A chord is worth a thousand words

The other day, Paste contributor Shane Danaher posted a list called “Five Fictional Bands of Dubious Quality”. It’s a fine list. It’s a strong list that comes from literary stock and bears the names of George R.R. Martin and Thomas Pynchon. I have no gripes or internet beef with Shane’s list.

What I do have are a few more names to toss into the mix. Or add to the rotation. I guess any old music pun will work here.

1. Love Will Tear Us Apart by Tara McCarthy
Released in 2005 and named for Joy Division’s most popular, and least depressing song, Love Will Tear Us Apart features the pop duo Flora and Fauna Sparks. At seventeen, they’re not only the nation’s latest sensation, but conjoined twins as well. One of whom is looking to start a solo career. There was, for a bit, a recorded of the song that appeared on the author’s website to increase the experience.

2. Soul Music by Terry Pratchett
For those unfamiliar with the Discworld series, Book 16 deals with the fallout from the introduction of a magic guitar in a fantasy realm. As a result “music with rocks in it” is born. The trend sweeps through the street of Ankh-Morpork and numerous bands, all of which are apparently horrendous, are born. Pratchett gives each one its own sound and pun name: &U, The Whom, and (my favorite) The Surreptitious Fabric. Despite the protagonist being named Imp Y Celyn (Bud of the Holly), his band is the one I was least interested in reading about.

3. Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar
In Martin Millar’s tale of teenage werewolf angst, sisters Butix and Delix make up the werewolf punk band Yum Yum Sugary Snacks. Both Butix and Delix spend way too much time drinking whiskey and lounging around their apartment to make much of themselves, but any band whose first gig turns into a riot shouldn’t be missed.

4. Spider Kiss by Harlan Ellison
Stag Preston is an amalgamation of Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley. He’s a countryfied bastard with pipes of gold and the heart of every teenage girl across the world. More sinister than even Andy Griffith’s portrayal of the fictional Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, Stag bites into the heart of Rock’n’Roll and drains it of every drop. It’s the only work of fiction in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

5. Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson
The book that predicted, with frightening accuracy, today’s internet world, also gave us aspiring rapper Sushi-K. Sure, it ain’t rock ‘n’ roll, and Stephenson even gets a bit silly with the remedial lyrics, but I’d sure as hell love to see that concert.

I understand the point of this is to find examples from literature, but I thought I’d toss in a few from some of my favorite comics as well.

Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
Arse Face. A nameless kid so influenced by Kurt Cobain and so abused by his father that, upon hearing of Cobain’s death, he tries to blow his own brains out. He fails becoming Arseface. After suffering at life’s cruel twist, a ray of light shines in the form of The Sergeant and a rock god is born.

Love and Rockets by Jamie Hernandez
An entire issue is spent tracking down the new Ape Sex album. As a reader and avid record collector, I still have dreams that the album exists.

Episode 36 – Harlan Ellison’s The Glass Teat


Way back in Episode 7 I started to create soundtracks from the collected volumes of Harlan Ellison.

The first two went off without a hitch. When it came time for the third installment I balked. I couldn’t find the right songs in the right order. It just failed to work, so I tossed it aside an moved on.

When I reviewed Hard Case Crime’s reprint of Web of the City, I felt that itch. The one in at the base of my brain that constantly rubs when I leave a project incomplete. So I dug down deep, reread The Glass Teat and produced this: One of my favorite episodes to date. Yeah, I’ve used some of the sound clips before. Sue me (not you, Harlan, this is simply to work of a fan). As I mentioned before on other episodes, the parts that are Harlan speaking can be found at Deep Shag Records (vol. 1 – 3 are especially mesmerizing) except for the bit from “Welcome to the Gulag”. Harlan’s fiery words become incendiary when spoken.

Enjoy the show and Rage Well,

Production Notes:

Some people have asked for a look into the process and the hows and whys song are chosen. Since I tend to write notes anyway, I’ve decided to start typing them up for each podcast.

I Hate the TV – Violent Femmes
I pulled the Violent Femmes from my Fan Service 80’s podcast in exchange for this one. I’ve been battleing with The Glass Teat podcast for a year now. I originally said it would be out last summer, but I never found the right mix. My worry with this track is that it is too obvious, but the line “I hate the president” (which was a Reagan line) only hit me when I remembered that it was Reagan who put Harlan on a rabble-rouser list with poets and artists alike.

Old Square Eyes – The Mobbs
This one made the very first set list. I particularly love the lines which focus on the computer and playstation. Harlan’s last word on the subject of The Glass Teat, an audio recording called “Welcome to the Gulag”, turns the argument toward our dependence from TV to the zombie-esq allure of our phones and other devices. It is a trap: A dangerous one which tricks us into believing that we are living life simply because we take an instagram of it.

TV Screen – Thee Spivs
“What are you watching?” seems to be, in my life at least, the grown-up equivalent of the teenage “Who are you listening to? The image of wanting to punch out your eyes from the back of your head makes me chuckle constantly.

TV Soup – The Singing Loins
“Let’s watch someone else’s revolution…” and the passivity of action versus inaction.

Colour Television  – Eddie Currant Suppression Ring
ECSR gives a Velvet Underground-esq attack on the propaganda we see on the ole boy. I like to think that the drone in this song is the white noise of TV and the ‘million hypnotized’. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be half way through a show with not clear idea of what I’ve seen. I get lost in the drone and lose the thread of the story.

Read more

The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes

The Shining Girls
Lauren Beukes
Mulholland Books
Release Date: June 4, 2013


“Suffer you words, suffer your eyes, suffer your hands
Suffer your interpretation of what it is to be a man
I’ve got some skin
You want to look in”
Suggestions, Fugazi


For some it’s where the heart is. For others it’s where they hang their hat. And it has been said there is no place like it. But for Harper Curtis home is a decade-jumping abode demanding he pay rent by eliminating ‘The Shining Girls’. Curtis is a vile remorseless killer whose serpentine sense of self is akin to killer HH Holmes.

Kirby Mizrachi, the only survivor of Curtis’ time traveling murder spree, refuses to be anyone’s victim. Caustic and quick-witted, it is easy to immediately empathize with Kirby. Armed with keen intellect and a position as newspaper intern, she begins the hunt for her attacker.

The Shining Girls isn’t just a ‘clever’ sci-fi time traveler tale to be tossed away. Wrapped within author Lauren Beukes’ captivating prose is a look at the true horror of violence against women. The shining girls Curtis hunts are women whose potential as reformers, doctors, and history-makers literally make them shimmer with power. These powerful women are threats to both the House and to the misogynistic Curtis who feels compelled to erase them from history.

This is Beukes’ third novel and it is right at home amidst the speculative fiction of Margret Atwood and Harlan Ellison. The science doesn’t receive much explanation and folks looking for time-travel rationale will have to contend themselves with ‘just because’ and ‘it has something to do with making historical circles’. Here, time travel becomes allegorical as Bukes uses it to take us through decades of women being erased through history: The Shining Girls is about a survivor coming to terms with living and giving voice to those who were not as fortunate.

The most impressive part of The Shining Girls is the subplot structuring Kirby’s tutelage as an investigative journalist. Here we see what makes her character shine. The moments where Kirby pours through news clippings, finds a spot in the boy’s club of sports reporting, and asks victims for their stories prove to be the most compelling and create a blanket of realism that give Beukes’ the freedom to leave more sci-fi aspects dangling. Kirby is bold and sarcastic without ever making her feel like a caricature.

The speculative fiction of The Shining Girls is a refreshing alternative to the market of sci-fi trilogies fighting for space on a summer reading list. Beukes prose is vibrant and compelling. The premise is brutal and unsettling. The novel may not provide any answers, but like good journalism its job is to enlighten and provide voice to the voiceless.

Lauren Buekes Homepage / The Shining Girls Official Page

Read a free excerpt of Chapter One

Harlan Ellison – Web of the City

Cover by Leo and Diane Dillon

Web of the City
Harlan Ellison
Hard Case Crime

But listen boys and girls
You need not be blue
And life is what you make of it
It all depends on you”
– Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers

”They said all teenagers scare the living shit out of me
They could care less as long as someone’ll bleed
So darken your clothes or strike a violent pose
Maybe they’ll leave you alone, but not me.”
– My Chemical Romance

Barcley Shaw Cover

Rusty Santoro, ex-president of the Cougars, is having it rough. Real rough.

His shop teacher has been helping him break free of his gang. He is one strike from prison. His sister has joined the Cougars as a female auxiliary member. He is friendless. His father is a drunk and his mother desperately trying to keep it together. Of course all of this is nothing when compared to the fact that the new president of the Cougars wants him gutted.

Web of the City, originally published in 1958, outlives its slightly dated version of New York delivering one of the most frightening depictions of post-war teenage life ever recorded. Of course it should. First, it is written by Harlan Ellison; A man who pulls no punches and for whom literacy mercy doesn’t exist. Second, it is culled from the ten weeks he spent as ’Cheech’ Beldone in New York’s Barons. The prose is gritty, remorseless, and yanks the stints from the heart of darkness.

For those whose knowledge of 1950’s youth culture is Happy Days, Web of the City will rip your eyelids open and force you to see why and how teenagers were America’s biggest fear in the years following World War II. But there is also an honest feeling of frustration and angst as we watch Santoro fight to stay on the right side of law. Like watching someone dig on the beach, every time Santoro makes headway the walls cave in trapping him with no way out.

Hard Case has done an amazing job repackaging Web of the City with three additional tales of violence and dread. These alone are worth Ellisonphiles adding another copy to their collection as the men’s magazines they came from are either impossible to find or secured by collectors in steel strongboxes.

Glen Orbik Cover

Additionally, when I started this site, I released two podcasts highlighting Ellison’s career.

Volume 1 –


Volume 2 –  


Next month I will be releasing   the third installment: The Glass Teat – based on Harlan’s columns about television.

Panels and Troughs – November Previews

(W/A/CA) Paul Pope
 ONE TRICK RIP-OFF/DEEP-CUTS is 288 pages of raw power, of which over 150 pages are comprised of new, rare, and never before seen stories created during POPE’s time traveling the world in the ’90s.

In this first volume of Brian Wood’s new, sprawling postapocalyptic epic, follow the crew of the Kapital from the flooded remnants of Hong Kong to Unalaska, with stops in Antarctica and Mogadishu, as post-Crash ethics and economics are explored across a broken world. Collecting issues #1–#6 of the series, plus three eight page stories fromDark Horse Presents.

Hellblazer #299
DC can suck on rotten eggs. This was the last bastion of tough that the swill drinking company had in them…and it all ends at #300. In part 2 of “Death and Cigarettes,” it’s the funeral to end all funerals! Epiphany finds herself alone, in basic black, mourning the loss of her husband, urban occultist John Constantine.

Goths Rejoice! The Death statue from DC’s Cover Girl Series is here.

Legend of Luther Strode 2 of 6  Image Comics

Rebellion/2000AD went ‘sexy’ on the cover of the American Edition, but the stories are still way more psychedelic and violent than most other books out there…

Yeah, like you could possibly resist that awesomeness that is Frank Frazzetta’s Comet…Go ahead and try…I’ll wait.

Hate life? Despise intelligence? Think that a 4th grade reading level is something to envy…at 23? This is the book for you! Shame on you Paul Jenkins…I hope they drove a cement mixer out of cash to your house or got a relative out of a gulag for you.

Harlan Ellison is the only authority I recognize…


I also need to stop picking my comics two months in advance while under a few drinks in…

Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison may have wished these tales of delinquency and debauchery to remain in the decaying yellow pages of men’s magazines, but I’ll be damned if they aren’t some of the most brutal pieces of fiction I’ve read in a while. Written over half a century ago, these stories aged like nitroglycerin; explosive, dangerous, and unstable at best.

Unlike contemporary shock and awe fiction, Ellison’s strength rests in the fact that he assumes his readers are smarter than the slack jawed troglodytes just learning to stand straight and impressed they can count without their fingers.  The violence and the discomfort in these volumes is as subtle as a shark attack: just below the surface of each line razor sharp jaws will strip your flesh to the bone before you even realize you’ve been bit. Even as a fledgling writer he was that good.

Props go to Kicks Books, distributed through Norton Records, for pulling together such an amazing collection. Together the front covers make a special tribute to previous cover artists (for the story click here) and the back covers work together to show a young street-tough Ellison and his older, tougher self. This is the type of unified precision I would expect from a company that honors America’s decadent past with style and sophistication. Yes, even the pulp has value.

Coming up in 2013, Hard Case Crime will release Web of the City, another one of Ellison’s juvenile delinquent novels and, although I do love Ardai’s commitment to pulp, I wish Kicks had been able to make it a threesome.

Incidentally, with Hurricane Sandy ravaging New York, Norton records needs your help. If you live in the area and can lend a hand go here.

Review – The Stumblebums

The Stumblebums – Fuck You, Lady Gaga

Their web site boasts that the Stumblebums are “the brass band that no one wants parading down their street”, I beg to differ. If more brass bands sounded like this then kids across the country would be lining up for Louis Prima and Louis Armstrong reissues on Record Store Day rather than reinventing pop tunes from the 1980’s.

Musically, the Stumblebums are like no other punk band around. Consisting of drum, trumpet, and tuba. they write songs to invigorate, offend, and stomp to. Don’t be mistaken, though, these aren’t three guys ironically playing out of key and purposely butchering songs, they are amazingly talented artists with extrememly foul mouths. These are the kids who sat at the back of the bus on band trips looking at nudie magazines they purchased from a bum on the school trip to New York. And with their album cover being both a recreation of Albert King’s Born Under a Bad Sign cover and a swipe at Lady Gaga’s lack of originality, they are keenly aware of what they are doing.

They’re putting the middle finger back in punk.

…and the Onion A.V. Club has a starting point for potential Harlan Ellison readers.

Episode 11 – Julia Child

Bibliodiscoteque - B&W

This month’s podcast is dedicated to the lovely and beautiful Miss Hannah Tess.  Before I met her I ate like a man alone. I existed on a steady diet of pizza, coca-cola, coffee, and whatever was prepared at the local grocery. In fact, I ate so much pizza that the first night I ordered in with Hannah, my local pizza provider screamed to the cooks that I must have woman over.

In the three years since we have been together, I have shed 30 lb of bachelor weight, quit smoking, and learned to eat healthier. This month is a celebration of Hannah’s cooking, the great times we have while working our magic in the kitchen, dancing with knives in our hands, and her birthday.

This episode, centered around Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, is more than what it appears. It is a celebration of the fun and art of cooking. Each track can be hummed while doing some mis en place, heating up that skillet, and, if you cook with me, toweling the smoke away and removing the battery from the smoke detector.


Next Month – Part II of Harlan Ellison

Setlist Episode 11 – Julia Child

Red Hot – Billy Lee Riley
Switchen’ in the kitchen – Don Covay
Wasn’t That Good – Wynonie Harris
Soul Food – The American Four
Birthday Cake Boogie – Skeets McDonald & Benny Walker
Sugar Mama – Pee Wee Hughes
Ain’t Got Nobody To Grind My Coffee – Clara Smith
Cook Good Salad – Little Pink Anderson
Anyone Here Want To Buy Cabbage – Champion Jack Dupree
Too Much Pork For Just One Fork – Southern Culture on the Skids
Keep My Skillet – Those Darlins
I Wanna Eat Chocobars – Shonen Knife
Beans And Corn Bread – Louis Jordan
Shortnin’ Bread – Kay Cee Jones
Shortnin’ Bread – The Cramps
I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine – DiMaggio Bros.
Grinnin’ In Your Face – Son House
Crawfish – Elvis Presley
Pancake – The Panasonics
Garlic Bread – Gary & Larry
I Want Cake – Los Straitjackets
Jumbalaya – Professor Longhair
Nighttime Is The Right Time – The Allnight Workers

Episode 7 – Harlan Ellison


There are two camps where Harlan Ellison is concerned: Love him or hate him.   I know of no one on the planet who says “Love the man, but hate his books” or “Love the books hate the man.” Somehow he and his work have merged into one creature with many bodies.

This is not to imply that Harlan and his work are exactly interchangeable, it is just that they both pulse with such intensity one would be better served stopping a bear attack with hugs and gentle words.

I can only assume that this intensity, and  low bull-shit factor, is why the students in my high school classes voraciously attack his work. To be honest, I have to send them on web-quests to get most of the (for them) out-dated allusions but the core of the piece burns like a million roman candles and they can’t look away. They refuse to side glance his fiction, or cover the truth with their hands. Some even burn their retinas staring too long at the page. This is what the written word must do. It must frighten us into action, push us to accept the truth, burn the shadows of bigotry and prejudice, and illuminate us in our time of need.

And we, my friends we need so badly.

Rage well, my friends.

For more information on Harlan Ellison or his recordings –

Harlan Ellison

Deep Shag Records

Dreams with Sharp Teeth Film

Set List: Episode 7 – Harlan Ellison

Introduction: Caveat Ellison – On The Road With Ellison Vol. 1
Think – The 5 Royales
Think About It – Powersolo
Juvenile Delinquent – Ronnie Allen
Juvenile Deliquent – The Monsters
Go Slow Fatso – Bobby Rutledge
Bumble Bee – Big Mama Thornton
Wishing He Was Dead – The Like
Back Off My Baby – Catfight!Catfight!
Rumble In The City – Astrolites
Rumble –  Jack Nitzsche
I Walk My Murderous Intentions Home – King Automatic
Tangled Web – Arsen Roulette
Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White – The Pretty Things
Prison Bound  – Social Distortion
Riot In Cell Block No.9 – Ron & Joe And The Crew
Innocent – The Peacocks
Free Man In The Morning – Andy Griffith
The Man Who Counts (Album) – JackRabbit Slim
I’m A Poor Boy – Joe Hill Louis
I Played The Game – The Cobra-Matics
Goin’ Back To The City – Onie Wheeler
bop-a-lena – Ronnie Self
It’ll Be Me – Jerry Lee Lewis