Frame of Mind: Punk Photos and Essays from Washington DC, and Beyond, 1997-2017 by Antonia Tricarico, 176 pgs.

The stars aligned the last time I was in Washington D.C. Sure, the bouncers at the 9:30 Club wouldn’t let me in to buy a shirt because I was ten minutes early. But! Trophy Wife played St. Stephen’s Church while I was there. I couldn’t believe my good fortune: They’re this guitar/drums duo that consistently dazzle me with their busy, hard-hitting paradox of minimalism. I have all their albums, and got a chance to see them in Washington D.C. The entire time I was at the show I was grinning like a complete idiot, tripping out on the whole thing.

This intro, of course, is designed to demonstrate that a) I am a huge dork when it comes to the D.C. scene, and b) that a photo book about said scene is very firmly in my wheelhouse. Antonia Tricarico is a talented photographer and trains her keen eye on bands of and in the scene, both playing and candidly hanging out at birthday parties, between shows, and at pajama parties (seriously). In addition to all the photos, Tricarico includes essays by prominently featured women musicians such as Amy Farina, Alice Bag, Allison Wolfe, and Katy Otto (of the aforementioned Trophy Wife). These essayists discuss their entries into the scene, and the relevance of music in their lives. Despite my aforementioned nerdery, I don’t think I’ve seen a book which so effectively combines essays and photos to provide inspiration. Clear some space on your shelf: this one’s crucial. –Michael T. Fournier (Akashic, akashicbooks.com)

House of the Black Spot by Ben Sears, 80 pgs.

It’s hard to describe the world of Ben Sears’ Double+ stories. First, I’ll attempt to describe Sears’ style: chunky cartoonish characters that remind you of the Aardman stop motion movies à la Wallace and Gromit. I hear British accents in my head while I’m reading the dialogue in his books. There is an extremely impressive amount of detail put into the architecture and backgrounds in Sears’s comics. The lines aren’t perfectly straight but they are definitely eye candy.

Now, the Double+ stories themselves. Our main protagonist is Plus Man, an adventurer/delivery boy who always dons a helmet and goggles. He’s cool, helpful, and doesn’t put up with bullhonkey. Plus Man is accompanied by Hank, who is a floating round metal robot with arms and nothing else. The peculiar part about the robots in this universe is they are never treated as such. It’s very funny when there are references to them eating, having children, running businesses, and wearing clothes. In this wild brick and mortar, almost steampunk-ish world, Plus Man and Hank find themselves in some sort of chase or in the middle of a mystery.

In House of the Black Spot, the duo is sent out to the country home of Hank’s recently deceased uncle, Bill, for a reading of the will. And it becomes a Scooby Doo mystery from there. You got the greedy real estate moguls, the snobby son of Uncle Bill, the aloof housekeepers, and of course, the G-G-G-GHOST! The tenants are haunted by the ghost of the industrialist Frederick Wentworth. Despite it being a classic murder mystery including secret passages and red herrings, it spins a couple of Scooby Doo tropes on their head.

There are some good punk rock sensibilities in this book. Plus Man is almost like a kid in a touring band. He washes the dishes, offers to make food, is generous to his hosts, and has some pretty hilarious digs on the rich butts in the story. All without a single swear word.

This is the first Ben Sears book I have seen in full color. And he truly kills it. This is one of the most vibrant and colorful comics I have seen in a very long time. While staring and studying every detail going on in every panel, you will think you’re crying. But that’s just your eyeballs drooling. It’s a quick read that all ages will definitely enjoy. I can imagine many school kids doodling Plus Man on their book covers. –Rick V. (Koyama Press, koyamapress.com)

Keep Your Eyes Open by Glen E. Friedman, 120 pgs.

Keep Your Eyes Open is a collection of photos of Fugazi taken by Glen E. Friedman from the time the band began in 1987 until they went on their indefinite hiatus in the 2000s. Looking at the pictures in this second edition brought up a lot of memories for me. Fugazi’s lyrics and music played a big role in my life. Many of their songs tie in with times in my teens and twenties. These include moments when I drove the Midwestern backroads where I grew up, when I shared what Fugazi meant to me with friends in college, and times I watched sunsets from my parents house where I lived after college.

Fugazi’s lyrics caused me to re-evaluate my political and social views. I may not listen to Fugazi much anymore, but I hold them in the highest esteem. They’re unlike any other band in the history of punk: putting out consistently great music while simultaneously sticking to their ideals. That being said, I come to Keep Your Eyes Open with a lot of emotions.

Friedman’s photos show the band both in the live setting and in prepared photo shoots, in color and black and white. Simply looking at the photos and without any music, I was taken back to some of those times previously mentioned. This book has that power to move people.

The opening essay by Ian Svenonius is typical writing by the author/musician: using a philosophical and strange story to explain the history of the band and why they’re important. It’s a slog to get through (as I’ve often found Svenonius’s writing to be) but does an adequate job of placing Fugazi’s importance in context. What I very much enjoyed was the interview between Ian Mackaye and Friedman at the end of the book, which is new as of this second edition. It provided insight into the pictures chosen and the process of putting together the book, as well as the relationship between Friedman and the band.

There are a few things I wish would’ve been improved, however. I wish Friedman would’ve given more insights and thoughts on each of the photos. I also wish he hadn’t overlaid some photos on top of portions of others (which is also a complaint Mackaye states in the Q&A). Additionally, it would’ve been nice to see some more relaxed, casual shots of the band in their everyday life. There were only a handful of those and even the action shots didn’t always come to take on the level I feel Fugazi’s music emotionally conveyed. My final complaint is that while it’s an interesting idea to give each page of the book a song title by Fugazi instead of a page number, it’s also annoying.

Still, the book works. It’s a good compendium of a band whose importance was and is vital in punk and while the band is more than what’s captured here, Friedman’s relationship with the group over a few decades is integral in giving listeners an insight into this act that was key to how we see punk. –Kurt Morris (Akashic Books, 232 Third St., Suite A115, Brooklyn, NY 11215)

Lorna by Benji Nate, 54 pgs.

Lorna is an introverted young woman who likes cats, reading, sharp objects, and seems to always be near corpses. The first half of this issue is a collection of one- to two-page comic strips about the shenanigans Lorna gets into. Like hanging out in trashcans, dismembering reptiles, picking clothing off aforementioned corpses, hanging out with her friend Norma, and filling out job resumes. The second half is the story of “Lorna’s First Date.” Lorna reflects on how she built up the courage to threaten a boy into going on a picnic with her. And dark hilarity ensues.

This is a weird, uncomfortable, and great comic. One would expect no less from Benji Nate (whose previous book Catboy took the youth by storm). The artwork is great and done with colored markers. It’s super solid and worth picking up. On the first page, Nate says they will be releasing more Lorna comics the future. You should be very excited about that. –Rick V (Silver Sprocket, silversprocket.com)

Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed by Lisa Duggan, 136 pgs.

I didn’t read Ayn Rand’s massive novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged prior to realizing I’m going to die someday, and so missed my window. I’ve read The Virtue of Selfishness, a book of essays by her and a boyfriend about her philosophy of Objectivism—they really phone in the “virtue” part—or maybe I’m just a virtue-signaler. (I’m waiting for the vocabulary assassins of the Twitter Right to target the phrase “good deeds.”) I’d thought my knowledge of Rand was adequate—or at least, I didn’t think I’d put any work into expanding it.

Then came NYU Professor Lisa Duggan’s Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed. It’s part of the University of California Press’s American Studies Now series, which Duggan describes as “short, timely, accessible books for activists as well as students.”

We learn about Rand’s childhood in pre- and post-revolutionary St. Petersburg—no one with her childhood was going to grow up to be too far left of center—and how with impressive effort for a young woman in Soviet Russia in 1926, she made it to America. Making a presumably accidental point in favor of Objectivism, Duggan writes Rand had a “rather uncanny ability to get what she wanted.”

We then read very welcome summaries of her novels and their ideas, with insight into events from her life that influenced the novels. I needed Mean Girl and didn’t know it.

The book is accessibly written, though it refers frequently to the ideology of “neoliberalism”—which Duggan’s glossary says is about redistributing resources upward—as though everyone is familiar with it, and I’d never come across the term before.

The Fountainhead is, as Duggan writes, “a fat novel, full of long didactic speeches.” But it’s sold more than six and a half million copies and paved a significant stretch of the road that got us to Trump’s America. How the hell did that happen? Duggan sheds a lot of light and only needed 136 pages to do it. –Jim Woster (University of California Press, UCPress.edu)

Teen Movie Hell by Mike “McBeardo” McPadden, 351 pgs.

Remember being a teenager in the ’80s and not having any friends who could drive yet? What would you do on a Friday night? You would sneak over to whichever buddy had cable TV and find those pay channels. That’s where the goldmine of teen comedy flicks would pop up at midnight. So maybe it has been a few years since you watched Class. Or My Tutor? Even Porky’s? Well, now you have your complete guide all in one volume. McBeardo covers every movie-from A-Z. I do mean every movie. The ’70s and ’90s see their share, but it is the golden era of the ’80s that gets the spotlight. When McBeardo has to put the beer bong down for a minute, he has a team of guest contributors ready, willing, and able to step up to the plate. The enjoyment for me was remembering movies I hadn’t seen in decades. There were many times where I totally agreed with the review’s final ratings. Valley Girl? A classic, of course. Loverboy? Horrible. I will stray from the party line and say that although it got panned in this book, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Nick Nolte in Teachers. Is this book politically correct? Absolutely not—but that is what makes nostalgia fun! I for one can’t wait to see King Frat for the first time. It sounds fantastic. –Sean Koepenick (Bazillion Points, bazillionpoints.com)

William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock’n’roll by Casey Rae, 304 pgs.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this one based on a bunch of recent conversations. For one, I just saw Weird Al for the second time. It’s no surprise that all of Al’s Michael Jackson parodies have been scrubbed from the performance. This dovetailed into reading Emily Nussbaum’s new book, in which she discusses, among other things, the way that her perceptions of Louis C.K. changed in the wake of allegations against the comedian. Closer to home, apparently Morrissey is an alt-right asshole now, and as I mentioned in my review of Ellen Sander’s Trips in issue #112, members of Led Zeppelin assaulted Sander and had to be pulled off by the band’s manager.

So where does this leave us in terms of fandom?

Nussbaum argues for a wrestling with the past. If we take Morrissey as an example, the thought of cutting him from the conversation entirely doesn’t pain me as much as allegations against other musicians might. But I have friends (and I’m sure you do, too) who have hard choices to make regarding the weight of the man’s catalogue vs. the weight of his heel turn.

In William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock’n’roll, Casey Rae does an exhaustive job connecting ol’ Bill to scads of musicians. The scope of Burroughs’s influence is stunning: the tendrils of his cut-up method, heroin use, and world-weariness extend from Bob Dylan and the Beatles to Throbbing Gristle to Grant Hart to Nirvana and Ministry. Rae’s research connects specific songs and lyrics to Burroughs’s writing, and the stories of rock luminaries’ relationships with Burroughs are interesting throughout.

With all that said, I don’t see a lot of wrestling in this book. William Burroughs is a guy who drunkenly shot his wife to death; William Burroughs is a guy whose well-documented heroin use glamorized the drug. Rae mentions these things, but there’s not much in the way of reckoning here. To be fair, I haven’t read other Burroughs biographies, so I don’t know what’s already been covered. That said, the members of the rock scene mentioned here are drawn to Burroughs and his work like moths to bad behavior. I’m still not sure how to feel about it all now that I’ve finished reading. But I’m a Patriots fan, so what do I know? –Michael T. Fournier (University of Texas Press, utexaspress.com)

ACCEPTING FAILURE, $3, 5½” x 8”, copied, 27 pgs.

I found Accepting Failure to be more of a discussion of birth order and gender in determination of family dynamics than a true discussion of failure, but it came together nicely at the end. It includes great line drawings of the author and her family, and the whole zine is handwritten, which lends it the air of being a diary I wasn’t supposed to find. Families are hard. Most of us, even if we have a fucked-up relationship with them, want to make our parents (or even just one of them) proud. How do we do that if we don’t follow a traditional career path? Lopez does not provide an answer, but encourages us to “fail A LOT, and get better at it,” a necessary sentiment that bears repeating, and repeating often, in an (economic) success-driven culture, whether or not you’re making your folks proud. –jimmy cooper (Ana Lopez, microcosmpublishing.com)

BEHIND THE ZINES #8, $3, 8.5” x 11”, copied, 39 pgs.

Billy has put out another solid zine with this issue of Behind the Zines. For those who don’t know, Behind the Zines is, as Billy calls it, “A zine about zines.” There are contributions here from all sorts of individuals in the zine community and their pieces vary. There’s a self-written Q&A from Neither/Nor Zine distro, a few questions with zinester Julia Eff, and a piece by our very own Todd Taylor titled “One Punk Who Makes Zines.” Todd’s piece is a good explanation of the history of Razorcake and how it operates. But all the writing is good—whether it’s an author explaining how he put together his first zine or someone writing how they register people for a zine fest, there’s a lot to take in here. If you’re part of zine culture, you should certainly check this out. –Kurt Morris (iknowbilly@gmail.com)

BIG TAKEOVER #84, $6, 5½” x 11”, glossy, 152 pgs.

Prior to this issue, I didn’t know The Big Takeover existed, but here it is, with a frankly overwhelming amount of content between interviews, reviews, editorials, and the like. Typically, with a long magazine like this, I’d be bored about halfway through (152 pages of magazine is a lot!), but these folks know their stuff, and they’re witty even when rehashing the same debates—as music journalism, particularly in the punk realm, tends to do. The interview with bev davies, a music photographer spanning decades of bands, from the Rolling Stones to D.O.A. to the contemporary Vancouver scene, was a highlight—all this history from one person who not only knows her stuff but was enmeshed enough in the “scenes” to know how it really was. However, the interview is left off halfway through with a note that it’ll “continue next issue,” which is a magazine peeve of mine—what if I just picked this up and don’t have or plan on having a subscription? Either way, lots of good content and lots of good photos for a reasonable price per issue make this a win in my book. –jimmy cooper (bigtakeover.com)