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Featured Zine Reviews from Razorcake 104: Tattoo Punk

Featured Zine Reviews from Razorcake 104

Pick up Tattoo Punk and get inspired to live like a maniac. Get a crazy tattoo across your forehead and stagedive to a hardcore band! Rock’n’roll forever!

Razorcake 105: Kathleen Hanna, Chris Dodge, MariNoami, Steve Albini

Razorcake 105

“My dad had a Xerox machine at his work when he got a promotion. I was like, “I gotta get my butt on that thing.” I was so psyched.” –Kathleen Hanna

Webcomic Wednesdays #289 by Marcos Siref

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Top 5s of Razorcake 104 featuring: Alice Bag, Dee Cracks, Hot Snakes

Top 5s from Razorcake 104 featuring: Alice Bag

Webcomic Sundays #288 by Scotty McMaster

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Daisy Noemi Photo Column, Allison Wolfe & Alice Bag

Daisy Noemi Photo Column, Allison Wolfe & Alice Bag

Local cuties and forever-community driven humxns, Allison Wolfe and Alice Bag lend their skills to South East LA’s Chicas Rockeras girls rock camp.

Razorcake #66 from 2012, featuring Neighborhood Brats

Razorcake #66

“If I wasn’t in a band, especially in this band singing, I would go on a killing spree.” –Jenny Quitter, Neighborhood Brats

How Music Works

By David Byrne, 382 pgs.

When the original version of this book was published in 2012, I chose to give it a pass. I assumed it would be a collection of pretentious musings from someone operating at a distance from the culture of DIY musical production that I value. After an expanded second edition was released in 2017, I decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did. Best known as the singer and guitarist for the Talking Heads, David Byrne is a really smart and articulate writer with lots of great insights on a wide range of aspects regarding the intersection of music and modern society.

The books starts off a little rough, with Byrne riffing on the ways in which the creative process is influenced by things such as the architecture of performances spaces. It’s an interesting idea that becomes belabored as if it was an inflated TED talk (turns out, that is exactly what it was). But then the book really starts to shine. The following chapter is entitled “My Life in Performance” and Bryne weaves together autobiographical anecdotes spanning his pre-Talking Heads ventures to recent solo outings, with serious research and deft insights.

Another chapter on “In the Recording Studio” was surprisingly informative, particularly his detailed discussion of his collaborations with Brian Eno. In general, the writing is highly accessible, but there are occasional clumsy sections where the writing seems a little too self-aware. I found the chapter on “Collaborations” a bit tedious and the chapter on “Building a Scene,” which was based off an introduction for a coffee book on CBGB, a serious let-down. Surprisingly, given the richness of that scene, Bryne is probably at his most superficial in that chapter. But the bulk of the book offers thought-provoking passages on a range of topics related to music.

The chapters on how technology has impacted music were truly fascinating, with one dedicated to analog technology and another on digital innovations. The book is less a memoir than an original scholarly study, and Byrne is not opposed to referencing important scholarship and dropping in footnotes, but the prose rarely feels cumbersome or overly academic.

The chapter on “Business and Finances” was exceptionally well done, with Byrne offering the reader deep insights on, among other things, the range of ways in which musicians can make, market, and distribute their music, from the 360-degree deal that have been utilized by the Madonnas and the Jay-Zs of this world, all the way to DIY self-distribution. When he isn’t sure of the specifics of a certain approach, he reproduces his conversations with experts like Mac McCaughan of Merge Records. Byrne concludes the chapter with in-depth dissections of his last two releases to show the specifics costs and sources of revenue, with fascinating insights.

Ultimately, the book is a little uneven, as has been Bryne’s musical output. But he is on-point far more often than he isn’t. Accessible, original, timely and fascinating are the adjectives that come to mind. And his promotion of DIY musical culture in the chapter “Amateurs!” would fit exceptionally well within the pages of Razorcake. I walked away learning a great deal, thinking in new ways, and having a deeper appreciation of Byrne himself. –Kevin Dunn (Three Rivers Press, crownpublishing.com)

Munmun

By Jesse Andrews, 404 pgs.

I know young adult literature contains a lot of dystopias. But how many of them are Marxist dystopias? Or are all dystopias Marxist, really?

And I need to annotate the above paragraph. “Young adult”—yes, Munmun was published as a young adult novel, but my introduction to this book was hearing author Jesse Andrews read the first chapter (at Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse near Los Angeles), and it sounded to me like it was a science fiction novel written for everyone. And “Marxist”—even Marxists will agree that “Marxist” frequently means “tedious,” which is not at all the case with Munmun.

Munmun doesn’t extrapolate from our America to a future America. It’s set in an America-like land in which people’s sizes correspond with how much money they have, from littlepoors to middlepoors to middleriches to bigriches—according to the guide at the front of the book, littlepoors are larger than squirrels but smaller than full-grown cats. Munmun is money.

How will a twenty-first century young adult with regular access to social media respond to a politically bleak and angry novel like Munmun? I don’t know. I do know that, at one point, following a political conversation between two of the characters, I had to stop reading and re-accept the truth that few activities are more difficult than getting poor people to vote. In Munmun, characters try to trade sex for advancement, and force people into sadistic videos—and the condescension: I’d forgotten (if I ever really knew) how much condescension comes with poverty.

But enough about the novel’s ideas. Vladimir Nabokov said, “Style and Structure are the essence of a book; great ideas are hogwash,” and it’s the language that makes this book. In addition to words like the above-mentioned “littlepoor” and “bigrich,” much of the language takes oft-used current phrases and turns them into one word—“ofcourse,” “afterall,” “directdeposit,” “selfsabotage”—which strikes me as something that might actually happen. Plus, in the tradition of old-school science fiction, Andrews creates words with built-in commentary, my favorite being “salesfriend” for sales clerk.

Politically, Jesse Andrews and science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein couldn’t be further apart, but with its language, Munmun belongs on the same shelf as Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Heinlein’s novel is as libertarian as Andrews is Marxist, but both feature a hybrid English (Heinlein’s is rhythmically Russian) and both feature elaborately created worlds, with immensely entertaining narratives. –Jim Woster (Amulet Books, amuletbooks.com)

Night Moves

Jessica Hopper’s Night Moves operates in the dimension of impression: these microbursts of pithy sentiment, culled from Hopper’s 2004-2008ish journals, include dates, but don’t need to. Her book is more about an epoch than specifics, a time when Hopper (who wrote a column for the dearly departed Punk Planet and authored the anthology The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic a few years back) was putting out her excellent, hilarious fanzine Hit It Or Quit It, playing in bands, doing PR, and being the only sober person in a room full of drunk, stoned scene types who put plastic over their windows to keep the cold air from seeping into the kitchen of another janky Chicago punk house. By dint of your reading this review in this zine, it’s likely that you live, or have lived, in such a place.

More, though, than just the identification with the general scenario, Hopper’s vignettes weave in specific details. It’s easy to remember times of yore through her recollections, even if the reader’s details are a little different. Like the party I attended right after Dear You came out where the sounds of Led Zeppelin filled the crowded kitchen, and I first thought “Zeppelin rules,” then “wait, they’re not punk,” then “wait, I’m in a Jawbreaker song.” These vignettes are specific in ways that Razorcake readers will find familiar, if not comforting.

All told, the pieces of Night Moves gesture towards a time that eludes straight narrative. There’s no way to construct a linear description of the day you get married, say, because it’s so intense, a collection of luminous moments to be remembered in snippets rather than chronology. The best times and the worst times are like this. Rather than bogging readers down with the mundanity of the everyday, Hopper cuts right to the good stuff again and again, like a Lungfish record. Unlike Higgs and company, though, there’s no repetition here, just a collection of lovely moments depicting a time in a place with a tight group of friends. Real names be proof, you dig? –Michael T. Fournier (University of Texas Press, utexas.press.com)