Saturday, April 08, 2006
Swellsville, A Critical Guide for Consumer Deviants, Winter 1988
30 pages, xeroxed and binded by stable at spine.
So, there arose among the 'zines, the "think piece" zine. Not so much fanzines, although the writers were certainly fans of music but they were also fans of their own record collections, their incisive thoughts and so forth. Many of them should have been writing for the major rock publications but those guys were covering politics, fashion, trends, AIDS - anything but music and writing about music (outside of lionizing ageing rock stars or rewriting ad copy from major labels).
Jack Thompson was a Seattle-based writer who thought and thought some more and eventually started publishing Swellsville to capture all his thoughts. The think piece writers mostly wrote about their relationship to music, the ever-continuing debate of UK vs. American rock/disco/pop and, of course, their record collections. Fred Mills was perhaps the worst purveyor of that latter trait and he's in here somewhere writing about Sickidz, The Imperial Pompadours, etc.
Some of it is very good and almost all of it is very heartfelt. These weren't guys publishing zines to be the coolest non-conformist on the block. They were writers writing for nothing because they loved to write and see their words on paper.
Some of it was very funny (see Jack Thompson's review of a GG Allin album way below) and some of it was unintentionally funny - one guy tries to "save" Greg Sage and the Wipers from their association with "Pigfuck" music arguing instead that he is the voice of alienation and the "voice of hopelessness" and "if there's no room in the pigfuck inn for this sentimentality there's no room for Greg Sage."
Lots of fawning over long-gone and obscure 60's popsters (Heinz) and folkies (Ian and Sylvia) that I have as much chance of hearing today as I did back then (OK, maybe that's wrong as I'm sure there is some MP3 blog somewhere rehashing this and I could probably find it somewhere on the index or P2P black market). Jack's wife (Alle Thompson) reviews black rap music horribly and Jack's love of Camper Van Beethoveen is still incomprehensible. The round table on Jagger's Primitive Cool album is a waste of space.
Most of the best work is turned in by publisher Jack Thompson and Richie Unterberger.
Yep despite all my bad-mouthin', there's a lot to like about this, even now that most of the bands they write about are long gone. Richie Unterberger's piece on "The Politics of Office Music" is still real in most places (maybe I'll reprint it at a later date?) and Dave Beltane on the best drug-influenced artists is also worth reading and re-reading.
So, as I don't have time to scan everything in, I've reprinted Jack's seminal piece "Fear and Loathing in the 80's" or "The Butthole Surfers vs. The People."
As usual, click on the images and then you may have to click on them again to see it in full resolution or print it out for reading. There's no much visually of interest in Swellsville (besides the cover, I guess) as Thompson squashes as much text into the three columns as possible. A hell of alot of words for only $1.00 (about $1.75 adjusted for inflation).
Jack Thompson masters the joke as a record review here... funniest GG review ever.
Buy it? Well, I don't know what happened to Jack Thompson but Slippytown has back issues of Swellsville for sale.