Scribblers Music Review

Steve Adamyk Band, Dial Tone.

The Steve Adamyk Band is a punk band from Ottowa, and that Canadian part is significant. They sound as if they’ve learned punk from their fathers’ record collections. They play classic Ramones/Buzzcocks-speed punk. There are a few harmonies and chant-alongs and abrupt chord changes, but all within the realm of straight-ahead no-nonsense mainstream punk rock. They are very good at assimilating this now decades-old style. The production style on this album even sounds old-school, like the way traditional studios would clean up raw punk sounds for public consumption. Something honest and rough occasionally sneaks through this good-natured cleanly delivered Canadian punk, though however happily I can listen to this album over and over, it refuses to captivate me with any original thoughts. This may be the band you’d want on tour to get the crowd moving for a more distinctive headlining act. They are standard-bearers, even if the standards they bear are original tunes that sound remarkably derivative. Really trying to mix my admiration for The Steve Adamyk Band’s remarkable grasp of early ‘80s punk sounds with the fact that I find the songs themselves unmemorable. Great background music for headbanging while typing, however.

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For Tomorrow We May Die: Diary of a College Chum #251

Pulling together a downpayment, but can’t find a room to rent.

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Riverdale Book Review

Got Afterlife With Archie #7 in the mail the other day.This is one of those comics that may already have fallen off the radar for those who saw it simply in terms of the sensational press release that greeted the release of its first issue.

Yes, it’s an Archie comic that’s not for kids. My daughters understand that without having to ask. There’s no curiosity. They get that it’s not for them. But they also get that there are grown-ups like me who’ve been reading Archie all their lives. There are Batman comics for them, and others for me. They get that. Those are those out there in the world who want to make some big shallow deal out of the fact that there’s an Archie comic not for kids, but those folks should really read Afterlife With Archie and they’ll see how well it works. The storyline’s only gotten stronger after the initial shock of seeing the teens of Riverdale (and their pets) devour each other. There are Lovecraftian underpinnings that have emerged in the saga. The early issues was threatening to become one very long chase scene.

Though it could be said to take place in a separate, realist-yet-supernatural Archie universe, where the inhabitants of Riverdale are more sexually aware and more psychologically unstable, Afterlife With Archie is nonetheless full of respect for the Archie legacy. It doesn’t create new characters, populating its horror tales with established Riverdale citizens major and minor. I’m actually surprised that, given the relentless and consistent doom and gloom that writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has applied to Afterlife With Archie for seven severe issues now, that Riverdale cult figure Jinx Malloy and his perpetual dark cloud of disaster have not made an appearance yet.

Afterlife With Archie book that continues to grow, and apparently continues to be successful. It’s been repackaged in book and magazine formats and has inspired another dark-humored adult-oriented Archie title, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. This is not a one-off, or a gimmick. It’s not like Cecily von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl Psycho Killer self-parody book. It’s an ongoing adventure with style and merit. It may have come late to the now-largely-passed zombie trend that saturated the early 2010s with blood, but it has deserved to live beyond that passing phase and build its own grisly teen death story in its own sweet time.

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Rock Gods #301: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

The Performacnes (so named due to their bad skin) have standards; they just don’t let them get in the way of a good show. So when there was a series of disruptions during their set Thursday at the Bullfinch, they kept playing and kept playing.

Even though the disruptions were power outages.

Some electrical storm, huh? We thought the block was going to explode. But nobody wanted to rush out into the street either. And while we all recalled the common wisdom that a car was the safest place to be in a storm, we were fuzzy on the details.

So we stayed at the Bullfinch and drank, while the persistent Performacnes strummed and drummed regardless of whether electricity

There was the added percussion and harmony of the crowd groaning en masse every time the lights dimmed, then cheering when they went on again. There were rumors of a back-up generator, it really felt as if we, as a group, were powering the powering the room with our raucous ale-stoked energy.

The most consistent electrical vibe, however, came from that tireless band, who played those electric guitars and bass hard, even when it seemed futile. There was just this continuous four-chord clang raising and lowering through the night, but staying on beat.

How were we when the lights went out? Lit.

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A Kat Who Dopes Like a Man

George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, which ran its last original installment 70 years ago, may be one of the timeliest, most topical comic strips running today. For several months now in daily installments found on the Comics Kingdom website, a series of strips from 1937 essentially show the effects of legalization on a small community. The commodity is not marijuana or cocaine or multivitamins some wondrous new pharmaceutical compound but Tiger Tea, and the denizens of Coconino County have been dancing around it (sometimes literally) as if it were magic.

This has been a year where a long-illegalized drug has been legalized in several states. The Tiger Tea sequence, which originally ran just a few years after the end of Prohibition and which also seems to invoke contemporary consciousness of hallucinogens and psychotropic drugs, illustrates both the wonders and foibles of drug use. Herriman shows Tiger Tea users transformed. But he also renders many of these transformations ridiculous or otherwise lamentable. Where would he stand on legalization and governmental regulation?

The Tiger Tea strips comprise what has arguably been called the Krazy Kat strip’s only longform serial adventure, though this odyssey is regularly interrupted for quick-gag and dance interludes. Tiger Tea references are made on-and-off for some ten months, with well over half of the strips in that time period daily strips directly dedicated to the Tiger Tea scenario. The plot is simple: Coconino small-businessperson Mr. Meeyowl’s catnip business is going under, so the ever-generous Krazy helps by seeking out a new drug he Meeyowl can sell. She discovers Tiger Tea, a mysterious brew which makes those who drink it feel like jungle cats.

But while there are plenty of strips which involve this miraculous potion solving an immediate problem, Tiger Tea never becomes an essential element of Krazy Kat the way, for instance, spinach is used in the Popeye animated cartoons or Felix the Cat utilizes his everpresent bag of tricks. Krazy Kat remains a fluid, changing landscape where the only necessary prop is a brick.

The key Tiger Tea strips were gorgeously anthologized, on paper pulped from hemp, a few years ago by ace comics historian/packager Craig Yoe, with an introduction by one of my idols, Paul Krassner. The book, published in January 2010 by IDW, disappoint some Krazy Kat obsessives since it did not contain every single Tiger Tea strip extant. But it’s beautifully and cleanly laid out, and focuses on the idea that George Herriman was making some sort of committed and provocative statement on drug use in America.

For the record, I don’t smoke pot or do any other drugs, and while I was once a serious drinker, I haven’t even done that since 2001. What I am is a Krazy Kat fanatic. It’s been a pleasure to experience the Tiger Tea sequence as Herriman intended it, in daily installments with long digressions, thanks to Comics Kingdom. It’s made me see the series for the sprawling, uncentered saga it is. But it’s mainly revealed itself to me as incisive social commentary that I wish more cartoonists could practice with such subtlety and style.

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For Tomorrow We May Die: Diary of a College Chum #250

Still trying to figure out how I got screwed out of the lease.

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The Riverdale Book Review

I find purity and poetry in the simple names given to the feature stories and one-page gags in Archie Comics. When bundled as thick digests, the mass of titles can provide a unique uplifting sensation.

These are the punny, rhymey or otherwise distinctive titles found in World of Archie Double Digest #37 (April 2014):

  • For Whom the Bowl Tolls (in which Mr. Weatherbee goes bowling)
  • Trail’s End (the ever-popular Archie theme of snow shoveling)
  • A Date With Suzy Stringbean
  • Wheels of Fortune (a Life With Archie story in which our intrepid teen hero and his pal Jughead are tied up inside a car that is set rolling down a curvy dirt road towards Bottomless Lake.)
  • Psychic to Me
  • Open and Shut Case
  • Bust Out
  • Love Out
  • Turn Out
  • Loan Moan
  • The Delicate Disaster
  • Team Steam
  • The Dating Game
  • Spoil Sport
  • Problem Players
  • Chop Chop
  • The Final Test
  • Critics’ Choice
  • Affection Connection
  • Ringmaster
  • Miss Beazley’s Gag Bag
  • Mister Weatherbee in Hit Bit
  • TV or Not TV
  • Gig Gag
  • Cool Collector
  • Glee Spree
  • On the Defensive
  • Angel With a Pitchfork
  • Rap Flap

and

  • Doodling Around
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Rock Gods #300: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

You can’t say it wasn’t as advertised. “An Evening of Acoustic Guitar With a Guy Who Can Barely Play” featured Barry Blitz—the aging punk once known as Sonny Blitt—attempting solo renditions of punk and hard-core tunes he’d written decades earlier.

“for this show,” Barry announced, “I really do wish I could play guitar better. But if I could, these songs would never have been written. I’d rather be known for the dozen bad punk songs than the immortally lousy prog rock operas.”

Here, here. The show was decidedly ramshackle. We stopped counting broken strings at seven. It got so bad that Barry had borrowed, and snapped at least one string, on every guitar in the joint; those generous singer-songwriters who were scheduled to play after him were frantically restringing and tuning—but not too obviously, lest Barry borrow and bother their axes again.

Acoustic chaos, verily. But the joy of this stop-start-smash-grab set was in seeing Sonny Blitt settle into himself. There was a time when Sonny was the most solipsistic, self-centered, shamelessly self-promoting music-ass in the scene. But time wounds all heels, and the erstwhile leader of the Blats has appreciably mellowed.

Sonny Blitt is the guy who, when his band disbanded under him a few years ago, took it upon himself to spraypaint “Sonny Blitt is God” on club walls and alleyways around town. He had a ways to fall, vanity-wise.

This night, he hadn’t dyed his hair orange, or pierced his cheek, or done his nails, as in the old days. He had no band behind him to berate. He had no handmade merch to hawk, no home-recorded tapes or disks to push. He had two new songs, one of which was called “Nu Sawng” and the other “Newer Song.” The Blats oldies

“I don’t care anymore,” Barry informed me after the set, with characteristic emphatic repetitiveness. “I just don’t care. Don’t care, me. I just want to play. Play. Play my songs. My songs. Play my fucking songs.”

Then he passed out.

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Reading Journal

As workers fix up our furnaces (we are converting from oil to propane), my mind drifts back to the natural rather than duct-conducted warmth of summertime, and what I was reading back then.

I read half a dozen John Creasey thrillers during a single summer vacation week in mid-August: one Toff (The Toff Goes to Market, 1942), one Baron (Blame the Baron, 1951), one Inspector West (Strike for Death, 1958), one Dr. Palfrey (Traitor’s Doom, 1949), one Superintendent Folly (Mystery Motive, 1947) and one Dr. Cellini (This Man Did I Kill?, 1974). That I’d taken volumes from seven different series was a complete coincidence. I just grabbed a handful of Creaseys which I’d just unpacked from our house-moving in July. I own over 80 Creasey paperbacks, which is not all that impressive since he wrote over 600. John Creasey is my most reliable beach read. The mysteries are automatic, but not the same thing over and over. Creasey just finds interesting confrontations, turns them into crimes, and has one of his many reliable heroes sort them out.

That same week, I also whipped through two Daphne DuMauriers: a short story collection, The Breaking Point, and the big which I’m likely to recall most fondly from the whole stack, I’ll Never Be Young Again. It’s the kind of coming-of-age novel which nobody writes anymore. It’s about heartache and uncertain emotions. It’s not graphic or revolting.

DuMaurier is actually better suited to fall or winter than to summer. All those windstorms. Creasey? Any time.

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For Tomorrow We May Die: Diary of a College Chum #249

Built a backyard fire, for warmth rather than companionship.

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