Featured Zine Reviews Razorcake #99: Gratitude, Fluke, Minor Leagues, No Exposure, Rum Lad, Trust

Gratitude Zine review Jackie Rusted

GRATITUDE #2, $6, 11” x 8½”, offset, 32 pgs.
Here’s a testament to the power of a good zine: if it’s written well enough, I really don’t care what it’s about, I’ll still be enrapt by it. Gratitude is all about straight edge and hardcore—two things I give a marginal shit about at most—and it’s absolutely one of the best things I’ve read in forever. Seriously, this zine is awesome. McGuire and the friends he enlists to write for him are all hilarious and super knowledgeable about the dumb minutiae of hardcore, and they joyously revel in all of it. The fun is contagious, man. He reviews the top five brick walls in hardcore, sends his friends mystery tapes and has them write lengthy reviews of the songs, does antagonistic/absurd interviews with various bands and pens lengthy, stupidly detailed record reviews and bullet-pointed essays about the different mixes of Youth Of Today records. The writing is stellar and funny and inviting to everyone, even if you don’t entirely get one hundred percent of the references. Seriously, this thing is straight up magic. Favorite thing I got this issue. Heartily recommended. –Keith Rosson (Gratitude c/o AJ McGuire, 10 Cypress Park, Melrose, MA 02176)

CAKE & COMIX #2: SHORT STORIES, ?$, 4¼” x 5½”, 12 pgs.
I thought I hated poetry and then I read this. It’s a collection of vignettes and flickers of the past. Arranged from beauty to pain, contrasting and amazement with damage and hurt, this zine gives the reader snapshots of a life experienced. It’s as if I were flipping through Polaroids taken fleetingly in the moment, yet instead of reading the thousand words weighted in a photograph, I get a peek into the emotional state of the documentarian. Each passage, regardless of length, took me to a moment in time and shared the feelings and observations of the writer without a need for context or backstory. Were this two-dimensional graphic art, this zine would serve as an illustrator’s sketch book, yet the thoughts are expertly fleshed out. The author plays with their words like a child with its food and manages to turn the mundane into something appetizing. I find this work endlessly impressive, masterful, and brilliant. Creative writing at its best wonder. No piece is longer than a few hundred words, but it leaves me satiated each time. It feels like pillow talk with a partner you’re in love with who answers emotionally and honestly to the question, “What are you thinking?” Definitely worth seeking out. –Kayla Greet (Cake & Comics, mmmmatranga@gmail.com)

FLUKE #14, $6, 8 ½” x 11”, copied, 46 pgs.
Part two of the look back at Little Rock, Ark., punk history from the 1980s into the early 1990s. This issue is made up of show flyers, printed full page, featuring local and touring bands that played one location, 7th and Chester, which changed names over the years. Some of the bands that appear on the flyers are Fugazi, All, Holy Rollers, Flaming Lips, Green Day, Chino Horde, Trusty, and Econochrist. The intro includes a newspaper clipping of the audience at a Black Flag show (apparently, the famous “Peach” from the Rollins spoken word Big Ugly Mouth set in the photo). I’m always interested in the histories of local scenes, especially the scenes that were not as high profile as California or New York. I’m hoping Matt will uncover more Little Rock punk history in issues to come. I’m pretty sure there were bands happening prior to the era he covers. (Russell Love from NOTA was from there and Econochrist were from there before moving to the East Bay at the end of the 1980s, so there has to be more). –Matt Average (PO Box 1547, Phoenix, AZ 85001)

FUCK TRUMP CLUB #3, 11” x 14”, $6 for monthly newsletters, one sheet, copied, 2 pgs.
A newsletter dedicated to sticking it to the fascist Cheeto and his covfefe (Hah, just trying to be the first to say it in a zine!). The brevity of it won’t get you a lot of in-depth critique, but I think the point is to remind you to stay vigilant and to keep fighting. Six bucks gets you in the Fuck Trump Club and you’ll get one of these every month. Well worth it if you ask me. One thing: I hope they keep pictures of his horrible, smug face to a minimum (there was only one behind a “no” sign in a corner of this issue). We all have to see it too much as it is—we don’t need it in our mailbox. I’ll take the cute butt with “Fuck Trump” written on it, any day, misguided as it may seem. With that, I’m off to join the club. –Craven Rock (Fuck Trump Club, PO Box 30272, Albuquerque, NM 87190)

GOODBYE (OR THE STATE OF NATURE), $6, 4” x 5½”, 88 pgs.
A short eighty-eight panel thought comic that waxes philosophical on the human condition. I can’t draw any conclusion over the questions being asked but maybe it’s about anarchy? This reading is supported only by the giant pile of bodies making out and forming an A with a circle around it featured on the last page. The comic is well drawn and humorous, reminding me a bit of modern alt comic darlings Jesse Moynihan and Michael DeForge. Narratively, it’s structured as a series of short vignettes of people making changes to themselves. The comic captures the struggle for growth in a parade of comedy sketches at the rate of one panel a page. Recommended if you see a copy at your local zine fest. –Bryan Static (Ben Passmore c/o Silver Sprocket, 1057 Valencia St., SF, CA 94110, silversprocket.net)

GUERRILLA ARTFARE #1, 8 ½” x 11”, offset, full color, 51 pgs.
This is the first issue of Guerrilla Artfare, a slick Salt Lake City zine whose mission is “unite your spark with the entirety of our community and nothing will be able to silence our desires, dreams and passions.” I love the gorilla on the cover. The spare color scheme reminds me of screen-printed show posters. In a longer article, they present theories on outer space, ranging from the more sound to total wackjob ones that suggest there is no outer space because the world is flat. (Please note, they take no position on any theory). There’s an article on the health benefits of marijuana, one on the Dakota Access Pipeline, one about one about slimeball Sheriff Arpaio, who has a literal concentration camp for immigrants in Arizona. You also get an article about evidence of giants or Nephilim found in a cave. There’s a super fringe conspiracy theory on chemtrails and nanobots. You also get some agitprop art, a crossword puzzle, and some poetry. With all of its unapologetic weirdness, GA is also trying to be a free community zine, not unlike an alternative weekly, so it also reviews small coffee shops to large concert halls and has event listings. I found this part charmingly confused, from the way they encourage the reader to “get up and go DO! Experience something beyond your Boob Tube” when it comes to arty stuff. However, in the sporting events listing they couldn’t help but to toss in “give them bread and circuses.” My only critique is that the articles just seem to start, without any standout title or thesis. That was jarring. Otherwise, it felt like spending a few days in SLC with a fun, ziney, weirdo showing you around. Stay cool, guerrillas! –Craven Rock (guerrillaartfare.com)

LATE BIRTHDAY PRESENT, THE, $3, 5½” x 8½”, 55 pgs.
I can’t tell if this is fiction or a real story with some elephant-sized embellishments, but in a basic sense, Sean’s zine is about a dude named Sean dealing with the loss of his best friend who died of an overdose—and perhaps the bigger picture is about trying to live with and love people who suffer from addiction— which seems like an undervalued conversation that I wish more writers engaged with. The title refers to one of Sean’s buddies, this guy Jessie, and Jessie’s young friend and birthday boy, Mike. It turns out Jessie missed Mike’s big day, but his late present, enacted by Sean, is to take Mike to the circus. They want to see the elephants on their last performance. Sean’s zine makes for a good read—a bit zany like Richard Brautigan with his crazy similes and absurd topics of conversation (there’s a recurring gag with a Tommy Bahama shirt), but the narrator is never too far from laying on the heavy stuff and reminding the reader that all this craziness—heavy boozing and rambling around in his truck high as a kite—has been a way of grappling with one friend’s death and another’s slide into serious addiction. What else can I tell you? Well, they steal an elephant. Bonus point for all the Crimpshrine references. –Jim Joyce (Sean Dunne, AN4246, PO Box 905, Avenal, CA 93204)

MINOR LEAGUES #3, $5, 7” x 9”, 62 pgs.
Simon Moreton’s latest comic zine from Bristol, England deals with the death of his father, which, as far as a stranger’s loss goes, is meaningfully rendered with a lot of textless panels: illustrations of the author going through his day, sort of bewildered and silenced by grief. You walk through the world, but you can’t say you’re as in it as the people around you. Moreton’s slow pacing and spare illustrations are beautiful. I keep looking at them and wondering, how did he make that picture of a cityscape with so few lines? How’d I know that’s a picture of him in bed when there are so few details? The content is pretty heavy, but that’s life, and I’d gladly read Minor Leagues regardless of topic. Check it out if you’re at all into good perzines and autobiographical comics. –Jim Joyce (smoo-comics.com)

MISHAP #36, $2 or trade, 5 ½” x 14”, copied, 34 pgs.
The latest issue of Mishap has Ryan reflecting on the incredible series of events that came with Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States. While this is a personal zine, it’s also political. The two mesh very well. I never felt as though I was being preached to or that Ryan was being heavy-handed in his writing. Sure, he’s liberal, but it’s stated in such a way as to express his thoughts and feelings rather than trying to convert anyone. In addition to his thoughts on the election, Ryan also has a great list of recommended books from 2016, his experiences with his sexuality, and a look at what men can do to stop rape culture. Sometimes I get zines to review that seem so short or without depth that I wonder, “Why did this even get made?” Mishap, however, has just the right amount of content that is also engaging and inviting. If you’re looking for a political punk perzine, here it is. –Kurt Morris (Mishap, PO Box 5841, Eugene, OR 97405)

NO EXPOSURE #3, $3, 5½” x 8½”, 50 pgs.
Aside from the cover (on which a dude drinks beer from a sneaker) this zine from Perth, Australia, was written entirely by typewriter with neat borders and tiny text boxes. Nearly every page features intimate photos shot on the writer’s Olympus OM-1, a camera “that a guy at work gave [him] for free.” He reviews twenty-nine albums and a book, interviews Daniel Lupton, the head of Sorry State Records (among other things, Lupton makes a good argument for not reprinting classic records), talks with power crusters Territory, and assembles a great guide to Tokyo’s record stores. I can’t believe one guy’s doing all this, but he is. At one point, the author laments that Perth has “a load of art student/‘per’-zines” and not enough “music-centric punk ‘zines,” but holy shit, if Perth has only one music zine as beautiful and content-thick as No Exposure, that’s still pretty good. Only $3. Recommended. –Jim Joyce (No Exposure, PO Box 284, Maylands, WA 6931, Australia)

OUR FUTURE, VOL 1 NO 1, $?, 8½” x 5½”, newsprint, 23 pgs.
This zine’s stated purpose is to dive deep into obscure music topics. Here, the focus is on Extreme Noise Terror and their collaboration with British dance band KLF. I admit to being initially reluctant about this one because of the subject matter, but editor Rodney Shades conducts an excellent interview with ENT’s Mark Bailey, illuminating the unlikely match of electronic dance with grindcore. A fine debut, and one that promises continued excellence. –Michael T. Fournier (thisclose86@gmail.com)

PROOF I EXIST #26, $3, 4¼” x 5½”, copied, 90 pgs.
Editor Billy chronicles a tour by his band Rudest Priest. Tour diary zines have been done to death; this one transcends the traps of the genre. Billy does a nice job blending bios of his band members with reflections on shows, travel, gender neutral pronouns, musical ability, and Steinbeck. Warm and inviting throughout—this one’s a winner. –Michael T. Fournier (No address listed)

RUM LAD #10, £2, 5¾” x 8”, A5, 16 pgs.
Wow, this is filled to the brim for a sixteen-page diary comic. (I remember Steve Larder’s art from the cover for one of the issues of As You Were.) It’s gorgeous when he draws big, detailed pictures and charming when he draws simple doodles. Personally, I would kill for a longer work in either style. Here we get them mish-mashed together on every page, the doodles providing the jokes with the intricate pieces setting the scene. The narrative is a tour diary about the bands touring the U.K. and listening to Slayer. It’s easy to use Snakepit as a reference point, but this one has a different sense of flow in its scope. Days become paragraphs and pages and linear time doesn’t mean as much. It’s a good read, even if you just want to look at the drawings. –Bryan Static (Steve Larder, etsy.com/uk/shop/rumladzinesandart)

SCARPA FLOW: A TRAVEL ZINE #1, $?, 5½” x 8½”, copied, 6 pgs.
Burnt out from working their ass off all the time with not much of a paycheck to show for it, the author of Scarpa Flow made a decision in 2008 to quit their job and get on a train to see the country. The plan was to ride the Amtrak and see four cities in four weeks, to see four different friends. This first issue documents the very beginning of the trip riding through Washington to Illinois, finally landing in Cincinnati, Ohio. On the train, they meet drunken creeps trying to lure them to their compartments, married couples, a professor, and some partiers. Riding the train allows for lots of time getting to know people and their stories. This first issue came out a long time ago, so I’m really hoping we’ll see the rest of the four-week trip documented in zine form soon! –Tricia Ramos (Scarpa Flow: A Travel Zine, kayluh@gmail.com)

SWINGKID FANZINE, THE #5, Free printable PDF, 5½” x 8½”, full color glossy, 80 pgs.
The Swingkid Fanzine is one cool read! It’s a glossy, content-packed zine covering mostly music. If you ever were looking for punk, metal, or alternative bands across the globe, this is a good resource to turn to. The author manages to interview bands from locations such as Suriname, Kuwait, Hungary, Mexico, Morocco—honestly too many to count. There’s also a mix CD included of bands that are in the issue! On top of the interviews, there’s a really powerful multi-person interview with refugees who have come to Germany (which I believe is the author’s location?), their reasons why they left their own country, and why specifically did they want to come to Germany. There’s also a DIY-themed crossword and stickers included in the issue. If you’re interested, the zinester offers a free PDF if you email them! –Tricia Ramos (The Swingkid Fanzine, kamillentee.waldesruh@web.de)

TRUST #182, €3, 8” x 11½”, 66 pgs.
Well, ninety-five percent of this big ol’ “punk/hardcore/underground” zine is in German, but I still drooled over the layout. If the Australian music zine No Exposure has an intricate, brittle, and almost claustrophobic tightness to it, then Trust feels like a livestream of some across town party. The photos bleed off the page and crackle with light streams. Other cool aesthetic choices, like their page titles—oddly one of the only times English features in the whole zine—are printed in some variation of Helvetica that seems to have all its bones broken. This issue has interviews with Gunner Records, Cold Kids, and Al Quint. The review section gives Razorcake a few nice words, too. In the words of Bobby Hill, “I like Jeff Gordon [Trust], he’s handsome!” –Jim Joyce (trust-zine.de)

All of these reviews and many, many more are printed in a handy-dandy zine that you can subscribe to at a reasonable price, delivered to your door. Click the link below.