Considering all the bad shit that happened to Henry H. Owings last year, it's a marvel that the 17th issue of Chunklet came out as nicely as it did. H20, as the kids lovingly refer to him, was literally crapped on in 2002: burglars (I assume they came at night) snatched up $8000 worth of earthly goods, including issue #17, all of Chunklet's contact information, client files, and other stuff you certainly wouldn't want to misplace when running a magazine. Then, for good measure, the thieves left their mark by taking a dump in the very spot at which they broke in.
For more info, visit Chunklet.com.
Yes, things were looking grim for the 17th issue of Chunklet -- but never underestimate the resolve of the human spirit. After selling his Mr. Show book and other merchandise on (shockingly) the Mr. Show tour, H20 got right back to work with the other sardonic Chunklet contributors and produced an impressive piece of art. Sporting a perfect bound spine, a glossy, almost cardboard cover and 162 pages of high quality Canadian-printed, lovely-smelling paper, #17 is clearly designed to take pride of place on a collector's shelf. For a rock and roll hipster rag, however, it's a bit unorthodox: for one thing, you'll find no reviews inside (standard for Chunklet), except the few albums chewed over by Jaded Robot, and for another, the mag doesn't really cover rock and roll. Not in a conventional fashion, anyway...
The cover article, "Pay to Not Play", was complied by H20 and Brian Teasley. It lists a number of bands, divided into categories, all of whom, in Owings and Teasley's opinion, need to cease rocking -- and they're willing to shell out cash to shut 'em up. They've made a pseudo-contract, complete with various stipulations (stop playing for X amount of years, don't form side projects with more than 50 percent of the band, etcetera), which the bands must follow in order to get the money. The list is long (blame emo) and begins to lose some of its original wit and meaning by the end (the last category of bands, after Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze, is Latex, and includes around 260 outfits), but that's a minor complaint given the original thought and effort required to produce such a piece (not to mention Owings and Teasley's assumption of financial risk).
"Pay to Not Play" is the magazine's centerpiece, but there are plenty of other great moments in its 162 pages. I laughed out loud when I read the "Rocktoids", an index of the "goings on in rock music", and the Rock Sniglets, which are "words that should be in the dictionary but aren't". There's also a love letter to Kylie Minogue, written by a facetious yet lovelorn admirer, and the brilliant "My Mad Riddlez" -- randomly wonderfully and bizarre jokes written by a six-and-a-half year-old (I'm sure).
Some articles fall flat -- for example, the AC/DC board meeting in which members of AC/DC sit around a table and decide what songs are going to be on their next album, and the diary of a man watching VH1 for 24 hours (a guy watches VH1 for a day and tells us about it). These pieces simply aren't all that funny or informative compared with the magazine's high points...but not every article can be expected to be a knee-slapper, right?
As I mentioned earlier, Chunklet isn't just a music zine. Issue 17 also features interviews with non-musical or peripherally-musical folks: David Atell, Fred Armisen, Patton Oswalt, Janeane Garofalo, Neal Pollack and Robert Smigel, all comedians with rock-crossover appeal. Most of the interviews are standard Q&A stuff, minus the interviewer conjecture (Pollack interviews himself, so his piece is more fannish than the others). The Garofalo interview is disappointingly short and not particularly interesting; it's not the interviewer's fault, but he salvages the piece with a full page of footnotes that add extra laughs and insight to the interview.
There's only one interview with a full-fledged rock and roll group, and Mission of Burma is that group. Nearly 20 pages are devoted to the pioneering Bostonians; Roger Miller, guitarist and main songwriter, gets the most love, page-wise, but each member gets the spotlight, including latecomer Bob (Shellac) Weston, who handles the live sounds and tape loops. It's an extremely in-depth article, full of history and intelligent question, and could well be the definitive Mission of Burma piece.
Other meaty features this time around include a Mr. Show tour diary and "Ten Steps To Get The Most Out of Your Rock Show Experience". The latter comes complete with a color foldout of rock club safety instructions; they're mostly facetious, but the situations will ring true for anyone who has ever attended a rock show at a local venue. The Mr. Show diary boasts three pages of photos H2O took of former HBO funnymen Cross and Odenkirk and other tour hangers-on, with captions that allow readers to indulge in the ups and downs of the Mr. Show tour experience. Readers who can't get enough of David Cross may also enjoy the four color full-page ad for his Shut Up, You Fucking Baby CD, coincidentally found on the mag's back cover.
Chunklet is one of the three best rock zines you can buy. Issue #17 is one of the best issues Owings et al have done. Go and buy it, or shoplift a copy, and save yourself from looking like a fool at your next indie gathering or church social.
-- Jeffrey Ellinger