guy who bought that bent-out-of-shape coconut milk tin, now dust-coated, that Ben wrote of : the place would be full of charity-shopped trophies, each well-worn, as well as having faded wallpaper and unmatching furniture.
Ian Duncan Smith's Don't Get In Its Way has its narrator pondering the choice of veggie sausages on offer, the numbers in the packs having a significance re the different relationship statuses of the manufacturers' intended purchasers. Ian wonders which of these categories the woman on the till would fall into; on top of said till sits a dented kidney bean can.
Next issue, the subject of the responses will be editor Wes White's own experiment-with-language piece from # 5, If Rumpelstiltskin Was Longerstartsham. In this issue, Wes picks up on the detail of the traffic light, supplying a chart of how it might appear with a series of extra zeroes applied to that initial figure of forty degrees.
As usual, splendid and unique. I'd highly recommend grabbing #s 5 and 6 from Wes if you haven't already, to keep up to speed with things to date.

Received : 1st August 2007.
Size : A5. 20pp plus cover.
Price : £1 inclusive.
Address : Splotts Moor Farm, Wick, Glastonbury, Somerset BA6 8JS.
Web address : http://ecartilage.co.uk.
Email adrress : dotdashdash.dashdash@gmail.com.
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Ben Graham : Shouting At The Sea [15 Sep 2007|05:15pm]

Hot off the Bleeding Cheek Press, this red card-covered staplebound book contains a selection of Ben Graham's poetry written between '97 and this year - during the time he's been a resident of Brighton, in fact. You may be familiar with Ben's name via his contribution to the Disco Biscuits anthology, though whilst that piece still stands up, it was published a decade ago and thus should hardly be taken as representative. At one point this year, Ben made the decision to compose a poem a day, the results of which exercise can be found in this strong, solid collection. The poems appear in chronological order and eight new works are featured. Ben has read at Tight Lip, the city's excellent spoken word event at Permanent Gallery/Bookshop; is affiliated with Jimmy Bullet (James of The Blue Minkies with whom Ben plays in The Mumbles); and is involved in music journalism too, for publications such as The Stool Pigeon.
Many of Ben's poems make reference to pop culture, like the humorous yet poignant The Shaun Ryder Memorial Rest Home For Aging Ravers, and the very personal I Remember John Peel ("...I left home to study at/ A polytechnic in the city/ Never paid my Poll Tax, John..." - you can just hear an impressed Peelie mumbling, "Quite right too !" into his beard).
The superb When We Were Mad concerns the folly (?) of wild youth : "...we swallowed things/ That turned us into unicorns and centaurs/...didn't care that it had all been done before/ And death was real and age would come to all of us...". Sixties Night cocks a snook at events in Brighton, comparing tragedies around the world with the vacuous nature of clubs where, "...they wear third-rate Mary Quant/ And nod to sixties records/ Ones that never mention Vietnam...". With its simplicity, repetition and blatant rhymes, The Devil Is An Englishman possesses the down-to-earth pop-song accessibility of something by Adrian Mitchell. it's a piece which points to the barbarism lurking beneath the calm, smiling, fair-play-old-chap exterior of the self-defined superior race abroad. And Postcard From Newport, Wales has a little of the catch-all observational quality of another Adrian about it - Mersey poet Mr. Henri - with its contrast between the timeless ("...Arthur sleeping up in Caerlon/ Mist hangs on the climbing hills..." - which might have appeared in a poem a century ago) and the present-day-encapsulated lines which follow on, about charity shop Shirley Bassey albums and heavy metal clubs.
This not-to-be-missed overview of Ben's work, with its typewriter font cover lettering, can be found at CD shop Resident in the North Laine in Ben's adopted home town. It's printed on recycled paper too, to give you a further incentive to grab one.

Received : 26th July 2007.
Size : A5. 36pp plus cover.
Price : ?
Email address : bengraham@toucansurf.com.
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Link to comic and 'zine reviews by Mark Pawson [14 Aug 2007|12:39pm]


Pages 9 and 10.
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Applejack # 2 [14 Aug 2007|12:18pm]

"It's still free, and we still swap !", says Applejack's Elodie Roy/E.A.R., whose lovely distinctive handwriting is much in evidence within this black thread-bound music 'zine. The other contributors to this second issue are Fyram, Rafff, Laser Boy and Ciggie.
Contents : Jeffrey Lewis in conversation; Candy Panic Attack, whose piece is on a squared paper background (saw them in Brighton several years back, at a Ladyfest benefit); Morgan; and part two of the Anton Newcombe interview started last time round. Plus reviews of "disques" - Elliott Smith, Megadeth and a Bowie tribute compilation give a sense of the range; there's Mable's Husbands too, whose name evokes mid 'eighties literate indiepop, though I've never actually heard (of) them. Sensibly, the reviews are rationed out throughout the 'zine (two double-page spreads) rather than being in a block, too many write-ups all at once.
All in French - I'm no expert but can just about grasp the meaning here and there, get the gist... fascinating to learn the word "Autoproduit", which I guess means self-released. Manual typewritten text on the cover, word-processed inside - though with that nice old school cut 'n' paste appearance : you can see the scissor marks ! The 'zine has a neat graphic - purloined from who knows where, instant-steal style - of a hand holding a flaming match; as well as little drawings of a broken heart and glue tube; a cassette; and a glass with a drinking straw. Felt pen dotted line borders surround the text on one page; and numerous handwritten-by-Elodie words have been chopped out and stuck into position to create borders on the two review spreads.
This arrived in a brown C5 envelope, which appealed to this enjoyer of stationery and technology : there was a "PLEASE TEAR OFF" corner revealing a red plastic string (glued to the inside of the envelope) to pull to slit the long edge.

Received : 23rd July 2007.
Size : A5. 24pp.
Price : Free.
Email address : applejack@hotmail.fr.
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Two from Liver & Lights [11 Aug 2007|01:09pm]

These two are my real introduction to the work of John Bently and pals, though I've known the L&L name for a little while now. Liver & Lights # 37 is entitled Van Gig Zine, and credited to Afterrabbit & Friends. The package comes in a plastic DVD case and consists of a film on DVD and a stitch-bound booklet (180mm x 115mm); and the package's overall cover (slipped inside the DVD's case) is of green textured paper which has rubber-stamped titles and a nice red stamp of a trumpet. The 'zine is a 32-pager (plus pale brown paper cover) and is billed as, "A souvenir". It's all about homemade music using instruments made from whatever folk had sitting around in their houses. Photographs show the instruments in action and drawings indicate how they were constructed. For instance, an old radio had its innards removed and a neck added and became a ukulele. Hoses, tin cans, tissue paper, plastic cups and even the Yellow Pages were utilised for the creation of sounds. Red rubber stamps brighten up the b&w pages, including one of a row of bottles with water at different levels, being struck to make music (were these stamps carved from erasers ?) and there's a lyric printed in red too. This project seems to have been an outgrowth of L&L # 36, which concerned camper vans - John had written a couple of songs in his van and decided that when playing them live he'd not be satisfied with backing tracks, drums and guitar alone so invited people to home-make stuff to bring along to the show.
The DVD has a pleasing scrapbooky/fragmenty quality. A camper van motors along country roads; with a little girl, John sings Sweet Home Alabama with an acoustic guitar - his son (?) plays guitar too; there's a cookout on a pebbly beach; and there are the expected live shots, including a recitation by John mentioning 'seventies superstars Rod and Noddy. Towards the end there's John with what might well be glitter on his skin, clad in ridiculous rock star garb of sparkly top and underpants (parody, or homage ?). The disc's most interesting when the camera pans right away from the stage so that the screen's filled with people playing their homemade items, the everyone-join-in part : I love that democratising, you-can-make-music-with-anything attitude. That gives us an indcation of the number of participants. Looks like a special, fun and memorably unique night it would have been good to have been at.
Near the finish of the DVD, there's a glimpse (sadly, just a few seconds) of a kids' band (John's son again ?); and the end titles, written on a series of pages, are held up in turn by a woman with a guitar design jersey.

L&L # 38 (Manifesto Zine) (134mm x 132mm; 20pp plus cover) has red paper covers - the paper's glittery and the 'zine comes contained in a plastic CD wallet - in fact, it includes an eighteen-and-a half-min disc of Afterrabbit's performance on Resonance FM's Sound Out, hosted by Carole Finer. Homemade instruments are to the fore, and Kenny Rogers' classic Coward Of The County is given a fine makeover. A freebie to those present at the UWE/ Southampton University Artists Book Symposium (Winchester College Of Art, 13/7/07), it's black and white with red and green rubber stamping. I really like their attitude : "Three Cheers for hamfistedness !"; "Keep Amateurism Alive !"; "When it comes to Jam, Shoes and Music Hand Made is Best !". Although pro-the handmade, they still "believe in using machines, particularly other peoples old ones they've thrown out." There's a terrific red rubber stamp of two rabbits copulating, which I interpret as symbolic of inspiration from Liver & Lights impregnating the brain of the reader and spurring him/her into action, if that's not too far-fetched a conclusion to draw. A few pages tell you who's who in Afterrabbit, with depictions of the band's members rendered like miniature woodcuts (carved eraser images again ?). Lovely.

Received : 4th July 2007.
Prices : ?
Address : 229 Railton Road, London SE24 0LZ.
Web addresses : http://www.liverandlights.co.uk; http://www.myspace.com/afterrabbit.
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Progress Report # 6 [21 Jul 2007|01:01pm]

It's always nice to get something for nothing, especially when it's of the calibre of this satisfyingly thick, stapled-at-edge music/books/movies 'zine, which was apparently Xeroxed at work in the true punk spirit !
Put together by David Bourgoin and Hassni Malik, this issue is laid out two columns per page (generally) and includes contributions from five fellow travellers, one of whom is, I can reveal, one of the two editors under an assumed moniker, used when he's discussing the saucier end of things : Russ Meyer's triple-volume autobiog; an Adele Robbins sex flick.
There's an interview with the sadly departed Nikki Sudden (like his beloved Dylan and Stones : "...yeah I'm gonna be doing it (at) 70, 80, 90 as long as I don't die..." - a poignant quote from someone wholly convincing : I could never envisage Nikki holding down a "proper" job); useful pieces on The Theatre Of Eternal Music, the films of Jean Cocteau, and The Horse Hospital, a now-fifteen-year-old London gallery space (underground art; cinema; street fashion); something on the songs of The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle; and a chat with Fabio and Bruno of Italian label Die Schachtel, whose releases always look so handsome.
Heaps of reviews of musical morsels will whet the appetite : the tantalising-sounding small-edition homemades and art releases, probably long gone, will have the reader gnashing their teeth frustratedly. Folk falling under the critical gaze include Dame Darcy, Merzbow, Keith Rowe, Nurse With Wound - and (refreshingly) Big Youth : this Progress Report was intended to contain an essay on the exemplary Blood And Fire label, but the tragic death at 35 of writer Gerald Houghton (given a loving tribute by Hassni early on in # 6's pages) means that we lose out on that.
A different alternative, a world away from independent music's better-documented, Plan B end - overall, Progress Report seems closer to Sound Projector territory... which is an excellent ocean to be sailing upon. Contact David and Hassni if you fancy a pleasantly heavy thud on your doormat.

Received : 25th June 2007.
Size : A4. 102pp including covers.
Price : Free.
Web addresses : http://www.irrational-arts.co.uk; http://www.progress-report.co.uk.
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Les Hommes Du Prèsident # 10 [21 Jul 2007|12:46pm]

We're now five years into this Nantes-based 'zine's history : "10 issues, 4000 copies, 4 broken computers, 32 different people involved (past & present).
As with Applejack (with which Hommes editor Rafff's involved), it's pretty much all in French, save for a single-page interview with Nathan Bennatt of capricorn. Other issue ten spoken-tos are Papier Tigre; The Healthy Dog; Laurent Paradot (whose answers are in his own handwriting rather than computer font); and Vehementer Nos - artists all unheard by me.
There are eight sides of reviews of discs by the likes of Electrelane, Nurse With Wound and Laibach, the pages enlivened by illustrations of Lemmy, Johnny Cash (posing for police/prison photos), and Elvis meeting Richard Nixon. Plus there are gig write-ups, some in comic strip form; and a collage whose components include ballet dancers, Robert Mitchum, and a row of washing machines. Near the back are three spreads of ads for venues, stores, mail order companies and other 'zines, which, I guess, is how this free publication keeps afloat. It all hangs together well, what with most of the text being in the one typeface. There's a mixture of clean-and-crisp, and cut 'n' paste aesthetic.
This issue seems to have a bit of an Iron Maiden fixation going on, with the interviewees and contributors giving their opinions on that 'seventies-to-noughties British institution ("Quel est ton album préféré d'Iron Maiden ?") : "Up the Irons !", it reads on the inside front cover, though I'm afraid I can't concur.
Anyway, there's plenty of it, should your French be up to it.
Title translates as, All The President's Men, by the way.

Received : 23rd June 2007.
Size : A5. 44pp.
Price : Free.
Web address : http://www.myspace.com/leshommesdupresident.
Email address : rafff2@aol.com.
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Smoke # 10 [21 Jul 2007|12:29pm]

It's up to double figures for this good-humoured city-inspired jamboree bag stuffed full of writings, photographs and comic strips. On the front of the colour-inside-and-out cover (a recent innovation at Smoke HQ) : a quintessentially London shot of bicycles parked by railings outside a tube station.
All the old-reliable regulars are present and correct : the Pigeons In Puddles snapshot (two, this time); camp statues; Alex Naylor's Anatomy Of London cartoon (this one's on her own flat, from the perspective of mice); Bus Of The Month; and the Words Found Written On The Steamed-Up Windows Of Late-Night Buses page with its customary ten little two-three-line descriptions of episodes observed. Plus there's the usual strange signage and bizarre architecture (an anteater-like building) to goggle at.
Howard Colyer's paragraph concerning a pair of down-and-outs wanting to know whether or not a chap was carrying a dictionary had me grinning (no spoiler). A superb piece by Julian Maclaren-Ross expert Paul Willetts, Gun Crazy, on an April '47 crime in Fitzrovia, comes printed white on black and is accompanied by excellent monochrome period photos; and there's a great in-praise-of by Rachel Stevenson, who's rather taken with Chapel Market : unspoiled, unpretentious, and, erm, un-upmarket (sorry).
Matt Haynes discovers the mysterious world of cabbies' shelters (of which only thirteen survive) - as well as delivering some fiction told from the viewpoint of a survivor of the 1975 Moorgate tube disaster; and John Elledge attempts to walk fourteen miles to Romford, that Essex-archetype town, "white stiletto and Ford Cortina land" : via the camera lens we're shown a "Brewery"-signed structure; a nightclub; a tanning salon; and, hanging from an outdoor market clothes rail, a selection of supposedly sexy nurses' and maids' costumes.
Highlight pic this issue must be Mick Bradley's from Portobello Road in 1983 : he captured a little girl with a parrot perching on her head, seemingly attacking her, as a lined-faced gentleman with Dickensian sideburns looks on.

Received : 5th June 2007.
Size : A5. 52pp.
Price : £2.50 plus postage.
Web address : http://home2.btconnect.com/smoke/index.htm.
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Missy Kulik : Kneehigh [14 Jul 2007|12:27pm]

Set of six cute, charming, approx A8 kidult-appeal mini-comics on a variety of subjects : Cats I Know; Favorite Dresses; My Toys; Roadside Stuff; Thrift Store Finds; and What I Have Been For Halloween. All drawings and handwritten captions. Simple ideas, executed with plenty of personality. These are quite old now (2000) but worth reviewing here as they're still available from Missy, whose site I only recently discovered, via Jo Spiderplant's.
Predictably, my favourite is the cat one, with words like, "ivy was a very vocal siamese kitty", and, "sunkist is a very long and orange cat !!!".
On the cover of Thrift Store Finds (beaded purse; "cool cat eye antique glasses"; rollerskates; a giraffe shirt, and more), Missy depicts herself in a Spiderman pyjama top.
The Halloween one shows Missy in kindergarten and her various school grades, as a bunny, a unicorn, a cat, a chicken, a clown etc. etc., one year per page.
Bar one, her toys are all creatures - e.g. "girl and boy chickens that had zippers on their tummies", and a sock monkey.
The self-portrait drawings in the dresses issue are especially nice, very alive; and I'm fond of the roadside America number with its ginormous rocking chair, supersized peanut, big clothespeg sculpture and soforth. I love all that stuff !!
I really dig the titchy format Missy's chosen - guess you can get two of these to the A4-or-thereabouts sheet... implicit is that whole lovely democratisation-of-culture message : surely anybody can have enough to say to make something this small and undaunting (so why not have a bash yourself, first-timers ?).

Received : 5th June 2007.
Size : each approx 70mm x 55mm; each 16pp.
Price : each 75 cents (add postage outside U.S.).
Address : POB 8062, Athens, GA 30603.
Web address : http://www.missykulik.com.
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New Blood # 1 [12 Jul 2007|01:31pm]

"FICTION POETRY ILLUSTRATION COMPETITIONS PIN-UPS", reads the text on the cover of this new b&w Brighton litzine edited by Katie Daisy and Danny Bowman, who are joined by eleven contributors. These include Jay Clifton, one half of the Hammett Story Agency team responsible for the series of monthly Tight Lip spoken word events held at Permanent Gallery/Bookshop. Interesting to actually see a piece of Jay's in print, divorced from the customary electric guitar accompaniment proviided by Hammett's other half Sam.
Then there's Laura Wilkinson, whose factual piece on sixteenth-century murderess Erzébet Bathory, Countess of Transylvania, is a real eye-opener; and Anthony Day, whose fine story concerns his staying-home-in-wintertime relationship to the furnishings and media equipment in his room. And aforementioned co-editor Katie supplies a well-constructed tale of a self-harmer's first university friendship with another female, its romantic possibilities being weighed up, all hopes and uncertainties - there are flashbacks to the narrator's schooldays and her painful rejection by a girl she was asisting with her coursework.
Text is all small, in one font, and in two columns throughout (which gives New Blood a cohesiveness), with quotes picked out and enlarged amidst the writing. Headings are in computer-generated manual typewriter font (and so are tidier that one hopes they'd be) - I still find it strange to see that, being so accustomed to genuine old-school blown-up-on-a-copier typewriting with all of its charming variations between examples of the same letter... but that's my age showing.
The superimposition of text on image had me struggling a little to get through the first column of Nicola Davies' lesbian erotica two-and-a-half-sider which kicks off proceedings, but in the end I managed O.K. : the story simply needs to be enjoyed in a decent light.
"Pin-ups" are by Nathalie Agnus, and Jon Spencer (not that one, I'd wager) who offers up a couple of saucy manga-style drawings for the 'zine's front and back covers. And there are a brace of sick-humour comic strips by Joe Cunningham, both of which concern disasters in the shape of a tree-impaled car wreck victim and a chap being eaten by a dingo.
All in all, a strong start. Wishing them luck.

Received : 1st June 2007.
Size : A5. 28pp.
Price : £2.
Web address : http://www.myspace.com/newbloodbooks.
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Two by Gary Goodman [10 Jul 2007|05:22pm]

Found these two staplebounds at Gary's joint art exhibition with Billy Childish at HQ Gallery, Lewes. Thirty three 3 line poems (A6; 36pp plus covers) has a very pale grey card cover with a photo of a path through trees. These are perfect little Polaroid snapshots, mostly clocking in at fewer than twenty syllables - encapsulations of moments (moonlight across tiles; a pig being fed apples), of vivid flashes of colour (a fox in the snow; nighttime railway lights), of the unexpected (an artist's shoes; a caged canary), of situations, sensations, emotions, in a variety of locations. I enjoy the conciseness, the concentrated quality of these laid-out-one-to-the-page pieces : sometimes a sentence is all that's necessary; a scenario's other details can be mentally filled in if the reader so desires.
The bright gold card-covered 12 Short Poems & 12 Brush Drawings (A5; 28pp plus covers) has its title and Gary's name written in black using a capital-letters stencil, charmingly clunky in this computer-technological age - the small imperfections make things all the more human. Gary's drawings are filled with creatures, a regular subject of his art : there's a bear, crows, a rabbit, a horse and a squirrel. There's a strength and rawness similar to that in Don Van Vliet's paintings, and I very much like Gary's trees with their facial features. In his written landscapes, plastic carrier bags and newspapers are blown around; blossom, startling in its beauty, clogs the gutters; bills clog a drawer; the whistling wind soundtracks the arrival of junk mail; and teenagers drinking ("monkeys at a tea party") cause obstructions.
Poetry either connects with the reader or it doesn't, and in the case of Gary's intensely personal books, I find that the words generally hit the spot for me. I'm not exactly sure where to position him in the scheme of things, or even if it's wise to make comparisons at all. I perceive links with the old-school pop poets whose work seeped into the consciousness of folk of a certain generation (that to which Gary and I belong), but there's a genuine depth and sensitivity here, a lack of superficial thrill, an absolutely-had-to-be-written-ness. Wonderful, as usual.

Bought : 24th May 2007.
Price : £2 each.
Web address : http://www.gary-goodman.co.uk.
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Semiotic Cohesion # 2 [05 Jun 2007|01:19pm]

Colour cover inside and out for SC # 2, this time around appearing in standard comic book format (Eightball/Hate-proportioned). Another multi-contributor effort from this bunch of South Africans, with - for me - Jesse Breytenbach's Bad Trip being the stand-out : I recall enjoying Jesse's piece in the debut number and would like to have seen more than just the two single-pagers on offer here. Bad Trip is very eye-catching, its nine equal-sized panels having strong black backgrounds against which a female stands and relates her on-her-own drug experience. In each frame, she's outlined in white, as though we're seeing inside a costume whose dotted-line ears are a different shape each pic. Jesse's other strip is a variation on that horse-walks-into-a-pub joke, with the quadruped of choice a polar bear (I shan't give away the punchline). Again, nice strong black backgrounds.
There's a good range of approaches to the comic strip form in SC # 2 - Sebastian Brockenhagen opts to paint across four double-page spreads of a book, which is most effective. Another contribution of his, a collaboration with Tom McNally, is of the photos-and-speech-bubbles variety. Jesse De Freitas/Tom McN.'s Hey Handsome Boy has a drawn-from-photos look. John Bauer comes up with something you might find on an archaeological dig (photos of pictures on the insides of bowls : I think John's a potter). And Carolyn Gad's story Exploding Eric, illustrated by Brockenhagen and McNally, is excellent - and makes great creative use of the comic's centre spread with Eric and a kind of Dickensian guy drawn in different positions as they progress across one big landscape : an explosion occurs simultaneously to Eric and inside the brain of Carolyn, who depicts herself in four smallish squares beneath the action. I have to say I prefer it when strips are hand-lettered, such as this one, as opposed to computer fonts being used - but that's just me.
McNally's front cover is a painting of a woman gazing into a fish tank in which an improbable-on-this-scale scenario is playing out : a miniature shark catches a tiny swimmer unawares.
The page numbers have been decorated with a silhouette shark (that creature being the obsession of one or more of those concerned) : said shark appears in a different position each time in relation to the numbers, as though it's swimming around. A neat extra touch.

Received : 17th May 2007.
Size : 245mm x 163mm. 40pp plus cover.
Price : ?
Email address : terome@bastard.co.za.
Web address : http://www.semioticcohesion.com.
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Spiderplant web site [22 May 2007|11:15am]

Received a text yesterday alerting me to the fact that Jo has got her (beautifully designed) web site up and running. All ten issues of Spiderplant (from 1997 onwards) are available to view, and there are links to photographs, comic artists Jo admires, distributors, and friends. There's also a gallery of flyers. Each issue of Spidey can be bought there via PayPal. The address : http://www.spiderplantfanzine.co.uk.
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Five comics by Peter Beare [08 May 2007|11:29am]

Was somewhat unprepared for these great little comics : although Peter had contacted me via LiveJournal re mailing me some stuff, I hadn't quite found the time to explore his work online and thus had scant idea of the riches awaiting me.
Earliest first : "Kia libro estas tio ?" is just superb - a double-stapled gold-coloured-throughout A6er whose eight pages tell a simple, frame-free tale without using dialogue in its usual sense. Starring two cute kittens, one male, one female, it concerns the contents of a book the girl's enjoying. The boy quizzes her hopefully, his conventional mindset leading him to ask about the presence of a knight, dinosaurs, a tank. None of these are in the plot, just a unicorn, a princess and a fairy - un-boy-friendly fare. However, the twist comes when the girl reveals the events in this potentially unpromising/soppy story, and the boy kitten lies on his front alongside her, absorbing the tome happily. The black-on-gold is very striking, and - ingeniously - each speech bubble is picture-filled, eliminating the cut-and-dried-ness of a set script and encouraging one to construct the specifics of each Q&A response oneself. Plus cats are always a winner round these parts.

As I said, cats are always a winner, and a feline is the star of Burning The Midnight Oil, which is in the same format as the above 'cept that it's b&w. In five full-page panels and two half-pagers, Peter relates a possibly late-night-hallucinatory incident in which a cat strolls past his open doorway, a box of Jaffa Cakes in its jaws. The two half-page rectangles provide a nice break from the norm and show close-ups of Peter as seen by the intruder - and vice versa. Black lines, plenty of grey shading, and good use of white for the area lit by the small table lamp - and I like the shadow of Peter in the final frame in which he confronts his just-woken-up wife with the news. The same basic drawing of a room is re-used, with Peter's position shifting and the cat's progress being the only variations : an advantage both time-wise and for continuity/consistency. The back cover sports a photo of... a Jaffa Cake !

Dating from just three months back, the A7 M Is For Meme has a gold cover with black and green print for its strong 3-D lettering. It's rooted in one of those LiveJournal questionnaires which famously provide amusement/distraction during dreary workday lulls : Peter was presented with a letter and had to select ten begins-with-"M" topics upon which to expound - he had the brainwave of doing so in comic form. Here, you can learn about his name, his wife, his eating habits, and how he likes to spend his Saturday nights. The drawings are colour-tinged, and for Mortgage he returns to the device he used to smashing effect in "Kia libro... ? : the filling with drawings (of houses) of the speech bubbles of five people chinwagging animatedly about property - Peter stands in the foreground, hand on hip, showing absolutely zero inclination to participate in the conversation. I love the handy pocket-sized format of M..., and it makes a jolly fine calling card/introduction to its creator's life.

Finally, Dangnabbit #s 1 (A6; 16pp) and 2 (A5; 16pp inc. light green card cover) are collections of strips, plenty of them brilliant and original, truly hitting the spot. A language class with a difference confuses, rather than keeps sharp the mental faculties of, an elderly woman; Hades has (or is ?) a gift shop selling tacky souvenirs; and a village idiot's so dim he turns up a second time for yesterday's interview which secured him his position. When he's sure no-one's watching, a penguin extends his legs to stride across a deep chasm; an incurably ill rock star gets himself frozen, his comeback being marred by a certain sector of his twenty-years-older audience; a worn-out dictionary compiler's tiredness-related errors live on in the lingo several centuries down the line; and - best of all (and maybe reminiscent of the amazing Simon Murphy) - two boys debate a drawing one has made of... what ? A unicorn ? Or Pegasus ? (Link : http://www.dangnabbit.com/unicorn.htm.) Absolutely wonderful, and Peter's name is one to watch. Particularly of its moment is a satirical strip right at the back of #2 : stars are plucked from trees in a faraway clime and transported by truck, ship and truck (again) to a U.K. supermarket to take their place amongst a host of other shapes... whilst yet another, really distinctive shape remains ungathered on British trees.
On the front of Dangnabbit #2, Peter stands behind a table at a comics fair, laminate around his neck - and a justifiably proud expression on his face.

Received : 1st May 2007.
Prices : ?
Email address : feedback@dangnabbit.com.
Web address : http://www.dangnabbit.com.
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Chris Davis : three comics [07 May 2007|03:01pm]

1) 2006's I Walk With My Wife In The Evening ($4/£2; add £1 per order for shipping) is a 216 x 139mm (approx A5) twenty-pager with a colour card cover. Chris and his partner head into the hills where the wealthy reside (Chris's excellent description : "...walking on the board of someone else's game"), having a very normal conversation - and almost being mown down by an expensive vehicle. A mysterious, strangely shaped cloud captures Chris's attention, leading to him thinking about radioactivity, global disaster, the end of the world, a novel remembered from schooldays about a nuclear war's aftermath. On the front cover is a great sketch showing thousands of buildings and a few major roads : these are left in b&w; only the sunset (and its reflection in the water) has been rendered in colour, the contrast betwen monochrome and purple, red and yellow working splendidly.

2) Entirely in black and white, Why I Never Joined The Strawberry Resistance (format/price the same as for I Walk...) is Chris's most recent offering, and concerns an interesting cast of characters : a melting ice cream salesman, a parking ticket-issuing robot, a Bananaman (against whose whip-wielding type there's a demonstration) - and Chris himself, unemployed, but fantasising various roles for himself whilst cycling around : businessman, restaurant manager, courier, paramedic. Chaos ensues and Chris's bike is a write-off.
Some frames are conventional, four-sided - but many others are open at the top, sides or bottom (or a combination), allowing the pages' white borders to mingle with the white spaces in the pictures, giving the comic a refreshing, clean appearance. There's plenty of inventiveness going on in Chris's layouts, a pleasing lack of sameness - and however busy things become, he manages to avoid a cluttered look.

3) No buses. Chickens (2006; 109 x 139mm; 16pp inc. card covers; $2/£1 plus shipping) is a surreal-in-a recognisable-landscape tale of waiting for transport. Hungry chickens turn a bench-sitting girl into a skeleton, and the narrator muses upon her age and pulls out the contents of her bag one by one : we see him holding a toy bunny, her 'phone, a lighter, and coins, whilst pondering exactly when his own death will occur. Flicking through her spiral-bound journal (from which there are excerpts), he's ganged up on by those farmyard birds - who proceed to rip the pages to shreds. I like how the colour front cover is illustration-only, bears no title. A thick black frame around said illustration serves to focus one's attention upon the chicken cover image (also Chris uses a chicken's head as his logo, setting it next to his email address).

I'm not entirely sure just how many self-published comics Chris has made thus far - just these ? They're very nice things, each a real grower and with its own atmosphere. There's a careful quality to Chris's work that I appreciate, evidenced by the cover lettering of I Walk... : he's broken the border beneath the title to better accommodate the tails of the "y" and "g". Text in these three is all handwritten, usually placed in thin-outlined rectangular boxes within the drawings. He has some panels overlapping within a larger frame, whilst other pages feature several border-free drawings, the surrounding shading of each blanding together. Chris's overall obsession would seem to be the odd in the everyday, which makes these comics right up my street. Lovely.

Some words from the artist : "... I recently moved to Portland from Los Angeles. I'm betwen jobs right now, but I'd been teaching English to immigrants for the past four years. I've also worked as a bike messenger, a waiter, and a couple dozen other jobs in different cities in the U.S. I've been making comics as I learn to draw, in my spare time, and now I'm trying to get my stuff out and seen by people other than my wife. I know there are lots of other people making mini comics and zines, but I don't know many. I'd certainly be interested in a trade, if anyone's interested."

Received : 30th April 2007.
Address : 4228 SE Evergreen St., Portland, OR 97206, U.S.A.
Email address : squawkalong@yahoo.com.
Web address : http://squawkalong.blogspot.com.
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Trains Are... Mint #s 1 and 2 [27 Apr 2007|04:09pm]

First two issues of a five-hundred-edition staplebound comic. Its card covers are in plain, neutral colours (beige; gray), each front bearing an illustration on a printed-on ripped-out piece of paper (the same fragment for both # 1 and # 2, for continuity's sake, with one picture replaced by another).
Its Manchester-based creator has a light touch in this autobiographical story of him visiting an assortment of railway stations, his panels having no outlines (save for on one page), the comics' black line drawings enlivened with watery washes, often in nicely muted hues.
Sometimes, Oliver's handwritten text appears in the form of graffiti on a wall, or else as pub window notices, or upon the sides of a series of white vans - an ingenious method of presenting the written word so that visual sameness is avoided. His lettering is distinctive, personality-packed, a voice in the reader's head - adding to the sense of authenticity in this travelogue.
Lots of signage and scrawled inscriptions catch Oliver's eye - and there's a sarky humour at play : a van advertises "CHEAP CRAP", presumably intended for some pound shop or other; whilst a driver's newspaper, resting on his dashboard, rejoices in the LCD name Tit. Elsewhere, a station poster advertises "SOME SHIT BOOK". And - brilliantly - the headline "THEY COME OVER ERE" can be read on a newspaper ad A-board.
The layouts are excellent throughout, with heaps of good angles to goggle at and some fine bits of detail amongst all the architecture and greenery : I like how on the final page of the second comic a pub's gaming machine is drawn distorted at one side, viewed through an empty glass on the bar counter; and the leaves swirling in front of a driver's windshield are a pleasing touch too. In another pub, a drained pint glass sits inside another in which an inch of liquid remains.
It's an immediately recognisable landscape : modern Britain, with its St. George flags; floral tributes; graffiti; a black wheelie bin with the warning "Ours" rendered in white paint; litter; an abandoned supermarket trolley; one of those trailer kiosks with a striped awning, selling coffee; Portakabins; someone in a little invalid car; a 24-hour Tesco; dumped, busted-up furniture. Depressing and reassuringly familiar all at once. Oliver's power of observation gives us a warts-and-all souvenir of our age to look back on with nostalgia and incredulity in a half-century's time. Makes me itch to head out and explore my own locality, and all it has to offer.

Here's some blurb from Oliver himself :
- Due to a lack of legal entertainment in 60s Wythenshawe and an innate sense of adventure, Helen East and a forgotten companion walked from Manchester to Blackpool in one go, sticking to the B roads as they went. With the first three Trains Are... Mint I did the same, swapping B roads for train tracks as there's nowt sexy about B roads ya see. The first Mint was my fourth self-published book. After having a solo show in which I displayed my efforts to read Dr. Dolittle to a herd of cows over the course of a year, using text and video, I looked to books as an easier way to show my work. Looking For Kinder Scout, intended as run of 100 but left at 50 when cover card got too expensive, was a guidebook in which I describe walks from art institutions in Manchester, to points from which Kinder Scout could be seen. The House Of Fire To Black Hill trilogy of b&w mini-comics were my first attempt at drawing since a school charcoal of Kurt Cobain. Describing my efforts to walk from a fireplace shop in Old Trafford to a hill in the Peak District, in as straight a line as possible without trespassing, these were printed to 100 and, like Kinder Scout, given away. Then I got delusions of grandeur, added colour, upped the price from free to a fiver and Trains Are... Mint was born. I'm currently working on Trains Are... Mint 4 which'll be a unique edition of 1. I'm painting directly onto the pages of a book, Allemansretten, published by i3, that I did a while ago in which I try and camp exactly 150 metres away from people's house in Norway.

- My intentions for the comic ? For people to buy it so I can make more.

- Design folk ? Funnel Creative of Tibb St., Manchester, found the lovely card stock for me and sourced a decent printer. I'm a creature of habit so I'll be working them again. The Dr. Piss credited in the back is a friend who lent me £500 towards getting the first one printed and Morgo Kill is my wife, who lent me £600 for the second.

Received : 19th April 2007.
Size : Both A5. # 1 : 36pp plus cover; # 2 : 32pp plus cover.
Price : £4.99 each.
Address : Rolling Stock Press, 300 Ayres Road, Old Trafford, Manchester M16 0WW.
Web address : http://www.rollingstockpress.co.uk.
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Vinyl Viands 2006 [26 Apr 2007|01:16pm]

An outgrowth of the magnificent The Sound Projector, VV 2006 presents "Dynamite Discs for Denizens of the Deck and Dansette !". Seventy-eight big pages of write-ups of black (and maybe other hues) shiny round things from across the genres and down the decades, the Gill Sans type providing continuity with the parent mag and laid out two columns to the page, sometimes of equal width, sometimes not.
Bo Diddley, free jazz dudes, an old 'seventies Fanny L. P., Sun City Girls, The mighty Move, Gershon Kingsley, the Floyd's Meddle, Walter Marchetti, Springsteen, early Alice Cooper, late Sparks... big names, smaller names, microscopic names, unpronounceable names (Robotobibik had me stumbling at first, and I could have spelt it wrongly too, unable to decipher my own scrawl).
There's a special feature on the Endorphine Record Plant label, and the Polish OBUH imprint's wares are examined too; and approx halfway through Ed trawls through The New Blockaders' boxed sets. Apart from those interludes - and the endpiece, a blues disc discussed - it's A-to-zee all the way, the strictly-alphabetical decision throwing up some nicely strange bedfellows which have all manner of wiggy collaborations springing to mind : wonder how the amiable, unreconstructed Slade might get on if confronted with The Slits ? And as for the dulcet tones of Mr. Frank Sidebottom being given embellishment by Blue Note pianist Horace Silver... I turned two pages together accidentally and pictured tenor player Frank Wright blasting away on TOTP, dressed in teddy boy garb, guesting with Roy Wood and chums on a Wizzard number one.
VV's illustrated with pics of pretty much all the sleeves, plus three full pages of Ed's paintings of vintage Harvest, Vertigo and RCA album labels, for Wizzard, Kraftwerk and Bowie respectively. And roughly in the middle is - joy of joys - a John Bagnall double-pager in which he provides drawings for some 1960s Columbia/CBS inner sleeve blurb. Cosy yesteryearland is a favourite territory of John's, as a subject if not in reality, and he depicts gorgeous old signage, lovely technology (portable, with carrying handle shaped to fit the fingers comfortably), guys with sidies and blazers, older menfolk in cardies and with trouser creases, kiddiewinks with striped sleeveless pullovers and short-back-and-sides-es - and a windowsill giraffe ornament : presumably John's recalling those wooden animals which were de rigueur interior deco in the 'sixties/'seventies and which became charity shop staples.
Unlike that of The Sound Projector, VV's cover is full colour : a silhouette head in profile on the front, VDGG and Sabbath labels like giant sunspec lenses (or perhaps alluding to headphones). On the back is a collage of some thirty sleeves, each rendered lozenge-shaped, and resembling a big six-foot-tall folding screen. Ed's prose is as enjoyably crystal clear, personal, and off-at-tangents as ever, and what else can I say (save for mentioning the other participants : Ari Abramowitz, Harley Richardson, Jennifer Hor, Richard Rees Jones, and Megalo Roberts - RRJ may well ring bells, being a regular correspondent to the Wire letters page) but that this mag's a for-sure shopping list topper. Oh yeah, here's something... I neglected to announce that I'm rather intrigued by those reviewed singles by Hatebeak - a metal band with an African grey parrot vocalist ! Pleased at having my horizons expanded.

Received : 21st April 2007.
Size : A4. 78pp.
Price : £6 plus p.& p.- say £7 all in.(Cheque to "Ed Pinsent".)
Address : BM Bemused, London WC1N 3XX.
Web address : http://www.thesoundprojector.com.
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The Sound Projector # 15 [12 Apr 2007|01:33pm]

The welcome return of a long-time favourite (I've been a TSP fan since its mid-'nineties inception, have the complete run). This issue of the nation's finest music magazine (an annual event) has a slightly different appearance to its predecessors : gone is the cover's gloss, its replacement being that satin-y finish that's become so common over the past decade or longer. But reassurance is instant - you know what sort of top-notch treat you're in for due to editor Ed Pinsent's same-as-usual, sticky-out-y black, white and red colour scheme.
The perfect-bind TSP is superb value, being near-as-dammit advert-free : just a brace of full-siders, six quarter-pagers, plus three-ninths of a page out of its generous 148pp extent. And, rest assured, not a single one of those promotes SUVs, alcoholic beverages, or pricey designer sunspecs, but, rather, noble institutions such as the labels Paradigm and Touch. A front cover column informs one of the territories under inspection within : "black metal/ US underground/ art music/ electronica/ noise/ environment/ drones/ quiet music/ guitars/ songs/ improvisation/ freakdom/ tape work/ world music/ rock".
Amongst the staggering number of reviews, all rendered in crystal-clear-however-titchy Gill Sans, and generally pretty substantial affairs, there's a spread on recent output from the folk at Sublime Frequencies. Jeepers, that's eleven must-have discs of field recordings, radio broadcasts and sonic salvage from rare cassettes from faraway places : Cambodia, Burma, Iraq and more. The movie The Devil And Daniel Johnston is chewed up and spat out; and sounds by everyone from Akitsa to Zadik Zecharia, Zang:, Z'ev, Zdrastvootie and Zukanican are discussed. All monikers are indexed at the back, to save furious leafing through : visual pleasure is given by 666majik99; brekekekexcoaxcoak; Go:gol; rlw; and Sunn O))). Good to see Brighton favourites Mary Hampton and Ian Helliwell receiving plaudits too.
Interviews - in a different, serifed font - appear a little less than midway through, the allocated twenty pages separated from the rest of the mag by deftly-positioned ads. Subjects include The Sonic Catering Band's Peter Strickland, and quote of the issue must be this, in response to a query re like-mindeds being naturally drawn together : "Like-minded souls are drawn together by Rupert Murdoch now." In conversation also : new-ones-on-me Russ Waterhouse of The SB; Clay Ruby (The Davenport Family); Mudboy; and U W OWL.
Ed's prose is as lucid as ever, funny too, avoiding the dry chilliness so often associated with journalism re the more interesting branches of music - and he's unafraid to call spades spades ("What an abomination !"; "...completely repellent...") where needs be.
Visually spiced up with snaps of CD/vinyl artwork (which Ed mentions in his text if he's impressed), TSP also serves as a showcase for drawings and collages by Ed, an elder statesperson of the U. K. small press comics scene. And contributing writer Rik Rawlings supplies some illustrations too. Shame that John Bagnall, another of the six scribes assisting Ed, hasn't donated any of his wonderful art this ish - but that's my sole criticism of this essential read.

Received : 10th April 2007.
Size : A4. 148pp.
Price : £6.75 inclusive (cheque to "Ed Pinsent").
Address : BM Bemused, London WC1N 3XX.
Web address : http://www.thesoundprojector.com.
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