Cats in hats and other dashing attire.
THE HARDY TREE
In The Hardy Tree, Iphgenia Baal deftly “unearths” the history of St Pancras Old Church, through the distraught mind of a then-young architect, poet-to-be Thomas Hardy. Back in 1868, he was commissioned by the bishop of London to supervise the exhumation of bodies in the burial grounds that Great Midland Railways acquired to enter London from the north through King’s Cross. A cheerful job, one imagines. Iphgenia tells his story, combining fact and fiction through newspaper cuttings, headstone epitaphs, correspondence, poetry and illustrations. If you fancy getting to grips with north London on the verge of modernity and seeing it through the eyes of an idealist exhumer, then give this a go.
1981 & +
We made a rule at VICE that if one more photo book on the world’s most cliched subject, the early-80s New York hip-hop scene, was sent in for review, we’d pay a visit to the publishers, lock them in their office, and force them to listen to “Rapper’s Delight” on a loop at full volume until they apologised and pulped the lot. Luckily for Parisian imprint 12Mail, we won’t be heading to France because 1981 & + is a cut above the usual graf-and-sneakers guff. This is chiefly because French snapper Sophie Bramly seems to have immersed herself in the city’s nascent rap scene and won the trust of local characters who gave her access to intimate and candid situations, such as a young Afrika Islam (pictured in his bedroom, pet tarantulas just out of shot) and DSt and Double Trouble, both shot at home. There are also rarely seen snaps of Rick Rubin, Beastie Boys, Futura, Grandmaster Flash, Fab 5 Freddy, Keith Haring, Lisa Lee and more, all in the flush of youth. You get the feeling that Bramly, whose photos are good but not earth-shattering, just happened to be in the right place at the right time, which of course is often how the best images are captured. Just 500 of these have been printed, so treat a purchase as an investment.
Ragnar Persson draws all the time. Especially when he’s doing other stuff, like watching films or eating dinner or speaking on the phone. Whenever he doesn’t have a pen in his hands he starts shaking and twitching and looking nervous. That’s why he’s so productive and has managed to put out several publications since we featured Feel the Darkness last year. Sleeping Village is an A5-size collection of new, meticulously detailed pencil and ballpoint drawings, with a small black and white photo zine inserted into it. It embodies his reflections on growing up in a small town in the far north of Sweden: walking empty roads, looking over picket fences to get a glimpse of other people’s lives, smoking cigarettes and drinking moonshine at bus stops, or spending time in the forest, dreaming away.
HOW TO DISAPPEAR
Back in the 2009 Fiction Issue, we spoke to Duncan Fallowell, novelist, traveller, rock critic and the guy who nearly replaced Damo Suzuki as Can’s frontman in 1973. His new book is part memoir, part travelogue covering some of his many wanderings, from 70s India in a psychedelic haze to the Scottish Isle of Eigg on the hunt for a non-existent German conceptual artist obsessed with “fire-energy”. Designed by Nazareno Crea and printed and published by Ditto Press, this book is about as strange and hypnotic as you would expect from a man of Fallowell’s experiences, which are varied to say the least.
TAKE A JOKE
Given that Angry Youth Comix is always amazing, the idea of a compendium of its best bits is pretty much heaven for anyone fond of comics about dicks, tits, shit, sex, violence, animals, killing animals, killing tits, or shitting sex. Featuring many of Johnny’s most adored characters such as Sinus O’Gynus and Loady McGee, Take a Joke sees them visit hell, have sex with condiments, and all the other vile shit you would expect. If you aren’t sure if Johnny Ryan’s brand of humour is for you then click here and see for yourself.
Unless this is the first time you have picked up the magazine, and you have never watched VBS.TV before, you should be aware of The Cute Show and its papery equivalent, the Cute Show Page. Well, back in 2009, The Cute Show featured one Takako Iwasa and her amazing cat-specific clothing line. Takako is pretty much the Karl Lagerfeld of the cat world. Her two feline supermodel muses are the adorable Princess Prin and dashing Prince Kotaro, whom she bedecks with wondrous costumes throughout the book: elegant tuxedos, lace veils, flowered paw bracelets, wool capes with matching hats, and much more. It’s the cutest book of the cutest cats wearing the cutest outfits ever.
Expensively printed collection of tedious and pretentious photographs that anybody who’s got a spare five minutes to browse Flickr could put together themselves. Because we didn’t write back to them thanking us for sending it to us, they wrote me an email calling me a “nigga” and then said “it’s better than all the other trendy fucking faggot dick sucking shit you get through the door”. The last statement is ironic because I’d say that this is the EPITOME of all the “trendy fucking faggot dick sucking shit” we get sent. In fact, it’s the WORST “trendy fucking faggot dick sucking shit” I’ve ever been sent. Thanks lads. Better luck next time!
ONT ROAD #16 / GO FUCK YOURSELF #2
A travel-writing/tour diary/Leeds-based punk zine made by some kids who love drinking coffee and journeying all over the world in vans that smell of petrol and cheese pasties. There are a lot of kids masquerading as well-travelled punk rockers these days but this feels like the people who wrote the pieces have actually been somewhere and remembered stuff about meeting new people beyond just following them on Twitter. What’s more, there isn’t a single photo of somebody’s girlfriend wearing a Black Flag shirt while obviously not really being into it all that much.
Copies £1.50 post paid to Ont Road Zine, 14 Hessle Mount, Leeds, LS6 1EP. Paypal to:
When I was 11 or 12, I’d spend hours on forums and ridiculous fan sites trying to track down the email addresses of various authors, who I believed deserved my personal glowing reviews of their works. They HAD to know first-hand the affinity I felt with the central characters and hear my advice about how not to succumb to the pressure to make a movie adaptation of their masterpiece. No one ever replied. Skip forward eight years, and I find myself similarly compelled to reach out to Ben Brooks, 19-year-old author of Grow Up, who, within the first half-hour of his witty commentary on late-teenhood, transports the reader to a suburban family home, doing ketamine and listening to Die Antwoord. Every other line of Grow Up is a hilarious pop-culture reference, or a thought you’ve definitely once had. This deserves a cult following, for which I will most definitely be running the fan Tumblr.
METALION: THE SLAYER MAG DIARIES
Metalion chronicles not just each individual issue of Slayer Mag throughout its 25-year existence, but also the life of zinemaker Jon “Metalion” Kristiansen. Growing up in the small town of Sarpsborg, Norway, Kristiansen began listening to heavy metal in the early 80s via his brother’s record collection, but quickly discovered the underground metal of bands like Bathory and Hellhammer and in 1985 started the zine which would go on to be one of the most important pieces of writing documenting the metal underground and its often shocking circle. This was of course a time before the internet, where if you wanted to hear something it wasn’t a click away. Enter tape trading, which Kristiansen says changed his life. It was this obsession with the worldwide underground metal collective, sending tapes and interviews back and forth across the globe, that got the zine up and running, and it wasn’t long before he met two young chaps from a nearby town who had a band called Mayhem. They turned out to be none other than Necrobutcher and Euronymous and they got their first bit of exposure in Slayer Mag. Both would later go on to write themselves into metal folklore for other genre-defining and grisly reasons, such as church-burning and murder.
Kristiansen became a pivotal figure in the Norwegian metal scene, but the sinister events that came to define the genre in the early 90s meant that he was soon a pariah in his home town, where locals brandished him a church-burning Satanist on account of his connection to the “black metal mafia”. There are interviews with every decent metal band ever through each issue and there’s even time for features on a few other not-quite-metal bands such as Faith No More and Marilyn Manson. It’s laid out in the style of a zine with cut-out blocks of text decorated with gore-themed borders and even has its own cartoon character. Roughly the size and weight of a large dictionary, it is, in short, the definitive guide to the underground metal scenes of the 80s, 90s and beyond. Metalion is essential reading for anyone interested in pieces of wood with six strings played by men with long hair.