We have a rule at Splendid, requiring writers to actually listen to/read/watch or otherwise fully "consume" whatever it is they're reviewing, the better to provide intelligent and informed coverage. Every once in a while, this rule turns around and bites us in the ass, usually in the form of some lovely, thick, cool-looking zine that, while lovely, thick and cool-looking, must actually be read. And in relatively short order, at that.|
Well, kids, I'm here to tell you that I took my sweet-ass time on this one. I've had this issue of Chunklet for something like two and a half months. It's been in the office since well before Christmas, during which time it moved from bedside to coffee table to desktop to briefcase to office (a bad idea) -- and finally to the smallest room in the house (metaphorically speaking, as the smallest room in my house is actually the kitchen, by a few square inches). Given the roll of toilet paper on its cover, it's no surprise that Chunklet should function most effectively in the Valhalla of short-term reading matter. And after something like sixty days, I've worked my way through Chunklet, fifteen minutes at a time. I even went out for Mexican last night so as to make certain we'd get the review in before March.
So...you're probably expecting me to go article by article through the entire 180 pages, aren't you? Well, screw that noise. There are so many little articles and goofy sidebar pieces in this sucker that simply attempting to compile an accurate table of contents would drive the average human mad to the sort of mouth-foaming extent usually associated with H.P. Lovecraft stories. Suffice it to say that if you like amusing, wry, snide, downright cruel or otherwise chuckle-inducing articles about the usual pop-cultural topics (music, bands, TV, films, comics, etc.), you'll be happy here. How many magazines could slip an interview with anti-comic Neil Hamburger, a set of "rock fashion" paper dolls and an overview of Andy Kaufman's TV appearances into the same issue? Okay, some could, but how many could make it seem logical? Only Chunklet.
But this is a review, isn't it? So I need to pass judgement on a representative sample of Chunklet's articles, so as to convey the magazine's relative worthiness. Fine. Chunklet is known for its no-holds-barred nastiness -- or rather, honesty -- and this issue's cover story, "The Shit List", is a perfect example. "The Shit List" is a lengthy enumeration of the worst live bands ever, as compiled by the Chunklet staff. As with any list compiled by a committee, "The Shit List" veers wildly across the landscape and occasionally contradicts itself, but offers straightforward and honest entertainment, along with a few nasty barbs. In addition to taking obvious shots -- are you really surprised to hear that New Order, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, Nashville Pussy or Of Montreal are on the list? Or that it includes "emo bands (all of 'em)"? -- "The Shit List" goes after a few sacred cows, including the Palace Brothers, the Fall and, much to my own joy, the entire Drag City roster. If only they hadn't stopped there. I'd love to have seen Sleater-Kinney or Fugazi taken down a peg or two...but then again, they aren't known for bad live shows.
Andrew Earles' survey of the justifiably neglected novelty rap genre is frighteningly thorough -- although it pales in comparison to Jason Dove's Andy Kaufman article and its sidebars. "Spot the Crotch" (which, as its title vaguely implies, challenges the reader to match 45 rockers with 45 photographs cropped to show only their...ahem...temperate regions) will spur homoerotic fears and remove Joan Jett from your mental "sex object" list forever. And Geoffrey Cummins' interview with Neil Hamburger, while it's really just an excuse for three pages of Hamburger non-stick schtick, will either tide you over 'til Neil's next album, or convince you not to buy it.
One of Chunklet's high points is Fred Weaver's account of Don Caballero's final tour. Weaver, who toured with Don Cab as a combination tour manager/opening act/merch guy during October, November and December of 2000, pulls no punches; Damon, Eric and Ian come off, to varying degrees, as utter assholes. This makes for awkward and uncomfortable, but undeniably fascinating, reading (I actually read Matt O'Keefe's roadie novel, You Think You Hear, at the same time as this, which made it even more surreal). Weaver might not always know where to put his apostrophes, but his account of the tour -- particularly a disastrous show at the Middle East -- is dead on. The final few pages, which deal with the spectacular highway accident that truly ended Don Caballero, are some of the most gripping material I've ever read, and I'm impressed that Weaver can write about the experience, even now -- let alone skillfully build a sense of impending doom throughout the article, leading to its dramatic ending.
Rather than attempt to describe more of the magazine, I'll simply point out that Chunklet costs US$6.95, and the "Shit List" and Don Cab articles alone are worth that. As for the rest of the material...well, it's not always as funny as the writers would like to believe, but the majority of it is well above average. $6.95 for 180 pages works out to something like four cents a page; yes, there are ads on some of those pages, but even some of the ads provide four cents worth of entertainment. So shut up, buy a Chunklet, stash it in the khazi and let the good times roll.
-- George Zahora