45: RADON: $4, 4 ½” x 6 ½”, offset, bound, 43 pgs.

Sep 19, 2013

Two of my favorite zine writers writing about one of my favorite albums by one of my favorite bands—Radon’s #28 (or Aww Geez!). Wow! It’s a great idea, though, because both of them have a long relationship with the band’s music and they’ve both analyzed and speculated and critiqued Radon’s songs for over a decade. But Fristoe is from Radon’s Florida and understands all of the toxic weirdness of it, the psychogeography that made Radon who they are, while Cometbus can only make guesses based on what’s heard or what little experience he’s had there. This difference in vicinity to the band is what makes it interesting. Cometbus has been a fan since their demo (which eventually became #28). Fristoe moved to Gainesville for college and would attend every show Radon played there. They were elder statesmen of punk to him and he interacted with them often. “They were always nice to me,” he says. He is now much older, still in Gainesville, and his criticism is based on a long-term knowledge of the band in relation to the surreal Florida geography that made them the paranoid kooks that they were. After rocking their music for years, actually meeting the members of Radon was always an awkward experience for Cometbus. Illusions were shattered but a further understanding and appreciation of their music came about as a result. But both Fristoe and Cometbus have similar interpretations of the band’s message. Cometbus says, “drop the record into any groove on any Radon record and it’s obvious that the band members are the most freaked-out guys on the planet. They’re up to here with neurosis. They’re half-crazed with worry. They can’t stop thinking about Russians, elemental minerals, and food. Sex and power run like a fault line down the middle of every number, yet those twin engines are never named. Violence is around every corner. Even the shadows are self-loathing.” Cometbus’s interactions with members of Radon were always weird, because in real life they struck him as being so normal. They weren’t the half-unwound kooks that he heard on the album. They weren’t even very punk. Fristoe always had interactions with the band when he was younger, looked up to them, talked to them about books, stuff like that. They both understand the inner turmoil on the record, but Fristoe just knows more. Fristoe can tell us, “the cover of the album is another significant inside joke. Pablo is recoiling from the microphone that Jeff is thrusting. Pablo is not singing along there, he’s protecting his uninsured front teeth.” But they both seem to get the record in very similar ways. And this is where their zine hits a larger truth. I agree with Cometbus when he says, “they capture perfectly the feeling we’ve all struggled with, of wanting to cast off our chains but worried that those ties are the only things keeping us sane.” #28 is still an essential album for me. The songs ease my anxiety to this day like a forty-ounce of malt liquor would in my younger years. When I’m worried about rotting teeth, lack of health care, rent, or feeling a surge of existential dread, I can rock out to Radon and experience some relief, if only because it makes me feel less alone. But this zine is written in a way where you don’t have to be into or even to have heard of Radon to appreciate it. It speaks of the stuff of art and life itself. Any reader who’s not dead can get into it and relate it to something important to them. –Craven Rock (Libros Retroactive / Salad Master, Bt Belignon 17, Madrid 3775, Spain)