Alien Legion, Vol. 1 (1984)

So, Alien Legion.
I’m five issues in and wrestling a bit. There are some great ideas, some strength to the world-building, some complexity to the characters and perspectives–but a bunch of things just keep kind of wiggling in.
I’m addressing them because I feel the need to vent this as I go.

 

  1. A Good Bit of Heinlein-Style Bias (with All Arguments about the Existence Thereof Entangled)
    From the first issue–though, admittedly, I first read it half-asleep and I think ascribed some comments to the wrong characters–there’s a clumsiness to some of the expressions. It sometimes carries a waft of difficulty in expressing an opposing viewpoint. This also comes through in an overbearingly…simplified complexity? The first issue has the Legion constrained by the TGU’s directive to avoid interference with the still-evolving lifeform of the rathrosaurs there (think Prime Directive, I suppose).

     

    They have weaker, “simpler” weaponry, as compared to their standard fare. The government (via the Galactors, iirc) references “Soldiers, but only Legionnaires” to ham-fistedly suggest their utter disdain for our protagonists. This comes up again in the third issue, which also employs a certain level of confusion in plotting/illustration. On the first page, a member of a guerrilla pacifist group, responding to a proposed forcible conscription act seemingly shoots a guard. Then they all spend the rest of the issue emphasizing their non-violent pacifism, never commenting on this. Was it a stun, perhaps? I have literally no idea. I read it two or three times and couldn’t make sense of it.

     

    The corruptions and the perspectives that aren’t militaristic (a spectrum there, to be fair) are pretty poorly portrayed much of the time: Chief Lanx’s local police corruption in the same third issue; the simplistic (and super-Heinlein) notion of military service via Montroc in the fourth issue…so on and so forth. It feels like someone on the cusp of being able to represent viewpoints other than their own, but failing miserably to do so with full respect or acknowledgment of how one could hold that viewpoint.¹ It’s held that these perspectives are the end, final truth–something especially (seemingly) emphasized in Montroc’s internal struggles in the fourth issue.

     

    There’s just enough respect and complexity in these “opposition” characters much–but not all–of the time to avoid being flat-out offensively simple-mindedly dismissive of others,² but it still doesn’t achieve a balance of respect–not to go out of one’s way to suggest that an opposing viewpoint is entirely reasonable, but rather that one can arrive at it without being a cartoonish villain.

  2. Logical Contradictions and Stretches to Serve Those Biases (and Maybe a Bit of Plot)

    Plenty of comments abound about the limitations the refusal to issue HEL-guns saddle the Legion with as they try to remove an un-restricted piratic mining operation from Wedifact IV. But the restriction, honestly, seems illogical even given the reasoning: they want to avoid leaving technological remains or interfering, but a “laser scar”–the most often given reason–doesn’t seem like a meaningful indicator of technology. It’s an interesting idea, but when you’re inserting logic to explain the plot, it has to make sense. This doesn’t make sense. Compressed-gas-propelled darts are still leagues ahead of the rathrosaurs’ technology. Just because the dart decays doesn’t make it different from a laser (which sure as hell doesn’t stick around…).

    This comes up again in the third issue, with the aforementioned pacifistic group’s seeming murder, the convenient flip-flop of governmental perspective on violations and value of the Legion, and the inconsistency in response to internal crimes (it seems as if violently attacking another member of the Legion is taken less seriously by the Legion itself, which seems insane).

  3. The Letters (Thoughts in General)

    The letters pages–one of the lovely benefits of single issues over many/most trades–are an interesting mix. Appropriately, many place Frank Cirocco’s (excellent!) art and character design (with inking from the great Terry Austin, and great colours from Bob Sharen) as the best feature of the book. Often the plotting is held up next, and the writing itself held as “strong” or “good”, but often with far more caveats.Someone brings up the (almost?) universally male composition of the Legion as an odd point. The editors respond that the letter-writer is making assumptions! But, of course, we have profiles in issues 1 and 5 of many members. Every single one says “he” and “his”. Sure, there are assumptions, but the statistical probability given by the first issue’s profiles, all of the dialogue prior to the letter’s publication and so on make it a reasonable (and, to this point, seemingly accurate…) conclusion. This bothers me primarily because of the flipping of points–a dangerous thing to mention, in that I’m wary of some modern incarnations that feel, to me, excessive in choosing to see a response as ignoring or dismissing a problem. This read exactly like that–it was an editor (presumably) writing on behalf of a writer, with no evidence to support the claim, and plenty against it that only further supported the letter writer’s accuracy.

    Perhaps most frustrating was reading a letter from the famous letter-writer (seriously) T.M. Maple. Maple references the hypocrisy of pacifist activists in reference to issue three, calling out events in his native country (take a wild guess from that name!) that were performed rather contemporaneously by “Direct Action”, aka “The Squamish 5“. They were not, so far as I can see, avowed pacifists. Indeed, they rebelled against nonviolence as means of protest, hence the self-applied name “Direct Action”. Maple (real name Jim Burke) applies these events anyway, then goes on to make numerous terrible leaps of logic (Paraphrasing–“If they’re part of the peace movement, it implies the other side is against peace!” and “I’m opposed to any side claiming a monopoly on morality”³) before establishing a last flimsy footnote of declining to express where he falls (it’s obvious, man…).

    I do think I find this clumsy writing fits with my impression of Zelenetz, who took on a smattering of first-volume Moon Knight issues, as well as the entirely misguided and very much cut-short second volume (Fist of Khonshu) in that there are legitimately good and interesting ideas, marred somewhat by questionable execution.


¹Should one think this is unreasonable to expect of “Perspective X”, I submit Nick Spencer’s portrayal of both the Red Skull and the mind-tampered Captain America. These are human and complicated characters who definitely have vile perspectives, but the way they arrived at them and how they justify them is clear and not condescending.

 

²My counter example here might be C.S. Lewis’s portrayal of the Calormenes in The Horse and His Boy. Perpetually referencing fair skin as a glorious and beautiful thing, condemning the dark-skinned, making–for all the (accurate!) claims to its polytheistic and otherwise slightly modified elements–a bunch of not-unsubtle references to Victorian-esque perceptions of the Middle East (turbans! pointy shoes! scimitars!) and then having Aslan say, “Anyone who does a good thing, even if they worship that other guy, they’re actually mine. And anyone who does a bad thing? Yeah they’re ACTUALLY worshiping the Calormene God.” Considering his stances on Islam, I don’t see a way around this that doesn’t involve some serious contortions. For all the this-or-that Calormene character isn’t bad, it comes off more like, “But some of my great friends are ___!” as Aslan’s proclamation definitively seals it as “Aslan=good, Tash=bad”, and anyone who claims otherwise is accidentally saying the exact same thing or secretly/accidentally evil.

 

³It should be noted that no group or movement is ever likely to be devoid of some percentage that represents the bogeyman version of that group or movement. Hesitance to associate on those grounds I find understandable, particularly where there is sufficient popular disagreement as to whether the group/movement has the boundaries some members assert or not. Decrying said entire group/movement as fully and accurately represented by those individual parties, however, is a different and altogether dumber idea.

Goliath (2016)

My inclination is generally not to review things like television series–not even one that’s self-contained into a generally delineated block like a miniseries. It’s a lot of ground to cover, a lot of hours, and an experience that relies heavily on the sequential knowledge  of the series itself and the obvious room for events to layer themselves across it, for characters to develop (or reaffirm) traits throughout.

I’m struck, however, by the desire this time. Maybe it’s the restraint of general commentary I’m putting myself through, maybe it’s the visceral reaction I’ve had to the series throughout–or both, or neither. I can’t really be too terribly certain about the subject, except for the reality of that desire.

Goliath is a David E. Kelley production, who I personally know best for Ally McBeal and Boston Public, never being an active watcher of L.A. LawBoston Legal, or The Practice (though I was around their showings growing up, thanks to my mother’s viewing habits). I did not initially realize that his was one of the minds behind it, instead being drawn in by the prospect of a leading Billy Bob Thornton.

Thornton is Billy McBride, washed up attorney of questionable character, excess alcohol, estranged marriage, and peculiar companions. He’s surrounded primarily by Patty Solis-Papagian (Nina Arianda), Brittany Gold (Tania Raymonde), his daughter Denise (Diana Hopper), and, kicking off the case at the center of the series, Rachel Kennedy (Ever Carradine). Patty is a fellow lawyer, struggling to turn a no-name degree into a practice, and Brittany is a prostitute Billy has represented and haphazardly employs as a paralegal–Patty, though, also introduces him to Rachel, who insists that her brother-in-law Ryan Larson did not kill himself as his widow believes. This spirals into the associations of Larson’s former employer, Born Tech, headed by Wendell Corey (Dwight Yoakam), and represented by Cooperman/McBride. That McBride is no longer Billy, but is his ex-wife Michelle (Maria Bello), while the Cooperman is Donald (William Hurt). The firm’s namesake is not the primary counsel in the case, that honour belonging to Callie Senate (Molly Parker), Lucy Kittridge (Olivia Thirlby), and Leonard Letts (Damon Gupton).

Before I proceed, I’m going to note that it’s very probable that I’ll feel compelled to spoil parts of this series, because of the elements in it that I wish to discuss.

The cast needed to be named, because the cast is what sells every moment of the series. Regardless of the nature of the characters, the cast works with their material and makes the material work.

Which is where things start to sink a bit. Cooperman, Kittridge, and Senate are repulsive. Utterly, cartoonishly vile. There are attempts to humanize, attempts to shift–but they’re all futile. As the series proceeds and the fishy elements compound (starting, to belatedly submit information to explain a pun, with chumming Billy’s car), no one seems to question their position. People turn up dead, injured, coincidentally involved in other crimes–it’s believable that Senate, as a character, would gloss over the effects on others and regard this entirely from the perspective of its effects on the case, but it’s still a stretch. Of course, Cooperman is so blatantly evil that it’s nothing like a wonder he doesn’t care: he laughs hysterically at Billy being beaten by a paid cop (who proceeds to taze Billy’s daughter…). Kittridge and Senate vie for the affections of Cooperman, primarily as employer, but neither seems to be concerned with his manipulations of them, demanding sexual rewards for deigning to let them work cases, nor with his erratic and insane (also, re: clicker–irritating) behaviour.

This only gets worse when we factor in Michelle. Bello deserves some kind of award for certain, for managing to keep Michelle innocent and sympathetic, while she is a complete fucking moron devoid of either intelligence or moral compass in witnessing the living pieces of shit she chooses to work with. Billy’s crimes–and they aren’t minor–are hard to remember against a backdrop of torture, murder, fraud, war crimes…and yet, Michelle doesn’t seem to care or concern herself. Not even after her daughter is tazed. One would think at least that might give her pause. Her daughter is also insanely irrational, not looking at the serious problems that should perhaps give Billy reason to drop the case, but on how it affects her and her mother alone. The sheer mounts of narcissism in the show are insurmountable, and further confuse things by making Billy–perhaps largely due to Thornton’s excellently likeable performance–the only one who seems aware of the concept of empathy.

The show is intensely engaging, and had me hooked from a moment in the third episode, but my roiling, burning loathing of everyone at Cooperman/McBride was hard enough to stomach that I considered abandoning the series entirely. It didn’t manage to tweak things the “right” way for that (liking Billy avoided my problems with Breaking Bad, and the way the conspiratorial elements were set-up danced around explaining how they were unnoticed with a few of them being clever–setting up a drunk for a fake DUI is pretty believable to have go unnoticed–and otherwise being, well, not really explained meant it didn’t hit the House of Cards inability to suspend disbelief).

And that’s, then, the weird thing: alongside the performances, there’s an intelligence to the construction of the show. It manages to work so well in spite of itself. In spite of having the most repellent, unpleasant, taking-‘love-to-hate’-a-bit-too-far villains, it generally works. I’m still not sure how, because the volume of “Oh, come on…”-type moments from those characters is quite high indeed. That no one ever seemed to notice or call them on it kept me teetering on the edge of giving up on the sheer absurdity of it all, but it never quite dumped itself off that cliff. It’s weird, for that–and enough to make me quite enjoy it overall, while still leaving me with the need to express this reaction.

On the Mutual Exclusivity of My Favourite Comics Characters and Mass-Production (So to Speak)

I’ve just finished a re-read of Lucifer, the Mike Carey Sandman spin-off that was first recommended to me over a decade ago, that I picked up for a brief handful of single issues in its initial run on that recommendation, and then gathered in the earliest days of my lengthiest occupational foray, as purveyor of written entertainment (much though my instincts let me pretend I was moreso that of the auditory and visual).

As I read, as I saw the distant protagonist of the book–distant in the sense that in many issues he appeared as a background character, if even that–I realized that he shares a peculiar commonality with two of my favourite characters in a universe that doesn’t quite share the lofty critical heights of the Vertigo imprint from which Lucifer was derived (and, in that eponymous form, fully published). There’s a detachment, a brutal pragmatism in Carey’s Lucifer that is not meaningfully distinct, in and of itself, from the same qualities in both Starlin’s Thanos and his interpretation of Adam Warlock. There is a cold disinterest in the fates of others that reflects an arrogance and pride that is supreme in all of these characters, a pride and arrogance that also shares the quality of justification. They are as above those they care nothing for as they believe themselves to be.

This isn’t an admirable quality, per se, nor an enviable one. One hopes none want to be above nearly all else, by plan and scheme even when out-powered, at least. It’s not described with explanations of analogous ants, at least not as the personal justification, it’s just how they operate, above and outside the normal realms. There’s something fascinating about this: beings who treat others as playthings, less maliciously than simply as a matter of course.

Mind you, they have their unusual moments:

Thanos is first driven by an adolescent love, and tends toward raging dismissal, in those days, of those whom he sees as displaying errant disregard for him (none moreso than the mouthpieces of Death herself, who relay her responses to him and haven’t even the time to regret where their service leads). He holds a deeply denied affection for his adopted daughter, Gamora, but broken and splintered by the prism of his view of reality; he doesn’t think of her as a daughter so explicitly, nor as detachedly as a legal ward, but some mix of the two, tempered by a refusal to let others–other than, for a time, Mistress Death, of course–have a say in the course of his destiny. He’s also known to relish, on occasion, the simple-mindedness of those he manipulates, setting him, on occasion, to something pettier than his otherwise justified disdain for others might allow

Adam Warlock is tortured by a history of extremes and confusion: the utterly remorseless and unfortunate child-like Him, the almost-past-analogy-to-literal saviour of Counter-Earth, and the cold logic of his Supreme self, which notoriously includes his expulsion of “all good and evil”. He gathers fellows around himself, sometimes out of a Machiavellian interest in being owed favours…and sometimes because there’s something in him that still wants companionship, as most beings do.  He is driven by a need to right things, a moral compass that was his totality on Counter-Earth–but he often finds his will faltering when faced, yet again, with the need to act as the one being the rest of the universe can’t manage to be in the face of a threat which said being is necessary to thwart.

Lucifer is no exception either. While he might kill seven thousand to serve his purposes without even the slightest shudder, he acts on behalf of a select few with something like a shrugging whimsy–a moment of defiance and refusal to acquiesce even to his defiant, willful, self-interested nature itself. That willful defiance is even more central to him, though, as he will forego even segments of self-interest if it involves anything like capitulation to the will of another.

All of this adds up, as I say, to fascinating characters, but what it doesn’t leave is characters that can be readily dropped in, casually, to the stories of others, and, more generally, into the reams of mass-produced media like network television or big-budget movies–despite all efforts to do so anyway. This is what causes that eternal frustration: these are fascinating characters, unique even as they share that concrete and unyielding core of aloof and accurate movement through a universe composed primarily of entities beneath, if not their notice, then at least their deep concern.

To make Thanos a villain, or Lucifer a regular protagonist, they have to be stripped of the quality that defines those characters, as adaptations of both–or usages outside their most prominent creators or stories–makes plain. For all their villainy, it doesn’t boil with the heated malevolence of a Sandalphon or Basanos, of a Magus, or a Man-Beast. They aren’t motivated by an antipathy toward their opposers–they have no patience, time, or respect for the principles of Gabriel or the Silver Surfer, but nor do they lay out plans to explicitly dominate or crush that opposition, except as reaction to attempts to thwart their own designs.

A Thanos or Lucifer set out to cause evil for its own sake is not a Thanos or a Lucifer. Pausing to maliciously, if “playfully”, respond to a traffic stop is beneath Lucifer, as much as relying on Ronan to assist in acquisition of an Infinity “Stone” is anathema to Thanos¹. This isn’t who those characters are: Thanos would destroy the universe (or kill half of it) to make a show of his love for Death, to attempt to openly display that affection, and would do so on his own for these self-same reasons. Lucifer is too above humanity to slum about in “curiosity” over them, is essentially incapable of taking an interest in their day-to-day doings–he’s hardly got time to deal with his brothers, the Lilim, or any other significantly more powerful beings. Humans are utterly beneath even his contempt–in the sense that he is that realization of the true opposite of love: apathy.

These aren’t characters that one necessarily sympathizes with–beyond, perhaps, those fleeting moments of understandable affection or feeling–so there is no use for them to the public at large, certainly not, most especially, in the place of “protagonist” on a television show, nor does a role as villain–however spread between films–allow for any particular character to shine through. In both, their rougher and more complicated edges are sanded down until there’s nothing left but a husk: the executive producer of the “Lucifer” television show is quoted thusly:

“We take our cues from the comic book character, the one that Neil Gaiman created and Mike Cary [sic] developed, which is the devil is the son of god. He’s not evil, he’s just a rebellious son who decided that he wanted what his dad had and doesn’t understand why he didn’t get it,” said Henderson. “He’s mischievous, he’s playful, he’s honest, and he embraces his desires… Lucifer is all about exploring humanity and exploring desires. When he talks to people in Los Angeles there’s no pretense. He just wants to do whatever he sees in front of him.”

This is a fundamental misapprehension of the character. There are a few accurate statements: he’s not evil (depending on how one defines that), he’s a rebellious son, and he’s honest. He is not “mischievous”, “playful”, “all about exploring humanity and exploring desires”, and does not want “what his dad had”, “[not] understand why he didn’t get it”, nor want “to do whatever he sees in front of him”.

But that’s it, isn’t it?

The Gaiman/Carey Lucifer is a character fascinating for character study, not for popcorn, mind-off entertainment. He has to be stripped of planning, intelligence, power, and character to be something that fits into that paradigm. There can, by necessity, be nothing left of that Lucifer when turned to episodic, network television. And so: there isn’t.

By the same token, a being like Thanos that acts on a scale so far outside the Avengers–to say nothing of the already reduced scale of the MCU’s Avengers and Guardians–as to make them utterly irrelevant is, inherently, a poor choice as a villain for those characters, despite the asinine writings of folks like Brian Michael Bendis, who simply did the same thing as the movies, but in a comic book context–stripping the character of everything that makes him who he is so that he could be slotted in to a comic in which he doesn’t belong.

These are the inevitabilities of attempting to shoehorn complicated, other-worldly characters into a context in which they simply do not belong.

This is why it’s angering. Because, by necessity, these usages require the stripping of character from characters. And if you strip the essence from the form, it’s a lifeless husk, masquerading as something far more than it truly is, and blurring the definition of that greater thing to a larger audience. These characters are interesting because of how they operate–not simply because they are “super powerful” or “the devil”. Removing the former to leave only the latter is not just a disservice to those of us who like the characters and their stories, not just an insult to the work of those who wrote those stories (in the sense that it suggests that the only thing of value in their characters is “powerful purple guy” and “the devil”, dismissing all of the blood, sweat, and tears in developing them beyond those things), not just an insult to the audience (suggesting the only thing that they can manage to process of those original incarnations is “powerful purple guy” or “the devil”), but it manages to damage the previous works in its way.

While I thought once thought it only hypothetical, I’ve witnessed those who decided they may or may not read Lucifer depending on their opinion of the show. Already, the show is, for that person–who no doubt represents more, even if not in truly significant numbers–a lens that re-frames a work that it has nothing to do with, simply by dint of association. It says that this Lucifer is in some way like the one on the show–thus creating false expectations about what is to come from it, inserting itself between a possible reader and the work by positioning itself as a meaningful alternate truth for the concept. It creates a conflict, however periodic, by pointlessly setting the two “versions” against each other by pretense of their alleged singular origin. To deny this is to foolishly deny the decades of branding and advertising that so successfully managed to hold our interest in all these years. This is how the human mind operates: we’re told these two things are related and, in general, we take this as a statement of truth, unless evidence we’ve been exposed to exists to the contrary.

I’ve come to the conclusion recently that I would indeed simply rather they not bother adapting. I would like to see these characters come to life, but I won’t settle for these dead-eyed shells, skins and costumes painted over re-written, tired banalities. If no one wants to adapt the characters, then: don’t. Don’t try to trade on the majesty of a better work with a finger-painted facsimile on mass-produced plastic. If you wish to film Devil Cop, do it. But don’t pretend it’s something it isn’t. If you take issue with the way a character is written in a universe that is centered on continuity, don’t maliciously re-frame the character to take them down a peg: just acknowledge that they are clearly not a character appropriate for the stories that you are telling.

I write this knowing that my wishes are entirely futile; such is the nature of art married to a capitalist system. Such is the nature of those who have no interest in, taste for, appreciation for, or understanding of these kinds of characters, that they’ll be dressed down in the fashion of impertinence (Squirrel Girl), or ignorance (Infinity). Would that those who took no interest in something would leave it be–but there is nothing whatsoever to encourage that.

So it goes.

¹Thanos gathered the Infinity Gems twice. First, as relayed in brief by Warlock himself, through his communion with the soul of the then-passed Gamora (Avengers Annual #7), and then again in The Thanos Quest miniseries. In both instances, Thanos gathered the gems himself, never, ever indirectly, as there’s no way on Earth (or elsewhere!) such a schemer would risk the will of others on such acquisition. Indeed, this is made more plain by how he deals in the second instance, significantly less brief–it is, in fact, the totality of that miniseries to watch him acquire the six, one-by-one, for a second time–and his tendency to rely on the ignorance of most of the beings who currently hold them to assist in his gain.

Starter Kit

Aggressively personalized (but not saturated by my more eccentric tastes), this is my Comic Book Starter Kit.

The assumption is made that you are familiar with the “core works”¹, at least in name, and that almost anything anywhere will recommend them to you if you bring up comics.

Some other caveats:

This is Western-focused. That’s where most of my experience is, and it tends to be what’s at issue in discussions of “comic books”. This doesn’t degrade or dismiss the works of even slightly-less-west Westerners (like Hergé or Goscinny/Uderzo, and so on), nor is it intended to imply a superiority. It’s just that those are not typically considered “comic books” but other forms of what Scott McCloud so succinctly and clearly defined as “sequential art”.

Now, with all that said:

1) Lucifer

Legitimately one of my most recommended titles–even by proxy, as I recommend writer Mike Carey’s Felix “Fix” Castor books a lot, too–Lucifer is an elaboration upon the devil developed by Neil Gaiman in the Sandman (see, that’s how cornerstone that book is). The titular character is not always even the protagonist, nevermind being a hero. He’s cold and cruel but ultimately disinterested in that which does not serve him. He maintains a semblance of sympathy or identification anyway, though, as he seeks to blaze his own path in the universe, unencumbered by the identity and occupations God has set for him. What it has over on books like its “parent” is a pretty absolute focus: while it encompasses a 75-issue comic, a 3-issue miniseries, and a one-shot, it is a clearly defined overarching story–while things like The Sandman can have some problems with meandering off into side-stories and experiments Gaiman found interesting (albeit successfully!).

2) Swamp Thing (“Saga of”/Volume 2, ~20-64)

To my strange and peculiar tastes, this is the crowning achievement of Alan Moore. It sits next to Marvelman/Miracleman comfortably, in his 80s run of respectful reinvention. It, for all its horror, doesn’t have anything as unpleasant as Miracleman‘s climax (about which I will say no more, but it’s filled with graphically violent images–earned and ‘necessary’ to address the story and its point, it should be said, but nonetheless disturbing) and has a significantly larger amount of emotional investment, as well as the genesis of the great John Constantine (whose name can be ‘heard’ pronounced by the demon Etrigan: it’s Constan”tyne” not Constan”teen”)

3) The Maxx

Sam Kieth is a peculiar artist, and a peculiar storyteller. What was advertised at the time (I was about eight, myself) was “a violent new hero”. What was offered was a strange book about a large purple-and-yellow homeless guy who was friends with a social worker, the two of them harassed endlessly by a smugly knowledgeable sorcerer/serial rapist. The latter part isn’t involved overly graphically, nor as a means of conveying “edgy” material, so much as being part of overarching themes. It’s a difficult book to describe without simply giving it all away, but it’s filled with Sam’s unusually wonderful art, aesthetic and ideas.

4) Animal Man (volume 1) 1-26

Grant Morrison’s breakout work, it’s unusual in the extreme and does suffer from some of Morrison’s preachiness, but can be somewhat excused by its well-executed relevance to the main character. It’s definitely in the realms of “required reading”, in any case. It’s another where you’re best off just reading it without knowing too much.

5) Daredevil (Miller/Janson: v1 158-191, 227-233; Bendis/Maleev: v2 26-81)

The first (Miller/Janson) is classic, in all senses. The peak of Miller’s writing (sadly, at the early end of his career…), and perfectly matched with his own pencils or Janson’s, and definitely Janson’s inks. Matt Murdock is absolutely put through hell, and the depths of his dealings with Wilson “The Kingpin” Fisk (who was originally a Spider-Man villain, but lost almost unequivocally to DD at this point). Bendis and Maleev’s is a thematic return to this, with perfect art for the story from Maleev.

6) Justice League ([America|International|Europe])? (1-6, 7-25, 1-36, 26-60; Formerly Known as the Justice League 1-6, JLA Classified 3-9 [“I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League”], now Justice League 3000 1-15, Justice League 3001 1-ongoing)

Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, one known most for comedy, one known most for pathos (though both are capable of either and both) take the Justice League denied its most famous elements (no Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Hal Jordan or John Stewart as Green Lantern, and even Batman only lasts a few odd issues) and turn them into a bumbling, inefficient group of also-rans filled with heart, will, desire, jokes, comedy, and actually a fair bit of oft-unremembered real drama.

7) Planet Hulk (Incredible Hulk v3 92-105, Giant-Size Hulk #1)

Requiring some of the most minimal of background, the Hulk is unwittingly exiled from Earth by its foremost minds and his foremost–seeming–friends (Tony Stark, Reed Richards, et al). Stuck on a hellish planet, Hulk is forced to find his way through the minimalist society that exists there, and is driven by a raging need to take revenge on those responsible.

8) Suicide Risk

Mike Carey has written superhero books for the Big Two, but this was his own creation. And yet…it turns out it just may be something entirely other than a super hero book as it goes on. Another self-contained and clean series by Carey.

9) The Question

Dennis O’Neill is responsible, somewhat more quietly than a lot of the Brits who followed him and were eventually his contemporaries (or writers under his editorship) for a lot of classic works. But his peculiar book with penciler Denys Cowan is an achievement outside the shadow of characters like Batman. Sure, Ditko invented the rather ridiculous Objectivist Question decades earlier, but O’Neill’s unusual take on Vic Sage is more philosophical and interested in the world as it actually functions, and is married to the signature pencils of Cowan.

10) Current ongoings:

Rick Remender’s anything (Black ScienceLowDeadly ClassTokyo Ghost)

DescenderBlack MagickCopperheadManifest DestinyRat QueensRumble

¹SandmanWatchmen especially. Other Moore can be an acquired taste, some moreso than others, but Watchmen is a medium-defining moment.

What’s on My Shopping Radar (Part 3: Discogs!)

The stuff I have marked on Discogs is probably the most “simple” in many cases, and down to a matter of “I think it might be cheaper to buy here than on Amazon–third party sellers either way, because it’s not readily available otherwise.”

Plain Ol’ Albums on CD


Slim DunlapTimes Like This (Medium Cool Records, Restless Records – MCR 89277) CD, Album

Former Replacements guitarist, his first album, The Old New Me, is awesome. I have this one on the RSD exclusive 2xLP “combo” with that album, but I have no digital copies. Based on the benefit album for him after his stroke (Songs for Slim, which saw the reunion of the ‘Mats), I want it. Plus, you know, I’ve heard it on vinyl. Though I think Patterson Hood’s cover of “Hate This Town” is ridiculously good, possibly better than the original.


The Celibate Rifles

Nicke Andersson of the Hellacopters was once interviewed on some Australian MTV-type thing, and the host said “We don’t have any rocking bands like you Scandinavians, man!” and Nicke was like “Pffft.” and named a whole slew of sweet, rockin’ Aussie bands, one of which was the Celibate Rifles. I occasionally stumble into these records on vinyl (I’ve got Roman Beach Party and The Turgid Miasma of Existence) but they don’t exactly see U.S. releases, and certainly not in stores.

EdselStrange Loop (Merkin Records – MM 329) CD, Album

If anything should be clear at this point, it’s that almost everything I’m interested in traces back to something most people (I would hope) know I like. Here? Edsel once did a split with Jawbox. It wouldn’t be exaggeration to say that that’s enough (it is enough), but I also liked their track (“Penaluna”) and the albums of theirs I already have. This is the only one I don’t. They also did some singles on DeSoto (run by members of Jawbox) and Jade Tree (a label I trust pretty implicitly).

Gluecifer

The Hellacopters / Gluecifer

Ah, my treasured “70s hard rock throwback bands from Scandinavia” section. Nicke of the Hellacopters is mentioned above, they did a split with Gluecifer (see, right there! I don’t have either one), I love their stuff, I love the Gluecifer I occasionally stumble into, and, oh, they also did a split with the Murder City Devils. There’s not much more to sell here, okay?

The HellacoptersHead Off (Toy’s Factory – TFCK-87431) CD, Album 2008

The last Hellacopters album. Japanese release with bonus tracks. “Last” in the sense of “last before they broke up” as well as “last one I don’t own”.

The Eighties Matchbox B-Line DisasterThe Royal Society (No Death Records, No Death Records – MCD60097, 986 864-0) CD, Album

Though they have a ridiculously long name, EMBBLD are awesome. I found them via early-mid seasons of Nevermind the Buzzcocks when lead singer Guy was on the show. They had clips from “Psychosis Safari” on there and it was great. This is the last album of theirs I don’t have.

Fancified Replacements! (no, not those Replacements)

Drive Like JehuYank Crime (Swami Records, One Little Indian – SWA115, TPLP321CD) CD, Album, RE

Bonus tracks!

SnapcaseDesigns For Automotion (Victory Records – VR100) CD, Album + CD, Enh, Bon + , Ltd

Bonus CD!

Death – Human (Relapse Records – RR7166) CD, Album, RE, RM + 2xCD + Ltd, Num

(Another) Bonus CD! Out of print! Limited!

Compilations and Boxes

The Posies recorded Frosting on the Beater, which is in my top 10 albums (period), and Jon Auer recorded The Year of Our Demise, which is probably somewhere up there, too. This is a collection of rarities, demos, and so on. It includes, in fact, some stuff from the aforementioned group album.

Compound Red had their album Always a Pleasure recorded by Jawbox’s J. Robbins. This was endorsement enough. That said: I am not entirely convinced this CD exists. I have a digital copy. I don’t know if there are physical ones.

City of Caterpillar are one of the awesome bands that came to me recommended by Chaz from Bull City Records over my love of Hot Cross–their original label was Level Plane, which is where this record (and City’s eponymous studio album) were released.

The Hellacopters! notoriously, they released vinyl-exclusive tracks a lot. Those are not on here (they’re vinyl-exclusive, remember?). This does, however, include a boatload of non-album b-sides and compilation tracks. Oooh, my favourites!

Serious Rarities on CD

Nazz – Nazz (Castle Music – 06076-86362-2) CD, Album, RE
Nazz – Nazz Nazz – Including Nazz III – The Fungo Bat Sessions (Castle Music – CMEDD866) 2xCD, Comp
State Route 522 – Retrospective (Status Recordings – none) CD, Comp
Stelvio Cipriani – Solamente Nero (Original Soundtrack) (Lucertola Media – LMCD 005) CD, Album, Ltd
Various – Dope-Guns-‘N-Fucking In The Streets Volume 1-3 (Amphetamine Reptile Records – ARRCD 1/61) CD, Comp
Various – Dope-Guns-‘N-Fucking In The Streets (Volumes 4-7) (Amphetamine Reptile Records – AMREP 008) CD, Comp
Various – Excursions In Ambience – The Third Dimension (Astralwerks, Astralwerks – ASW 6119-2, 26119-2) CD, Comp

Ranging from 1-2 discs, these are all items that fetch a fair bit of money, if they can even be found (State Route 522). Some are not too bad (there’s an $8 cutout of the first Nazz album) and some are pretty awful (the Cipriani soundtrack, performed by Goblin, generally goes for $50+).

Nazz – Todd Rundgren before he was solo. Bonus tracks galore! Sold my original, barebones copy of the debut and have yet to replace it.

State Route 522 – one of the many Seattle splinter bands, related to Minus the Bear and Sharks Keep Moving. Ridiculously hard to find.

Stelvio Cipriani – this is deceptive. Though composed by Cipriani, this is performed by Goblin. Now it all makes sense, right?

Dope Guns… – Amphetamine Reptile’s compilation series that introduced me to a variety of bands, and includes bands like Jawbox (the reason I’m aware of it in the first place)–and is the reason I’m familiar with AmRep in the first place.

Excursions in Ambience – The only digital copy of Aphex Twin’s “‘Stone in Focus'” track. It was on the UK-only 3xLP pressing of Selected Ambient Works Vol, II, my holy grail of music some fourteen-fifteen years ago. The CD pressing lacks that track (the US pressing lacks yet another track–and that 25-minus-2 track edition is what recently got repressed on vinyl, as what I can only assume was a stupid, shitty joke).

Serious Rarities on LP

City Of Caterpillar – City Of Caterpillar (Level Plane Records – LP-36) LP, Album
The Posies – Frosting On The Beater (Geffen Records – GEF 24522) LP, Album
Jets To Brazil – Orange Rhyming Dictionary (Jade Tree – JT1038) 2xLP, Album, Ora
Pretty Girls Make Graves – Good Health (Matador – OLE 624-1) LP, Album, RE
Pretty Girls Make Graves – Good Health (Hand Held Heart, Sound Virus, Dim Mak Records – HHH 016, SNDVRS 09, DM 033)016, SNDVRS 09, DM 033) 3×7″, Cle + Box, Ltd
Sound Team – Marathon (St. Ives Records – SAINT11) 12″
These Arms Are Snakes – Easter (Second Nature Recordings – SN066) LP, Album, Ltd, Red

City of Caterpillar – as mentioned above, a Level Plane band (see the label in parentheses?) thus associating them with Hot Cross. This is a good thing. They happened to have Darkest Hour’s original drummer for a while, at that.

The Posies  – My favourite Posies album, and one of my favourite albums period. Really, really rare on LP–so far as I can see, only promotional copies may exist. Possibly only European promotional copies. Giant pain in the ass to find as a result.

Jets to Brazil – this is my favourite album. You know, period. There are some nice coloured issues that would also hopefully be in better condition than my rather beat up black vinyl one. Orange is the best, obviously. On multiple levels. This one is on par with Frosting for rarity/price. Pretty horrifying. Going for ~$50-70 you have to get it as soon as it’s listed, if memory serves for the range. It usually hangs out at ~$100

Pretty Girls Make Graves – Yeah, it’s the same album in two editions. The 3×7″ version is pretty awesome, and makes sense for the album (especially as it is only ~30m long). The other is more of a “Well, maybe just get it on plain LP…?” only it’s also out of print and also rather pricey. Bloody hell! I listened to this album over and over immediately after first hearing that. It’s really, really good.

SOUND Team – This is Bill Baird’s opinion on the pinnacle of his band. While it doesn’t have my favourite song (of theirs, also of all)–“The Fastest Man Alive”–it does have pre-big label versions of the tracks that would appear on their, well, big label album–Movie Monster. I love the album anyway, and Bill thinks these versions are better. Pretty limited and thus rare.

These Arms Are Snakes – Relatives of Botch, Minus the Bear and loads of others, and super fucking awesome. I was sure I’d like them but first found an album here in Omaha 2 years ago and realized I’d suspected entirely correctly. There are some nice coloured versions around, but it’s rare on LP in general.

Singles with Unique Tracks

Ryan Adams

  • New York New York (Lost Highway – 172 223-2) CD, Single, Enh
  • This Is It (Lost Highway – 602498621493) CD, Single
  • Wonderwall (Lost Highway – 602498630983) CD, Maxi
  • Wonderwall (Lost Highway – 602498630976(11)) CD, Maxi
  • So Alive (Lost Highway – 986 1610) CD, Single, Enh, CD1
  • So Alive (Lost Highway – 986 1611) CD, Single, CD2
  • Easy Plateau (Lost Highway – 602498831441) CD, Single
  • Let It Ride (Lost Highway – 602498818336) CD, Maxi

µ-Ziq

  • My Little Beautiful (Planet Mu, Planet Mu, Virgin – PLUD4, PLUD 4, 7243 8 94299 2 3) CD, Single

Ryan Adams – Of course, I got into DRA in late 2011. I rocketed off into almost everything he’s released pretty damned quickly, especially considering his prior-to-solo band Whiskeytown’s album Strangers Almanac is another Top 10. He is one of the few modern artists to do extensive non-album b-sides–not compiled at this stage, so…

µ-Ziq – I type µ-Ziq often enough in Windows that I have the ALT-code for the unicode mu character memorized (ALT+0181). He’s probably my favourite electronic artist, or at least second. This is a period of his work I’m actually a big fan of.

Rare Self-Released Items

Cave InUntitled (Not On Label – none) CD
Johnny WhitneyAcoustic Mixtape Vol. 1 (Crystal City – none) CD, Ltd, EP

So, this still happens sometimes. Cave In are a hardcore turned post rock turned hardcore again band that’s really good. I have almost everything they’ve recorded…except this. They did splits with Piebald and Botch. Good company.

Johnny Whitney is one of the two vocalists from the Blood Brothers (the one whose voice I like more, no less!). He was also in Neon Blonde, Jaguar Love, and The Vogue. Deep connections to that crazy, tangled Seattle scene going on here. Last of his side projects that I don’t own, hey?

Uhhh…Stuff?

Bash & Pop / His Name Is AliveSoil X Samples 10 (Warner Bros. Records, Soil X Samples – PRO-S-6107, 10) 7″, Promo, Single, Blu
Various – Post Marked Stamps (Tree Records – none) 10×7″ + Box
Melvins13 CD Box Set (Ipecac Recordings – none) CD, Album + CD, Album + CD, Album + CD, Album + CD

Bash & Pop are Tommy Stinson’s post-Replacements band. Their only album, Friday Night Is Killing Me is yet another that’s somewhere in my Top whatever (okay, maybe it’s more than ten, now that I think about it…). This song isn’t on there, and it’s really, really good.

Post Marked Stamps was a 7″ series that includes a boatload of bands I love: Braid, The Get Up Kids, Cerberus Shoal, Aspera Ad Astra, Ida, Tim Kinsella, Compound Red, A Minor Forest, Rainer Maria…I’ve got a few of these, but this box contains all of them, and a bonus 7″! Awesome!

Melvins – lol. This thing is so rare and so large it just goes for $1000. This will never happen, and I’m basically okay with that.

Really nice Colours…!

ConvergeAxe To Fall (Deathwish Inc. – DWI98) LP, Album, Ltd, Tri

I already have this album, on both formats. I even have it on a crazy highlighter yellow LP. But this tri-colour (and a half/half with splatter) are so amazingly on-point with the cover art that I’m tempted anyway.

“Yeah, Sure, I Guess”

Coheed And Cambria

Husking BeeFour Color Problem (Ini – inir-0007) LP, Album
KavinskyOutrun (Record Makers – REC86LTD) LP, Album, Ltd, Num

Coheed and Cambria – Famously my favourite band, but these singles are pretty extraneous. Usually a demo version on the b-side of a major studio track. Eh, right? It’d be cool, but these are pretty low priority for me.

Husking Bee are one of the bands I learned about from the Hana Otoko compilation–a tribute to the Elephant Kashimashi. My favourite of theirs is Variandante (“Makafushigi Thesis” is stupid good). This is mostly a sort of, “Ooh, neat! A Japanese band on vinyl!”

Kavinsky – this is my #1 driving album, but I do already have it on LP. This is just a fancy pants version in a hardcover book with glossies for the fictional movie it’s the soundtrack to.

What’s On My Shopping Radar, Part 2 (Not Actually on Current Radar)

Or: Music Part A – 80s (lots of it), “General” IndieJapanese completism, and a pinch of metal

Now we hit on my actual, notoriously intense, wishlist on Amazon. Because it is largely about “filling the gaps”, it’s pretty easy to condense some of the time, as will become obvious. It does, however, address those things that one might, perhaps, suspect I would have but be surprised that I don’t. Or, just, you know, completely bafflingly weird stuff you’ve never heard of (there’s at least a little of that).

Tommy Keene!

(Songs from the FilmCrashing the EtherTommy Keene You Hear Me: A Retrospective, 1983-2009Excitement at Your Feet: The Tommy Keene Cover Album)

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ran into Mr. Keene (musically speaking) via a clearance item at Borders back in the day. I was very “Oh, whatever, it’s $1” and realized it was quite good. My interest was fed more and more as I realized associations and lines of respect around his music. The albums noted above are…actually not all-inclusive of the holes in my collection (newer albums I haven’t gotten around to adding, basically), but the first picture (Songs from the Film) I have on vinyl, and it’s significantly out of print so the used price tends to get jacked up. The others are newer, though the third is a retrospective that happens to include some otherwise-unavailable-on-CD tracks, which, if you’ve paid attention to me at all, I love the hell out of finding. The second is an album rapidly approaching its tenth anniversary that I just don’t run across, and the last is a cover album that isn’t that old at all.

Power pop, man.

Alex Chilton!

(Feudalist Tarts/No SexClichesHigh Priest/Black ListBach’s Bottom)

The now-late former frontman of Big Star (and also the Box Tops, but this is my list, so…). Notoriously, unexpectedly, unabashedly weird solo albums (I have the first, Feudalist Tarts, on vinyl). Most of these are out of print and command “new import” prices as a result, particularly in light of his (and his band’s) cult followings. I have compilations of his stuff and some more recent albums, but these are the ones I just don’t see anywhere and am too lazy to order, or don’t see for prices that seem reasonable enough to me. I don’t think there’s a ton of explaining here, hey?

The Church!

(Parallel UniversePangaeaSing-Songs/Remote Luxury/PersiaGold Afternoon Fix [2 Disc])

I knew the Church for the reason most Americans do: “Under the Milky Way”. But a whimsical purchase of their preceding album, Heyday, and I was interested in all the rest, too. Most of their early round of albums were re-released domestically with bonus material, but a falling out I saw waaaaay too clearly thanks to Facebook means that’s unlikely to continue, sadly. Gold Afternoon Fix, as the album to come out after the biggest, Starfish (it has that first-mentioned song on it), I found a plain copy of easily forever ago–but their native lands of Australia had the first (liner note-less) “deluxe” release of it, which is unlikely to appear over here. It, like the EP compilation next to it (Sing-Songs…) are pretty expensive as a result, and certainly rare, hence their absence on my shelves. The other two are not entirely rare, but I simply don’t run across. Being as we have EPs (not only the compilation mentioned, but Pangaea is the EP compantion to the album Untitled #23, which contains the otherwise-exclusive 17-minute EP’s closer on its vinyl release) and a “deluxe” release, this is half about having all the releases, and half about having the releases that are harder to find in the first place, and my affection for those non-album tracks, that take the “deep cut” sense of an album and make it even more extreme.

Big Country – Deluxe-ified!

(SteeltownThe CrossingNo Place Like HomeThe SeerPeace in Our Time)

Okay, so, I already have all of these albums, but, these are expanded, 2-disc deluxe editions. Yes! B-sides! Demos! Alternate versions! Big Country are most famous, of course, for “In a Big Country”, their monster hit of bagpipe-guitars and big drums, almost eponymous and opening their debut (The Crossing), but have an unexpected history of a kind–primary songwriter and bagpipey guitarist, Stuart Adamson, was previously in The Skids (who will appear in one of these eventually, too!), a post-punk band that saw the early bits of Stuart’s guitar sound. Also, it’s a part of my weird Scottish music fetish that has existed for a very, very long time (beginning, no doubt, with Mogwai in the early 2000s).

INXS – Expanded!

(Kick [25th anniversary], X [Expanded], Welcome to Wherever You Are [Expanded])

My love of INXS couldn’t be considered a secret by anyone. Some are still surprised, sure, but I think that’s on them at this point. Frustratingly, they’ve never done a comprehensive or meaningful re-release of most of their material. And there are b-sides for days! My copy of, say, “Every Day But Sunday” (from the 1983 Dance EP) is a pretty terrible vinyl rip. The first two albums (INXS and Underneath The Colours) got a nice re-release (which I have!) but everything after that, from Shabooh Shoobah through Elegantly Wasted has received pretty minimal attention. Kick there is the only one that does what I want: all the b-sides and stuff! And even more! The others have 3-5 (…tops) bonus tracks, and often neglect the unique b-sides, for reasons I can’t fathom. As a result, Kick 25 is pretty overpriced in its 3 CD/1 DVD “Super Deluxe” form, and the other two are pretty bare-bones for expansions. Ho-hum. Maybe one day.
(Probably not, as we approach the end of physical releases faster and faster)

Madness – More Fanciness!

(One Step Beyond7)

I guess it’s just another chunk of my fetishization of just-under-the-biggest pop bands from the late 70s and 80s, being as “Our House”, if nothing else, was nothing short of monstrous, but Madness were pretty well thought of quite beyond that anyway, and I’m curious. Give me–as these are–deluxe editions and my curiosity is not only piqued, but pretty much peaks, too. The second wave of ska I find significantly more listenable than the monotony of most third wave. Deliberate horizon-expansion, this. I have the rest of these re-releases already, actually.

Honourable Mention

(All This Useless Beauty [2-disc], Split Enz – [Various])

Wasn’t sure how else to group these, so, whatever!
This is one of the only not-incredibly-recent Elvis Costello expanded releases I don’t have. I’m honestly not even sure at this point whether it was a “deluxe at time of release” or re-release. I’m obviously not that invested, but I feel like I should complete the set, you know?
Split Enz–ahhh, “Hard Act to Follow”, what a damn fine song. I have a handful of the expanded releases from the box set pictured, and haven’t gotten around to removing it in favour of “whatever is in it that I don’t already have”, so, oops. I have, for the record, Corroboree/WaiataDizrhythmiaConflicting EmotionsMental Notes, See Ya ‘Round and the Rootin’ Tootin’ Luton Tapes. I don’t know what the other five albums are off the top of my head, I’m afraid. Oh well, let’s see: they’re The Beginning of the EnzSecond Thoughts, FrenzyTrue Colours, and Time & Tide.

Weird Branches (or: “Indie Rock”)

(Travis Morrison – Travistan, Perfect – Once, Twice, Three Times a Maybe, Parts & Labor/Tyondai Braxton – Rise, Rise, Rise)

Man, this crap is a lot harder to group.

Travis Morrison is the frontman for The Dismemberment Plan. The Emergency & I (a D-Plan album) is one of my favourite albums. The record he did as/with “The Travis Morrison Hellfighters” is also incredibly good. It seems logical to follow that, right? Right.
Perfect was a brief sideproject of Tommy Stinson. Tommy Stinson, that is, of The Replacements. And of himself, solo. And of Bash and Pop, whose Friday Night Is Killing Me is also one of my favourite albums.
I’ve mentioned Parts & Labor before. I always forget this exists. I stopped looking for stuff from a band on probably-permanent hiatus a while ago, thinking I had everything. Oops? As mentioned: Mapmaker is one of my favourite albums, too.

Whiskeytown Has Obscurities! Kind of!

(Faithless Street (original tracklist), Rural Free Delivery)

Faithless Street was later re-released, some tracks were moved around, dropped, added–the usual nonsense. Ergo, there’s stuff on here I don’t have. Strangers Almanac is one of my favourite albums. More material is welcome. Rural Free Delivery is even earlier, never re-released, and hits that awful spot of rare/obscure/out of print. I saw a copy at Ed Mckay in Raleigh once. They wanted like $35. Blech.

Strange Little Gaps!

(Red Red Meat – There’s a Star Above the Manger Tonight, Luna – LunaThe Best of Luna [UK 2-disc], Ringside – Lost Days, Compound Red – Mr. Microcosm, Minus the Bear – Bands Like It When You Yell “YAR!” at Them, The Dangerous Summer – Reach for the Sun)

This here is a great big bunch of everything.

I stumbled into Red Red Meat when Sub Pop re-released Bunny Gets Paid, and quite liked them. This is the last of their albums.
I last talked about Luna in reference to an upcoming box set of their first half-decade-ish. This EP is the only CD I lack, and that compilation includes–in its UK version–a second disc titled Luna-Fied, which compiles all of their covers, inevitably done in the band’s own style. It works quite well.
Ringside had a great self-titled album I bought on a whim working at Wal-Mart ten years ago. I wanted to get another album from them, they released this one–to CDBaby or some such drivel, where it’s POD. I’ve never seen it in a store as a result, because those don’t go to stores. Dammit.
Compound Red were once produced by J. Robbins. Hint: if you want me to take interest in your band, convince J. to produce your stuff.
I have a boatload of Minus the Bear stuff. I don’t have this EP because it has 2 unique songs, and a demo of one from their debut (and 2 tracks…from their debut). I only ever see it new, and $10 is crazy for that ratio. Sorry, guys! (I also didn’t buy your fancy pre-order of Infinity Overhead because you used TopSpin, and their shipping is fucking ridiculous)
This Dangerous Summer album has the song and art that introduced me to the band. Stupidly, I don’t have this album and have the other and an EP. Search me. I don’t get it either. (Well, really, I just don’t see it in stores)

Japanese Things You’ve Only Heard of Because of Me!

(Bazra – Futosamasu, The Elephant Kashimashi – Sakura No Hana Maiagaru Michi Wo [Deluxe single, version B], Seikatsu)

Bazra I know because…they covered The Elephant Kashimashi (on Hana Otoko, a tribute album, which also introduced me to Husking Bee, Potshot, Straightener…). This is the last release of theirs that I don’t have. They’re super awesome, though.

Sakura no Hana… was the single that told me to stop sleeping on Elekashi releases. It was released in an unlimited, standard single and two limited ones with bonus material. I missed both. I got one for Christmas that year, the other’s been sitting on this list for six years. Its only just gotten pretty reasonably priced (for a Japanese import). Seikatsu I meant to buy and confused myself and bought a second copy of…Ukiyo No Yume, I think it was. Dammit. I still don’t have it, though.

Metal or Otherwise Heavy Stuff!

(Harvey Milk – My Love Is Higher Than Your Assessment of What My Love Could BeThe Pleaser, Behold…The Arctopus – Skullgrid, Kylesa – No Ending / 100º Heat Index)

Harvey Milk are one of the many great Athens bands, but also one that most people probably won’t like much, to be honest. Still, if you’re anything at all like me, read this article of self-review from them, and you’ll probably be interested, too. Strange, heavy, fun, and self-deprecating in the extreme. I have both records on vinyl, but I like my digital copies, especially digital hardcopies.

Behold…The Arctopus is one of my few avant garde indulgences. Weird, technical, and confusing to most ears, I just…like them. The name helps. So does the art. Whatever, I almost bought a copy once, I think, but didn’t. Instead, I have all their other albums. Dumb!

Kylesa–ahh, home to one of the most metal women I can think of, and to the best use of two drummers around. This is a 7″ “converted” to CD (that is, the tracks from it released on CD) with extra stuff! The last CD release from them I don’t have.

There you have it: some insight into what the hell makes me want some of the stuff in my seemingly endless wishlists. Find some neat stuff to listen to, or read. Or do nothing. Whatever.

What’s On My Shopping Radar

I decided on that title, because “My Christmas List, Part 1” has some implications that aren’t what I intend. I just thought it would be neat to break down what I’m eyeing strongly and why¹ to give some insight into the ever-shifting weirdness of my interests.

So, without further ado, here is “Part 1,” also known as, “The Stuff I’d Buy Right Now If I Had the Finances to Allow for It Alongside My Regular Stuff and Intend to Slowly Acquire Anyway, Though They Are Mostly New-Ish Releases”.

(In no particular order)

Shiner – Starless (on white-haze blue vinyl)

($20.00 + shipping)

Oh, come on. Look at it!

Shiner is cool. I meant to see them in Kansas City earlier this year (they’re from there!) but wanted to be social and see the Torche show (I think it was) with folks here (maybe it was the Melvins?). I picked up The Egg (not to be confused with “Egg”, my favourite Alice Donut song, which I think of, because it’s in the catchiest parts of the song) a while ago, and the last, apparently, CD copy of this album they had at the time (it was their display copy!). This is kind of a reflex thing in that respect: a bit of completion, a bit of “nice colour choice!” (I like it when they feel appropriate for the art), and a bit of “This is not a common band, and I want to support this, and it might not be made in enough copies to linger indefinitely.”

Unwound – Empire

($55 + shipping)

The last Unwound set for Numero Group. I have all three of the previous ones (without the bonus discs available only when ordering direct from them that I was unaware of–argh!), and they’re spectacularly well packaged, and have the only Unwound bonus material there is out there (that I know of, at least). This one has the neatest, if I recall, of bonus discs, hence my hesitant stepping away when I’ve seen this in-store. It’s demos instead of a live show (live shows are ranked dead last for bonus material in my book). Completionist, good band, nice packaging (this is a theme, I guess!)

Luna – 92-99

(???)

While this is largely the Luna material that I haven’t developed as strong an affection for (the last two and EP inbetween are up in my top releases ever), this does include The Days of Our Nights, which is in the era I like most (toward the end). That said: RARITIES. EXCLUSIVE RARITIES. I’m always a sucker for those…even if this includes Bewitched, a Luna album I already have on vinyl (curses!). It is, however, as yet un-priced. Terrifying. (also, it’s all fucking white vinyl, but that’s fine, because there’s no other option here).

Baroness – Purple (Deluxe Bundle (3 shipments) + AccessPass)

($125)

It’s the new Baroness album! With all kinds of ridiculousness! This is how I generally buy new releases! This is still a pre-order until 12/15. I’m hopefully going to hop on this soon, as it makes me nervous (most of these things make me nervous, to be honest). I want to get a half-black, half-purple copy to go with my green/yellow copies of Green and Yellow (duh). More shirts? OBVIOUSLY. Extra picture discs, and both CD and LP copies? NATURALLY. (I’m mostly afraid sales will just…end, and I won’t even have the option, you know? I keep trying to find an end-date…probably the release date, yeah?)

Bill Baird – Earth into Aether

(£10.99 CDx2/£19.99 LPx2 + UK shipping, unless the US store is open by then)

It’s Bill Baird! Need I say more?!

Okay, yeah, probably. Bill Baird was one of the minds behind SOUND Team, who are responsible for what is still probably my favourite song (“The Fastest Man Alive”). I’ve collected whatever I can of his material since they imploded and he decided to do whatever the hell he wanted, having tasted the big labels and had the bitterest experience of all. That said, this doesn’t actually come out until August next year. So…this one I’ll probably wait on.

Dan Friel – Life

($13 CD / $16 LP + shipping)

It’s Dan Friel! Need–yeah, yeah, okay.

Dan Friel was one half of the core minds behind Parts & Labor. They did Mapmaker, that album I always tell you was the best release of 2007. I’m just behind here, because I play this stupid game where I pretend local record shops will get in the releases I want to buy (it’s actually 50/50-ish). I don’t order stuff that I (imagine I) can find in a record shop. I’m stupid like that. Friel is wonderfully noisy, yet melodic. The best! (this is basically a new release. that I want. pretty straightforward)

Hammerhead – New Directionz

($20 + shipping)

An ex-AmRep² band releases a new album after years and years! 20/500 copies left on white vinyl! Fuck! I should probably get on this one! (This satisfies my itch for stuff that I both like and is unique, interesting, unexpected, and not common)

Various Artists – Planet Home Series, Vol. 1

(28,00 € + Ger shipping)

Arctic Rodeo Recordings does good stuff. These are an exclusive-track set of 4×7″s, including J. Robbins’s (Jawbox/Burning Airlines/Channels/Office of Future Plans/Producer of shitloads of records I love, including my favourite record) Leatherface and Cop Shoot Cop covers, and some stuff from Matt Pryor (The Get Up Kids/New Amsterdams). And it includes a charitable donation to Terres des Hommes! This is hovering right under my cursor for a purchase. Their stuff sells out pretty regularly.

Steel Pole Bath Tub – Tulip (Green/Yellow Vinyl)

($20 + shipping)

More AmRep² ³! A remaster of a classic (okay, cult) album, on pretty vinyl. Another one where I like finding a record that isn’t the same shit you see in every store, but that I notice anyway because I actually like it. Sure, I like the Beatles and Zeppelin, but it’s not exciting to tell people you have those things, or to pull them out and lovingly caress them and then listen to them. I can’t let this disappear and fully expect to see another show up someday. That’s crazy talk. Once it’s gone, it’s probably just gone.

Die Nerven – Lots of Things!

(€ 14,75 CDs / € 1{5,6},75 LPs)


 

Die Nerven! Sweet German band introduced to me via AmRep²! I have Fun on vinyl, but plan to get it on CD, and both other records in whatever format I can. Out is their new album, and I still haven’t heard their first (Fluidum). Out is a “standard new release” for me, which means it hits “just buy the damned thing”, but I haven’t gotten to it. Otherwise, this is a really unique band, to be able to say, “hey, check out this thing I can almost guarantee no one has mentioned to you, that is really cool.” Enough people are interested in what I recommend that that seems valuable.

Plus, you know, I like them myself, right?

Christian Fitness – I Am Scared of Everything That Isn’t Me & Love Letters in the Age of Steam

( £8 per CD, plus shipping)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andy Falkous of Future of the Left and Mclusky!
That’s enough to do it right there! I literally just found out about these today, but that changes nothing. They do, then, however, fall into basically “new releases and completionism (see: Falkous)

Usagi Yojimbo Saga, Vol. 3-6

(Price varies, but available readily–Amazon, etc)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arrghhh!

These suddenly started coming out faster than I could dole out ~$80 (MSRP) for them. I have 1,2, but 3 and 4 are out, 5 is out in a few weeks, and then 6 comes out next year. JEEZ. They are collected editions, but I’ve been after the series for years. That said: I am, I think, partway through Vol. 1? (it’s actually the second set, so it’s further than that, but nevermind that confusingness). So, while I’m concerned about them hitting OOP status and becoming more expensive, I’m also clearly pretty lazy on these.

And there you have it. The stuff I’m constantly considering buying right now.

There’s also a plastic mannequin head for my Doomtree Duck mask, though. But nevermind that.


¹Though, also, to move on into what’s on my actual wishlists in the world most emphatically, in response to the fact that people find gifts directed at me are colossally difficult and confusing. For a variety of reasons, this often means I don’t like receiving gifts, because I’m not prone to returning them, and then everyone’s uncomfortable. So, basically: this is not a solicitation. I won’t be held responsible if you choose to take it that way. Obviously, using this, you’d theoretically do pretty well for yourself with me and all…but I’m still not asking. Or suggesting. This is basically for my entertainment (as most things I write are).

²That’s “Amphetamine Reptile”, a Minneapolis noise-rock label I’ve developed a strong affection for.

³So, SPBT actually wasn’t directly on AmRep, they were mostly on Boner when they were still super indie–but they were revealed to me via AmRep’s venerable Dope-Guns-‘N’-Fucking in the Streets series. So, it counts.