Thursday, November 6, 2008

Urban Mutants

The worst feeling is walking along somewhere and being struck by the fact that I have been working customer service style jobs since 2002. The thought of all those “Can I Help Yous?” “Let Me Know If You Have Any Questions” piling on top of each other endlessly is enough to crush a girl. SHOP WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE. In the face of the total collapse of the “Western” service-based economy! What can customers buy? Is customer service a skill? What’s a customer to do in a time like this, when the people who were re-re-remortgaging their houses to buy mahogany and marble bedroom sets are now living in parking lot communities? I just wanna have something to do. I don’t wanna be buried in a pet cemetary...
Things that have been on my mind this month:

1. What if you are watching a band cover a song badly, on a shitty video tape, while there are a million other things you could be doing, and all you can think of is the fact that every single kid in the front row of the show is holding a camera, looking through the lens of a camera, or about to take a photograph. There is a crowd surfer stuck on top of the crowd; he can’t get down or move anywhere somehow so he’s just flailing around in a corduroy jacket with fake sheepskin lining, held up by sweaty children of the middle classes who are only able to experience things completely if they are also able to document them simultaneously. Like my mum always says, it’s not real unless it’s been on TV or captured on your video camera or whatever.

2. The way that ideas and movements are reduced to an aesthetic, a style, a haircut, or outfit. I don’t know what to say except design blogs, girls with Marianne Faithful haircuts, the craft revolution, and last but definitely not least, Back to the Land: the Urban Outfitters version. Forget wimmin’s lib, knit yr boyfriend a scarf and cook him up some stew for the cold months—and while you’re at it take a few photos of yourself lookin’ winsome for your fashion blog. Case in point: “Girls Say Yes to Boys Who Say No.” There’s this photo of the Baez sisters, mid-’60s, sitting in a bohemian living room under the above slogan, in support of draft resistance. The first time I saw it I was horrified at the implication, and I still can’t figure it out. The more I think about it, the more the meaning shifts. Their serene yet secure expressions made me think that this was probably the first era that it was OK for women to publicly acknowledge that it’s OK to enjoy sex. Right? But then they are offering themselves as a reward to dudes who resisted the draft. Ladyprize. Yeah. Maybe you know about this already, but some hypster girls in Williamsburg, Brooklyn made a poster referring to the aforementioned with themselves looking whimsical and fey with the slogan, “Girls Say Yes to Boys Who Say Obama.” Jeez. I got nothin’ to say about that at all.

3. Reading an interview with a band that started out because the roadie of another band used to sing one song on stage with them each night, so they told him he should have his own band... and he did! But this interview is ten years after the fact, and he of course states the obvious—hardcore died in ’92 when he lost interest and the best thing that’s happened to hardcore since then was the Gorilla Biscuits reunion. To be honest with you, I have never really “gotten” Gorilla Biscuits, but I wonder about that song “Cats and Dogs” sometimes. I mean, if the best thing that’s happened to hardcore since ’92 was the GB reunion, then how does it feel singing that song as a man in your 40s? Also, the best thing that happened to hardcore since ’92? GB reunion? Really? What about the internet? Amazingcore? Ebay Gold? The Reagan-band revival followed by the Crossover™ revival? Also teenage thrash fans armed with Vile and Chronic Sick MP3s? Vegan straight edge longsleeves that reappropriated corporate logos? Krshna beads? Per-zines? Myspace Crust? Apathy? Hardline? ENDTIMES.

4. In further news on the ongoing investigation into the true mutant sound, The Power of the Spoken Word Language of a Dying Breed LP fits the bill nicely this month. Hailing from Nebraska in thee early-to-mid-’80s, the band sounded like Flipper trying to cover Rudimentary Peni—how could I not be totally consumed by this? And you too? Total claustrophobic, fucked-up hardcore that changes shape as you listen to it, not like anything else. It’s been compared to Spike in Vain, the Cleveland band, which I can see only in that it comes from a similarly skewed perspective, but I am not so sure in terms of the sound. I know that fairly recently there were still stock copies of that Spike in Vain record if you wanna do your own compare and contrast... And for true empirical comparison, has a downloadable version of the Language of a Dying Breed LP if you wanna check it out. Also been psyched on a similar era band, New England mutants The Scam. I played the 7" on MRR radio a few weeks back, and have heard word that there’s an unreleased LP about to be reissued. Am actually not too clear about what the deal is with this band; the music is hardcore and it’s got that thing that Void has where in lesser hands it would merely be inept metal, but somehow it’s the transcendent sound of true malcontents. It’s hardcore, exactly how I like it. You can’t go wrong with the Hieronymus Bosch-styled art on the 7" cover, too...

5. Turboslut may be the absolute worst band name of the year, and in places it gets a little Heavens to Betsy cutesy rage rock; riot grrrl vs foxcore style if you want the rock journo music tags. But when they are on it, they have this total Nog Watt mutant-girl sound that’ll make you wanna start your own Manson family. All lady-made tuff, gnarled-up thrash tapes can be gotten here:

6. Got sent the Sisters LP and have been listening to it; makes me think of dank Northwestern times, Fake Train and Kotton Krowns. It’s definitely a good sound for paranoid times and insular winters. Parts Unknown.

7. The issue after this one will be the Punx in Film issue. What’s your favorite punk movie? Favorite punk moment in a movie? I watched part of the Mike Leigh movie Meantime featuring a very young Tim Roth as a reserved slow younger brother, a similarly very young Gary Oldham as a skinhead, and Phil Daniels (Jimmy from Quadrophenia!) as a grotty casual. I had to translate most of what was said as my viewing partner was unable to understand the cockney accents prevalent throughout. Seeing the language and landscapes of my youth on the big screen is always compelling—the pebble-dashed council estates, the dark pubs and slimy parkas. How ugly ’70s and ’80s Britain was; Thatcher’s doom, crushing brains and spirits. The way in which one woman managed to get the working class to hate itself; thusly noses were cut off to spite faces. The last time I went back to London, it was such a different place—you know, organic cafes everywhere. What was particularly mind-blowin’ were the former squats converted into condos in Hackney. Victoria Park, I hardly knew ye! I was trying to picture kids breakdancing at youth club discos in council estates, reggae soundsystems, and playing tag, jumping roof to roof on parked cars—and instead got fashion stylists living in former council flats, glamorizing a past they never inhabited.
It’s funny that when I was a kid I could never get into the Clash, yet as soon as I left London and moved to America I got this instant and obsessive nostalgia for them. Their music suddenly came to embody my youth, and my idea of London was colored so totally by their sound. I saw this movie Don Letts made, with The Slits, where Ari Upp runs round Picadilly Circus taking her clothes off in inappropriate places, ending up at an all-nighter reggae party, probably somewhere in South London. I don’t know. London doesn’t exist anymore—it’s just an idea, a memory, a council estate upbringing with a resourceful free-jazz-loving single mum.

8. For some reason Vice magazine got a hold of my zine and reviewed it. I got a bunch of random emails from confused kids and pushy oblivious PR people. I didn’t respond to any of them. Chris asked me why I print my email address in here even though I never write anyone back, and I don’t know the answer to that question. I do write back sometimes! I also have none of my zines left, but Wendy at does. She also has a zine that Raymond Pettibon made especially for her that you should get whilst you can.

9. It’s been said before but yeah, we can take tax-deductible donations! If you are sitting on piles of unwanted cash and you wanna help us continue onwards and upwards, get in touch. (Preserving, maintaining, and continuing the record collection! Pesky printing bills! The continual publishing of the very magazine you currently hold in your hands.) Email for more info.

10. Our new distro coordinator Diane is moving out here next month, technically next week, which’ll be awesome, and will also be the first time in MRR history that every coordinator position is held by a woman, with Cissie and myself being thee content coordinators now.

I have not read Flowers in the Attic or Helter Skelter or seen any of the Gremlins or Back to the Future movies. is where these columns reside on the web. I am here: layla at

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