Agony Shorthand

Monday, November 17, 2003
NOW A FEW WORDS ON “UGLY THINGS”….Last week I finished this year’s edition of UGLY THINGS magazine (#21) after spending a couple of weeks with it – well, “finished” is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. How does one actually finish a massive tome like this, packed with absolutely insane amounts of 60s rock arcana and incidental, meaningless flotsam? I mean, the cover feature on mediocre London-via-Riverside psych band THE MISUNDERSTOOD is 45 pages of tiny type, in which the band’s marginally interesting back story and sub-stories are flogged into painful submission – and it’s only the second of three jumbo cover stories planned on the group. I’d accuse Mike Stax of trying to grab a Pulitzer if that was even plausible. Likewise, the massive reviews section in the back would garner a lot more credibility if it weren’t for the utter lack of subjectively (yes! more subjectivity please!) and unabashed cheerleading for every tinpot reissue of flowery psych/pop turd, Danish beat combo and marginal 60s garage rock outfit. Isn’t at least some of this stuff just absolute shit? – and doesn’t some of it merit, say, a 1-paragraph review as opposed to 7-8 paragraphs of down-to-the-liner-notes scientific dissection? I think Stax does get it at some level – one reviewer makes reference to a dictat from headquarters asking for “less words” in the reviews. I’d say that judging from the boatload of bloated reviews this issue, the memo hit the circular file the second it arrived.

Hey, don’t get me wrong – I eagerly buy UGLY THINGS every time a new issue hits the stands, and strongly encourage you to do the same. No magazine covers its scene this deeply – and in recent years that scene has expanded to raw music from the 70s and 80s (witness the “controversial” CRIME, UNION CARBIDE PRODUCTIONS and MISFITS cover features). There’s always some features that serve the public interest exceptionally well – witness #21’s piece that sorts through the recent mass of ABKCO Rolling Stones reissues. They’ve even stooped to allow famous record collector Johan (“I owe you one”) Kugelberg on the masthead, and at least he does keep things verbally moving along – and covers micro-scenes that no one else does. Why, this issue JK even tackles DANNY & THE DRESSMAKERS and the legend of Fuck Off Records. And he even prints up a list that he just happened to find in a scrapbook – hey, now where’d that come from??!? – of his favorite records in September 1983 – when he was just a mere teen! Not surprisingly, because he’s always been such a groover, he was way into SPK, PERE UBU, TELEVISION and THE POPES – just like all the other kids! I mean, come on. I lay even odds that this list of “favorite 1983 records” was written in, oh, how about 2003?

Anyway, the new UGLY THINGS is out! Go forth and prosper -- $9 of Paypal and clicking here will get you going.