Agony Shorthand

Thursday, July 22, 2004
BILL SMOG, TWENTYSOMETHING CUT-UP.....Hey, did you know that Bill Callahan of SMOG fame once had a pretty funny mid-80s fanzine called DISASTER? I came across some back issues of the magazine once put out by this dour & dashing lonelyheart of indie rock infamy, back when he was undercutting acts like Squirrel Bait and Nick Cave with one of the sharpest pens in the drawer. Actually it still reads pretty well, very much in the same jokey but informative vein as Gerard Cosloy’s CONFLICT, minus the direct access to indie rock luminaries and jokes so IN you’re ready to slit your wrists ‘cause you’re so pathetically OUT. At least his early issues, published from home in suburban Maryland, were like this – later on (like 1990’s issue #6) he started including his own fiction and drawings, and the overall tone became a bit more serious and less mocking (oh well). It reminded me of an era when there were a multitude of fanzines taking this sort of Forced Exposure- or Conflict-inspired approach. Every one of them had to have one or two individuals or bands they mercilessly tore apart (for FE, a geek named Robert Nedelkoff and for Conflict, a band called Gut Bank, if memory serves me), and they all wrapped a halo around the same core of bands (Big Black, Sonic Youth, Mission of Burma). Callahan’s DISASTER is no exception but re-reading his shtick this week was a good time. I remember some rumors that he published either an R.E.M.- or a REPLACEMENTS-only fanzine before Disaster, but I never saw the zines in question. Have you?