Sunday, July 25, 2004

BOO BOO fanzine
I'm a fanzine dork from way back, my stifling, space-hogging collection of them a testament to my enthusiasm for the home-produced publication. I mean, I've got a lot of them, and that's for two of reasons: from 1985 'til 1998 I bought just about every zine I could get my hands on; and two, because I never throw the things away. Yep, every butt-cleaning-worthy two-bit fan rag - even the goddamn personal (ie. non-musical) ones - I've hung onto like a sacred treasure. Why? No discernible reason whatsoever, except that to me fanzines are the great toilet read of the last 50 years. It's like this: this is probably far more information than you'll ever wish to read about me, but if I need to visit the porcelain god (the toilet), I know I can always reach my hand into one of my "fanzine boxes", grab a spine, pull out the hard stuff and likely I'll have some ancient goldmine of drivel, genius or all of the above in my mits ready for a 10- to 20-minute perusal (hey, depends on the circumstances), only to file away for a random read months, or maybe years down the track. A copy of Ink Disease from '91 with a lame Bongwater article? No problem. Captain Beefheart in B-Side? Let me have a look. Some Japanese jazz guy I should probably care about (but don't) detailed exhaustively in Opprobrium? Yep, it's on one of those shelves, somewhere.

So why did I stop buying? Because people stopped making them! (myself included). The internet took the reigns for all obsessive, expressive geeks worldwide and now the racks are empty. So be it. I miss the things, though I don't blame anyone for not bothering with the mind-numbing aggravation that trying to get down the printed word (not to mention printing and distributing the damn thing) can produce. Don't know about you, but I'm sticking with this "internet" thing, as I do not intend on spending the rest of my life hocking zines around town with a consignment receipt book in hand. It's just not dignified.

An all-time fave of mine released only one issue I know of (which doesn't mean to say there was only one issue, though I've never heard or read of any others) and featured probably only 30% original material. OK, so whilst such a description may hardly garner any great excitement in anyone reading this, let me give you the lowdown...

BOO BOO (BB) was the work of one Brett Sokol of Cleveland, Ohio, and put together BB in late 1994. I ordered it through Ajax at the time, since the mixture of articles and a reference to Black to Comm in the review piqued my interest. I managed to pull it out recently for its two/three-yearly review, and it passed with flying colours. Inside there's great interviews with the drugged-out duo of Royal Trux; Ohio space-rockers Fuzzhead (aah, now that takes me back to a time and place: excitedly mail-ordering goddamn Fuzzhead albums from Forced Exposure and Ajax...); and Scott Pickering of Prisonshake, Puff Tube, etc. (Brett actually asks questions you'd want to, given the opportunity). Along with that, and this is where the "unoriginal" aspect of the rag comes in, and I only say that literally and not as an insult: a huge chunk of reprinted articles on some interesting topics from way back in the day (way before Sokol's time, too, I'm willing to bet). There's a plethora of excellent Frank Zappa articles/interviews from the '60s (and Brett's wise enough to state up front how righteous Zappa's work was in the '60s - on a par with the Stooges and Velvets - even if he did sully his good name with a mountain of shit from the early '70s onwards); classic '70s Cleveland punk (an old article for the Plain Dealer written by Anastasia Pantios[!!]. Stigliano would have a fit!); and the Kent State SDS (Students for a Democratic Society, if you don't know). Put together, the mix of shit-hot '90s underground rock with a couple of '60s/'70s trailblazers works brilliantly, my only complaint being a near total lack of anything actually expressed by Sokol himself: no reviews, no rants, nothing. All this begs the question: what ever happened to Sokol? He also ran White Heap Records (or at least they shared the same address), who released some cool discs by fuck-rock types like the Vile Cherubs and the Sweet Things, and I ain't heard a thing about him since. Why do I care? Now that's another story...

JAMES "BLOOD" ULMER - Tales of Captain Black LP
Bought this about 10 years back at the old Au-go-go (R.I.P.) pretty darn cheap: I think it was $12 for a mint copy with the funky booklet enclosed. Naturally I wasn't going to pass on such a deal for an alleged "classic", so I made said purchase and got outta there like a bandit. Having said that, prior to a few weeks back I'd never really listened to this a whole lot. It just sat on the shelf looking impressive, but didn't shift from that position too often. "Hmmm... pretty cool free jazz/funk/Beefheart/No Wave mix. File away for a rainy day" was my initial reaction. Now that I've given this slab a veritable hiding on the turntable of late, I can engage in some historical revision: Tales of Captain Black is a monster of a disc. An ass-kicking, genre-defying mini-masterpiece that sounds both like about a dozen different artists I love, and literally like about a dozen different artists playing at once.

Polyrhythmic, harmelodic, whatever you wish to call it, this classic line-up gem (which is essentially Ornette Coleman's '70s No Wave-ish quartet with Ulmer taking the lead) is a real weird stew. You've got the cluttered Beefheart rhythms blended in with a predictably Ornette-ish backbone and Ulmer's wailing, acid/jazz/blues guitar scratchings, wangs and boings on top. It's a beautiful mix, and one I feel pretty stupid for not fully grasping at an earlier stage. More than that, I feel even dumber for not having grabbed all those secondhand copies of Are You Glad To Be In America? and Black Rock I've seen floating around bins the last decade. Now that my ears are piqued, you can guarantee I'll probably never see them again. Anyway, Tales of Captain Black is a disc you need. If you're at all partial to the sounds of Trout Mask Replica, Metal Box (Ulmer toured with P.i.L. in 1980), Ornette's Body Meta, Eddie Hazel, Robert Quine, Sonny Sharrock's Black Woman, the Contortions and other out-of-nowhere slabs that make life worth living, then scam some bins or, if worse comes to worst, blow a small fortune on that expensive Japanese import.

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