Obnoxious, self-indulgent, retarded, fascinating, brilliant, hilarious -- any publication that deserves to be called a fanzine is all these things and more. What distinguishes a fanzine from other forms of printed material is attitude. People who put out fanzines don't care about being inclusive. They don't care about responsible journalism. They don't care if they seem "professional," and they certainly don't suffer from the delusion that they're going to be able to quit their day jobs anytime soon. People who put out fanzines just want to put out fanzines -- if they manage to break even and wangle a few promos and press passes while they're at it, fine, but that's just icing.
Yeah, yeah: Grammar freaks and comma cops will cringe when they encounter certain infelicities of expression, mangled syntax, the inevitable typographic fuck-ups. Big deal. What fanzines lack in the proofreading/editing department, they more than make up for in the personality/entertainment department; besides, if you're the type to get all bent out of shape about a misplaced modifier or an extra apostrophe, you should lock yourself up in a closet with The New Yorker and swear off the rest of the world. Fanzines aren't for snobs and pedants to dissect and analyze. Nor are they for regular folks to pick up for free on the street so they have something to read while eating their sandwiches. (Hey, you! Watch the mayo!) Fanzines are for the fan, the weirdo, the crank, the geek -- the kind of reader who will slog through long Q&A-style interviews devoted to bands the greater public ignores; the kind of fan who will pony up a couple of bucks to read about musicians who play for gas money and pitchers of Pabst; the kind of person who is, in short, an awful lot like the people who put out the fanzine.
Up until recently, we couldn't find examples of such people. Right before he accepted the keys to the executive bathroom and skedaddled, Radar Station's previous proprietor, Randall Roberts, lamented the dearth of fanzines in our town: "Where's the Jet Lag for the new century?" Radar Station's current proprietor got her start writing for that illustrious rag, at the tender age of 15, and can say without hesitation that Jet Lag changed her life. Imagine our delight when we opened our mail last week and discovered a copy of the recently resurrected Head in a Milk Bottle, which not only looks great but smells exactly like our beloved Jet Lag!
Yes, after a 15-year hiatus, Head in a Milk Bottle is back, with a new publisher and a decidedly higher-tech appearance (the original zine, founded by Jim Agnew, was mostly handwritten, cheaply photocopied and crudely drawn; this incarnation is much easier to read and more attractively designed, if still defiantly unprofessional-looking). In a local music scene that boasts a lot of good bands but not much in the way of an inspired fan base, HIAMB is a blast of pure oxygen. From the moving, funny, unsentimental elegy for Joey Ramone (penned by Matt Bug, of Desoto punk band the Ded Bugs) to the accurately titled (if not quite as funny as it thinks it is) essay "Pizza, Porno & Pussy," from the goofy interviews to the dozens of quick-and-dirty record reviews, HIAMB enchants and infuriates but never bores. The debut issue covers local acts (Tomorrow's Caveman; the Cripplers; the late, lamented Plutonium Kidz) and slightly less obscure national bands (the Greenhornes, the Hate Bombs, the Mullens) with equal aplomb. Wisely acknowledging that a music magazine can't be all things to all people, HIAMB has carved out a nice little niche for itself: According to the Web-site manifesto (www.garagepunk.com/HIAMB/), its focus is "garage, punk, surf, hot rod and primitive rock 'n' roll (what editor Bob Thurmond affectionately refers to as 'dick-shakin' music')." If those genres appeal to you, or if you just like sassy, unpretentious writing and impassioned rants, check out this zine at once. To order a copy, send a check or money order (payable to Bob Thurmond) for $3.25 to Head in a Milk Bottle, P.O. Box 15125, St. Louis, MO 63110.
Every so often, a song comes along that you just want to hear over and over until you've drained every drop of its intoxicating magic. For us, that song is "Must Have Misread," a gorgeous heartbreaker by local popsters Prune, from their debut CD, Partly Sunny. With wistful lead vocals by bassist Jen Ives, winsome guitar arpeggios and pretty, uncomplicated harmonies, the song is the highlight of a promising album. Prune has a distinguished musical lineage: Their résumés include stints with early-'90s favorites Give Her a Lizard, Lydia's Trumpet and Mr. Pink Jeans. Prune will perform live on Suffragette City (KDHX, 88.1 FM) on Aug. 20, sometime between 10 p.m. and midnight.
The Ambassadors recently released their first CD, a self-titled collection of eight original songs composed by multi-instrumentalist Dave Simon (from '80s alt-funk bands Blank Space and Filet of Funk). Smooth, groovy and melodic, the duo (Simon and drummer Jill Aboussie) draws from reggae, new-wave, pop, jazz and soul influences to create a delirious sound of its own. One of the most inventive and rock-solid percussionists in town, Aboussie is the band's secret weapon. Her snazzy fills and sweet, understated background vocals not only augment Simon's well-crafted songs, they bring them to the next level. The Ambassadors hope to start touring soon -- in the meantime, catch one of their regular gigs at Frederick's Music Lounge.