My Band Is the Forrest, By John Christian Driver, 21 pgs.

Sep 16, 2021

This is a “keychain book.” Like, it has a little key loop attached to it, and it’s tiny—about 2”x2”. The entire handmade book is one poem written by Shell (aka John C. Driver), who you may know from the band Shellshag—one of the most important bands of the last couple of decades, in my opinion. In My Band Is the Forrest, Shell seems to consider the meaning of his band (or maybe his art, or his life) by equating it with nature.

Shellshag’s lyrics are hard hitting and forthrightly emotional, pulling no punches. This poem is similar. It’s truly inspirational, but sometimes sad and hard to read. But that’s life, huh? The book is dedicated to his longtime partner Jennifer who is the other half of Shellshag.

Despite its tiny size, My Band Is the Forrest packs a hell of a wallop, just like almost everything Shell does. My favorite line: “My band in your mirror/ Shows you are the trunk/ My band is just another/ Irritating drunk.”

Note: I think these came free with early orders of the latest Shellshag LP, so contact Starcleaner for availability. –Buddha (Starcleaner,

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My War By Kurt Morris, 130 pgs.

May 29, 2020
Mental illness bears a crushing social stigma in our society, even within the supposedly open-minded underground/punk scene. In contrast, Black Flag’s My War album brandishes the ugliness and desperation of mental illness like a knife in the listeners face, leaving no option for escape. With the same brutal honesty, author Kurt Morris (any relation to Keith?) dissects the dark and deranged lyrics (and music) of the Black Flag album and uses them to mirror his own struggles with mental illness, helping to derail the commonly associated taboos. While lauding the fearless sincerity of the lyrics on Black Flag’s album, Morris uses the same tell-all policy to share his stories of mental health emergencies, some of which could be considered candid. The author’s story of an emotional breakdown following a failed attempt at communicating his feelings to his friends by playing them a song by “emo-hardcore” band Boy Sets Fire is shared with the same gravity as the story ending with blood-soaked floors. Morris’s tales toggle between serious mental illness and what might seem like standard teenage depression (that’s mid-thirties depression in “punk time”), making them easily relatable. The nine chapters of Morris’s book correspond in sequence to the songs on the album. Lyrics and analysis of each song, including some quotes from the band members, are followed by a story from Morris’s life that he ties in with the lyrics. Yes, I was expecting more of a direct link between the album content and mental illness, but the author does a fantastic job of capturing the same emotional turmoil without making the reader feel like they’ve been pinned in a corner by a totally insane muscleman bearing more than a passing resemblance to a buff Charles Manson on a violent LSD freak-out. Additionally, this is the second book I’ve reviewed in the last year in which the author mentions unlimited breadsticks at Olive Garden. In the pilot episode of The Sopranos, the protagonist/anti-hero, Tony Soprano, tries to convince his new psychiatrist that he doesn’t need help: “Could I be happier? Yeah. Yeah. Who couldn’t?” This kind of dismissal of mental health issues (even within ourselves) is the prevalent attitude in our society and in our subculture. This is where Morris’s work in My War really stands out: by using the backdrop of the Black Flag album and by telling stories that are both familiar and relatable, Morris reminds us that mental illness is a problem faced by many of our friends, our loved ones, and ourselves. The true beauty of some of the best rock’n’roll albums, albums like My War, is that they become our secret friends—friends that we can relate to on some level when we can’t talk to those around us about how we feel without fearing some level of shame or rejection. –Buddha (
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