Book Review: Frame of Mind By Antonia Tricarico

Frame of Mind collects the photography of Antonia Tricarico into a concise volume that serves as both a celebration of her work and an overview of twenty years of punk rock. Subtitled Punk Photos and Essays From Washington, D.C., And Beyond 1997-2017, Frame of Mind documents her journey as an artist from her arrival from Rome to Washington D.C. in 1997 where she spent many hours capturing the underbelly of the D.C. punk scene, as well as of defiant essence of that time.

On stage, in dressing rooms or hanging out in packed sweaty bars, her camera captured glimpses of Fugazi, Lungfish, The Make-Up and Deep Lust along with Sleater-Kinney, The Gossip, Patti Smith, Mary Timony, Jello Biafra and Bratmobile among others. Female centric in subject matter Tricarico’s camera has captured not only the D.C. Punk scene but also the highly influential Riot girl movement of the time. There’s also a lot of Fugazi, a pioneering band whose fingerprints remain smudged all over the terrain of contemporary punk and and indie music.

Using 200 pictures taken from a variety of venues including New York, Rome and Washington D.C., Tricarico has not only preserved this musical era for the visual record, she has captured it’s very heart and soul. Working largely in black and white, her photos capture bands at work, play, hanging out, and most importantly onstage. Collected together they give readers a look at the microcosm of punk influenced music of the late 1990s.

Tricarico’s passionate introduction about falling in love with the music she chronicled is accompanied by fourteen essays from ladies whose take no prisoners music including Natalie Avery of Fire Party, Amanda Huron of Puff Pieces and others.

Rock pioneer Joan Jett writes about how music was her passion at early age. Recounting how she asked her parents for an electric guitar for Christmas. Jett also talks about how, for her music led to way to do things on her own terms. Spelling things out, Jett is candid about her passion for music while also serving notice that more and women are making rock music.

In her essay Trophy Wife’s Katy Otto admits how the burgeoning D.C. punk community made her the person she is today. In addition t shaping her musical taste the scene helped her forge relationships, organize her life and get the gumption to help launch her own label, Exotic Fever Records

Known for her work in The Evens, Mr. Candy Eater Lois, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, drummer Amy Furina, along with her husband Ian MacKaye, helped shape the D.C. punk sound. In her contribution, Farina reveals how her world was opened to art and music, allowing her to channel her activism and creativity. for her, words and music are essential forms of communication.

In addition to featuring photographs of a cross section of bands, the book brings the dynamic work of Antonia Tricarico front and center. In addition to her work as a music photographer Tricarico has been featured in several exhibitions and served as an archivist for the Pulitzer Prize winning Lucian Perkins of the Washington Post. Her work has also been collected in the private collection of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History as well as the Special Collections Division of the District of Columbia Public Library’s, Punk and Go Go music archive.

Rough and raw, this comprehensive anthology of Antonia Tricarico’s pictures not only accentuates her work in bringing the D.C. punk scene to the masses but also serves as a clarion call to discover these voices from the underground, particularly women, who have changed music with ferocious vigor, aggressive rage and independent spirit.

Frame of Mind is published by Akashic Books.

 

Book Review: “Dreaming The Beatles: The Love Story Of One Band And The Whole World” By Rob Sheffield

Dreaming the Beatles finds Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield delving into the cultural impact and musical terrain of the Fab Four. His timing is perfect as his book arrives just in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The world they helped create is forever wrapped nostalgia and  academic scrutiny as fans, writers, critics and bloggers scramble to comprehend and reexamine the band’s legacy and ongoing popularity. In fact, Sheffield embraces all of this noise by sifting through the detritus of distorted facts, myths and legends sparked from the obsessive worldwide phenomena surrounding them.

This may seem like a daunting and thankless task, but Sheffield (who previously authored Love is A Mixtape and Talking To Girls About Duran Duran) eschews the cumbersome by chronicling the band’s worldwide ascent to cultural longevity and boils it down into 35 crisp essays covering various albums, moments, and singles that define who The Beatles were and why they still matter.

As a starter Sheffield cleverly uses the moment in 1957 when John met Paul as a template for explaining the complex relationship between Lennon and McCartney. As he cites, their distinctively different personalities and domestic backgrounds oftentimes exacerbated their quarrels. This yin and yang relationship, although volatile at times, was deeply rooted in a genuine affection between the two, something which Sheffield goes back to repeatedly as a context for their measuring their creative output.

Sheffield also digs into how their music was created musically and philosophically, recognizing that The Beatles never shied away from trying ‘difficult things’ that challenged them as artists. For him The Beatles changed the rules of pop music composition while also taking frequent walks off the plank with their adventurous album production. All of this makes for a fascinating study of how the band absorbed their influences, chewed them up and then siphoned them into their music.

He also adeptly grapples with the multifaceted George Harrison and his influence on the band. Exotic, profound and mystical, Harrison’s contributions have often been unnoticed, which is tragic because his genius helped The Beatles create some of the most intriguing sounds. Labeled as ‘the quiet’ Beatle, we discover Harrison lead a rather lonely existence within the band, which may be partially responsible for the melancholic songs he wrote and sang.

Then there is Ringo. So often dismissed for his adept drumming, he is restored to his proper place in the band and freed from his of comedic confines as the ‘silly’ one. Despite his larger than life presence, Starr could handle the sticks and carry a catchy melody while simultaneously providing a musical anchor with his rhythms and beats which were often offset with his quirky humor. As readers learn, he must have done something right because he married a Bond girl; worked as an actor and director in film; and designed his own furniture line.

Detailing the making of each of their records and how they harnessed a cornucopia of influences into an evolving and progressive sound, Dreaming The Beatles is loaded with interesting bits and pieces about this process. For example, there’s the brilliance of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the critical lovefest for The White Album and the nagging tension surrounding Let it Be and the mess Capitol Records made of the American release of Revolver. 

There also are lots of insightful moments, like the intriguing story of how Paul played drums on Dear Prudence, because Ringo quit. His walkout lasted only two weeks, but it was enough to rattle the remaining three Beatles and plant the collective seed within each of them that nothing lasts forever.

The book also is a time capsule for the author’s own experiences with the music of The Beatles and how it stays with him today. This idea serves as a crux for examining their growing up in working class Liverpool, their early singles and time in India before settling snugly into an exploration of their respective solo careers and post Beatle lives.

Of course any music biography on the band must at least tip its toes in the ocean that is the contentious argument over whether the Beatles or The Rolling Stones were better. Here Sheffield surmises, is the critical point in developing a certain worldview. In essence your personal preference in this debate helps determine what kind of person you turn into.  The aftermath of this silly discourse is that the two bands are forever entangled in a sparring match that will never end.

Charming, informative and affectionate Dreaming The Beatles enthusiastically explores how and why the Liverpool lads conquered the world and why they remain so endearing to the music critic illuminati who use them as a marking pin for comparisons as they endlessly extoll praise upon them. Standing alongside them are generations of fans around the world whose adoration, curiosity and devotion has never wavered.

I get it, there are literally hundreds of biographies, tributes and tomes about The Beatles and you are wondering why this one is so special. Well for starters its format enables the reader to really understand the inner working of the band in the context of their times, revealing glimpses of a world forged from the ingenuity of The Beatles, whose cultural fingerprints are smeared throughout our modern society.

Dreaming The Beatles is a cracking good read recommended for anyone interested in comprehending their why the band continues to reverberate in our psyche today.

Book Review: Children Of The Program

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Landscapes of torment and suffering flood the imagination.  A blinding white release for a few fortunate souls.  A new life carried upon the wings of birds after lifetimes of death.  Indigo eyes look towards the future.  Author Brad W. Cox has a way with words.  I’ve known this for years, being transported to otherworldly dimensions through his colorful lyrics and their musical accompaniment from bands like Skitzo Calypso and We Love The Underground.  But in Cox’s debut written work “Children Of The Program,” he has embarked upon his most ambitious undertaking to date.  Colorful and filled with mystique, it has all the makings of a page-turner.

The back cover states: “A murderous cult threatens the enlightenment of tomorrow, as 12 strangers, plucked from various parts of the world, are awakened and brought together by a divine calling.”  An enticing tagline, to be sure.  I recently finished this book and I was honestly impressed.  Balancing such a cast of characters as Cox has done here, and giving each of them enough personality to make them feel real, is no easy task.  Admittedly, certain characters carry more weight than others, which helps keep the story moving at a steady pace.  Most noticeably is Neco, who is the only member of the 12 who is portrayed in first person narration, providing an easier avenue for emotional connection.  In his most dire of moments, I found myself extremely curious as to what his future held.  I carried that same interest for the antagonist of the work, who is equal measures enigma and allure.  While I found the person’s motive strange, it stands as a testament that different people are driven by different forces.  We are dynamic animals, which Cox has tried to portray in vivid strokes.

What is it about this book that makes it worth reading?  While the characters are pleasant, the main focus is the story.  Though there is a slight lull after the introduction, as each player in this game has to be fleshed out, it builds up into a web of intrigue.  Twelve strangers, drawn together by a supernatural force, embark upon a unified mission that is quickly staggered by malcontent.  It features love, conspiracy, and more than one murder most foul.  This novel takes the idea of “the children are our future” to a new extreme.  Join Neco and his 11 cohorts as they embark upon one hell of a ride, from the Painted Desert to the corners of the Earth, in order to save the world.

P.S. – We Love The Underground, the band fronted by Cox, is set to release a companion soundtrack that will share the same name as the novel.  That album will be ready in time for the release party on 1.23.16.  If you are in the Baltimore, MD area, be sure to join them!

Buy “Children Of The Program” at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

You might be interested in our previous interview with Brad Cox.

For more on Children Of The Program, visit:
Official Website
Goodreads
Facebook – Children Of The Program
Facebook – Brad W. Cox
Facebook – We Love The Underground
Facebook – Skitzo Calypso

Book Review: “Heavy Metal Movies”

“Heavy Metal Movies” catalogues a surprising collection of lost gems and campy stinkers, all lovingly curated by McPadden.

KB_hires_cover Review by David Feltman

Mike “McBeardo” McPadden likes his music as extreme as his movies. It’s a passion that shows in his writing. “Heavy Metal Movies” compiles 666 movies in a Leonard Maltin capsule style review guide. Not limiting himself specifically to horror films, McPadden opens his guide up to live concert films, documentaries, sci-fi, fantasy and generally any movie in which a metal musician is referenced or makes an appearance.

“Heavy Metal Movies” catalogues a surprising collection of lost gems and campy stinkers, all lovingly curated by McPadden. He reminisces in the introductory essay about a scrapbook filled with clippings of movie advertisements he kept as a kid and this guide is a natural extension of his childhood collection. McPadden peppers his capsule reviews with trivia illustrating the films’ connections to metal. Some are interesting, like Mario Bava’s “Black Sabbath” inspiring the hippie blues band Earth to change it’s name and approach, effectively creating the dawn of metal music. And some are amusing, as in the “Star Wars” capsule where McPadden links each character to a specific metal genre (Chewbacca is stoner and Obi Wan is progressive). But other connections are a little tenuous. “300” is added because the onscreen action kind of looks like a Manowar album cover and “Back to the Future,” a movie generally associated with Huey Lewis and Chuck Berry, is tossed in because of a Van Halen reference.

These latter inclusions raise some eyebrows, especially in considering some of the omissions. When linking French extreme horror to the French metal bands of the same era, McPadden completely neglects the seminal “Them” while merely referencing “Frontier(s)” and “High Tension.” Likewise, he includes the comic book movie “Dredd” but never references “The Raid: Redemption,” the movie from which “Dredd” steals its story. That plus the fact that “The Raid” was scored by Mike Shinoda for its US release should warrant at least a mention. Maybe dropping a couple of the five “Saw” reviews could have made some room in the 666.

But personal fanboy prejudices aside, it’s these very nitpick arguments and discussions that make “Heavy Metal Movies” a fun read. McPadden especially shines in the introductory essay. His writing is personal and funny and endearing. Heavy metal fans can only hope he follows up this guide with a second, perhaps more direct commentary, on the symbiotic relationship between these movies and the metal music it inspires.

You can find the book on Amazon and on the official website.