Fear of a Nørb Planet: The Complete Maximum Rocknroll Columns 1994-1998 By Rev. Nørb, 288 pgs.

I subscribed to Maximum Rocknroll in December. Before that, my tenure as a reader of the venerated mag coincided roughly with Nørb’s term as columnist—I started reading faithfully around 1993 and dropped out in 1998 or 1999—when I became smitten with Louisville post-rock and Ebullition emo. It’s wild to read these columns again after more than twenty years. I have memories specific to loads of them: the exact chair in the Elvis Room where I sat after buying the new issue, diving directly into Nørb’s column to see what ridiculous tangent would be the through line around which he’d base that month’s particular rantings (still a habit with this mag—sorry, Dale).

The contentious stuff first: Part of Nørb’s thing has always been pushing boundaries. Anyone familiar with his deeply parenthetical style already knows this. In the height of the mid-‘90s furor regarding Tim Yohannon’s strict guidelines on what was/wasn’t punk (and the subsequent aftershocks, which yielded the formation of Punk Planet, HeartattaCk and Hit List zines to cover music falling outside of Tim’s umbrella), Nørb was the hyper-caffeinated burr under the punk establishment saddle, throwing around references that are by no stretch of the imagination politically correct. Prior to this tome’s arrival, I wondered how Nørb would deal with these topics. Go figure—he apologizes in the intro, saying he took things too far. Rather than expurgating his un-P.C. passages, he leaves them in here for better or worse.

With that said, “LOL” is so overused it doesn’t mean anything any more. But as I reread these columns, I found myself laughing out loud. A lot. So much so, in fact, that beginning on page fourteen, I made a mark above each column that had me genuinely laughing (no chuckles, no snorts—this is the laugh tally, you understand). Between pages fourteen and 288, I laughed out loud thirty-nine times. Thirty-nine times! (Page 250 got me three times and page thirty twice, for the record.) I can’t remember a record or comedy special that’s made me laugh as much. I mention this to emphasize the fact that the good Reverend doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. Dude’s a comedian, mining the dissonance between the freedom and rules of the punk scene for all their absurdity.

Nørb’s previous book The Annotated Boris alleges to be a book of gags about Boris the Sprinkler’s lyrics, but is actually one of the funniest and saddest books about being in a band I’ve ever read. Similarly, Fear of a Nørb Planet alleges to be a collection of columns, but is in fact a time capsule to heady scene years (I’d forgotten all about Nick Fitt and his MRR column). It’s one of the greatest comedy works of our time—and everyone knows the best comedy is based in the humdrum, the mundane. Nørb spins the everyday into gold. A triumph. –Michael T. Fournier ($14.98 to Bulge, bulge.biz)