Thursday, November 28, 2013


Afflicted Man  I’m Off Me ‘ead LP 

The strange and twisted history of Steve Hall aka The Afflicted Man is best recounted elsewhere (not least of which in the liners to this reissue), but suffice to say it includes hippies, punks, skinheads, anarchists, glue-huffers, speed-freaks, junkies and, never one to be excluded, God his damn self. Oh, and techno. I wouldn’t say this is Hall’s best album -- general consensus is the glorious din of Get Stoned Ezy (billed under High Speed & The Afflicted Man) is his apex – but it’s still an essential piece of the jigsaw. “Survival in the 80s” is a prime chunk of drunk stumble, lurching between the seemingly disparate poles of thug and psych rock. Hall seems to be trying to channel earlier gen freaks like Pink Fairies, and the sheer wrongheadedness (offme’eadedness?) of how his attempt comes out coats the proceedings in a sheen of enthusiastic, intoxicated amateurism, triumphantly emerging as unique DIY psychedelic post-punk rock n’ roll. In my mind’s eye, I see burly bikers with death’s head tattoos and fey cardigan-clad Homosexuals enthusiasts in a circle, hands clasped tightly, all enjoying these gone sounds together. Maybe I’m just a hopeless utopian, but, brothers and sisters, can’t we all just pass this communal glue-bag, take a huff, turn off our minds, float downstream, etc….? 

(Permanent //

Androids of Mu  Blood Robots LP

Sometimes I wished I lived in an alternate universe where the majority of rock n’ roll bands were comprised of mostly female members -- that the almighty cock did not hold sway, and in fact, the feisty V was where the power sat. I could get down with this Amazonian utopia if the popular bands of the day were lady-powered dynamos like the Raincoats, Kleenex, Girls at Our Best, Dishrags, The Nixe, Wrecks, Nog Watt, Bound & Gagged, Neo Boys etc. Count the fantastic foursome of the UK’s Androids of Mu in that stellar lineage. Originally released in 1980 on the seminal Fuck Off Records, Water Wing does a splendid job providing a faithful reissue of this overlooked classic. Supposedly, Crass offered to do an album but requested a drummer change. The women of Mu promptly said “Fuck off,” and went and Fucked Off. Emerging out of the intoxicating smoke of the Gong off-shoot Here & Now, Androids of Mu wedded ecstatic freedom with sharp post-punk grooves. According to the accompanying dossier, the guitarist had a “previous deployment” with Inner City Unit featuring Hawkwind’s Nik Turner. Co-producer and Fuck Off Records founder (and main shaker in the great World Domination Enterprises), Keith Dobson provides liner notes and direction to this first-time reissue. The intertwining strands of British freak-rock and outer-limits post-punk weave a nice tapestry for the trainspotting record-geek. But these ladies were not fucking around for your benefit. They were forging their own path through the ’77-as-year-zero forest. “Atomic X” opens the album like a ska-influenced answer to Ubu’s “30 Seconds…” with bombs exploding on the horizon for the song’s duration. The Androids utilize that dub/ska rhythm quite a bit, which is a deal-breaker for some, but they leaven it with spikey guitars, whooshing bits of synth-noise, and alternately pleading or too-cool vocals. “She is A Boy” fucks with your gender biases something fierce as a woman observes a drag queen in action and it “makes me feel strange/when I’m in her range/hope she don’t hate me/I don’t hate her.” This is followed by the smirking “Pretty Nun,” which wonders “How do you really give up the good times/sacrifice your pretty youth?” Hey, who doesn’t love a hot nun? “Bored Housewives” is a legit classic, mixtape material when The Slits get to be old hat, providing a similar rejection of society’s incessant need to compartmentalize half the population. Most telling is the line “Sunday afternoon I take the kids to the park/never have a chance to meet a stranger after dark.” Ironically, this seems like a great song to sing along to as you do the dishes. “Lost in Space” is the track the singers from Sun Ra’s band never made, Joe Meek transmissions darting around the mix like a malfunctioning satellite. Blood Robots isn’t necessarily the album to break you into the wonderful world of femme post-punk, but if you’ve already got a taste, then this record is mandatory.  

(Water Wing //

German Shepherds  Music for Sick Queers LP + 7”

Complete fucking freaks. I’m not sure how I was made aware of this album, but way back in Y2K I found myself with access to a college radio station’s music library and I proceeded to go as apeshit as possible within a few hours each week burning obscure LPs onto CDRs. Music For Sick Queers was one of the first, and one of the freakiest. This record will never not sound like the product of disturbed minds; no surprise that surviving original member Mark Hutchinson hails from Northeast Ohio. Once again, Superior Viaduct gives up the goods, cementing their rep as the finest retro outsider-punk label in Christendom. If the menacing drawings that serve as German Shepherds artwork don’t clue you in as to the damaged nature of this SF duo, one listen to “Communist Control” will set you straight. This is music that considers Throbbing Gristle’s “Hamburger Lady” a love song. All of the classic subjects are touched upon: apocalypse, Hitler, Commies, Satanists, drugs, pedophilia. This last one is a touchy (ouch) subject for the Sheps. There were rumors for years that the now-deceased half of German Shepherds, Stephen Scheatzle, had been accused of some sort of child abuse and then committed suicide. It appears that this was merely a media stunt (and perhaps an inspiration for The Dwarves and He Who Cannot Be Named?), but I wouldn’t put anything past these damaged cretins. The kid-stalking anthem “Booty Jones” practically implicates you in an unspeakable crime, tossed off so nonchalantly that the creep factor rises as the song progresses. “I Adore You” is more throbbing fluorescent light-buzzing and insistent rhythm, like the gait of a persistent stalker, clinging to the shadows, patiently. “Mr. Tupper” is an audio collage, not unlike Orchid Spangiafora, cutting-up radio adverts and snatches of conversation. “THC,” the Devil’s weed, brings the Satanic goods, as only the mid-80s could, a peak time for ol’ Beelzebub and his countless minions. I wonder what Bob Larsen would’ve made of this cacophonous invocation of psychedelic music, heavy drug use and patricide. Satan is boring? Nah, not always. Christ almighty, I wanna shove this record into every noise-dork’s earholes. Don’t worry, children, I brought lube.  

(Superior Viaduct //

Giant Henry  Big Baby LP           

When I was in high school, my two favorite currently-existing bands were Unwound and Gaunt. To the astute ‘90s punkologist, much about my younger self could be inferred from such knowledge. Gaunt was local(ish), kicked major ass, were snarky as fuck, but wore their heart on their sleeve, like every great Midwestern band should. I Can See Your Mom From Here was a crucial album in my life, and remains a go-to staple. On the other side of the river stood Unwound. A power trio from the rain-soaked PNW, Unwound sometimes seemed like Nirvana’s younger siblings. And they kind of were. Per the liner notes from their classic debut Fake Train: “thankyounirvanaforthebuyingusbeerthankyounirvanaforlettinguspracticehere.”  But, in many ways, Unwound was the superior band. They were far more punk and underground, and their music evolved by leaps and bounds over the years. While they certainly never had the innate ear for melody like Cobain & co. did, they still managed to write dozens of memorable songs over their decade-plus existence. While sonically closer to Mission of Burma, Unwound’s howls of rage and sorrow had more in common with the emotional terrain of Husker Du’s Zen Arcade. Unwound’s songs were dust-storms of existential fury that channeled teen angst like few bands ever have (see Fake Train’s opener “Dragnalus”). And now that the Nineties are “back” (whomever said that pop culture moves in twenty-year cycles should get a MacArthur genius grant), Unwound has come around again, with new reissues on Numero Group, including a deluxe representation of the hard-to-find true first-album (posthumously committed to wax by Honey Bear in 1995). And that takes us almost back to where this record sits in the continuum. Before Justin Trosper, Vern Rumsey and Brandt Sandeno got Unwound-proper going, they had their high school band, Giant Henry. One Giant Henry song, “Crab Nebula,” managed to find its way into the early Unwound set, but all of the songs contained on this record are previously unheard. Recorded in their hometown of Tumwater WA in 1991, this is what teen spirit truly smelled like. “Super Nova” blasts off with a thick sound, unexpected noisy breaks and Trosper’s Cobain-esque yowl. On the insert, Rumsey is wearing a Nirvana t-shirt and the influence is transparent -- “Listenator” sounds like a Bleach outtake -- but Giant Henry manage to sculpt it into something that can stand on its own. And, much like Nirvana, these kids “loved the Melvins to death.” This kind of noisy off-time sludge seems to come natural to our friends up in the Loggerlands. As the trio morphed into Unwound and became more serious, the music grew even noisier and more unhinged. Big Baby is for completists-only, of course, but I can’t imagine any such person would be disappointed with this unexpected early glimpse into one of the ‘90s crucial bands. 1000 copies; silkscreened jackets w/ silkscreened inserts.  

(The Numero Group //

Murderedman  Love in Danger LP

Clevo noise rock vets do some of their best work yet. “Sleight of Hand” is a concise and electrifying burst of power that could have come straight off of Six Finger Satellite’s Paranormalized, secret melodic bass line included. “House of Eyes” is full of Bauhaus-ian drama; spiraling guitar and bass lines wrap around singer David Russell’s throat, threatening to choke the life out of him, and us. “My Catastrophe” is a relentless slice of avant-hardcore, buried blastbeats competing with fragmented electronics. “Toil & Toll” is Murderedman’s nu metal cut, featuring Russell’s most effective vocal performance overtop a hammering groove and sheets of skree. This is a brutal record, modest in its ambitions, but ambitious nonetheless. As good as they are here (and live), I feel Murderedman’s finest material has yet to come. But for now, this record will satisfy those who miss the likes of Drunkdriver and White Suns, not to mention Slug and Glazed Baby.

(A Soundesign Recording //

Poor Lily  Vuxola CD

I wanted to like this; really, I did. I’m a sucker for things in this nebulous genre – post-hardcore pseudo-artpunk whatchamacallit, obviously inspired by the Minutemen and most specifically recalling the mighty Nomeansno. Poor Lily are old hardcore dudes based in the Bronx who still feel the fire and wanna jam out their socio-political issues via tight power trio dynamics. And they almost succeed. But then there’s the singer’s nasally voice which falls on the wrong end of the Biafra Annoyance Spectrum. And when the other guy occasionally chimes in, you’re wondering how the CD player suddenly switched to a Biohazard album (and I only have a single-disc player). Despite some promising song titles (“The Days are Not Piano Keys,” “Justice Kennedy Has a Cold,” “The Drunken Mapmaker”), not one of these 19 songs stands out. To their credit, Poor Lily only waste a half hour of your time, but then again, that time would have been better spent listening to Sex Mad.  

(self-released //

Sonic Youth  Smart Bar Chicago 1985 2xLP

Nineteen eighty-five was a peak year for da Yooth, what with arguably one of their finest albums, Bad Moon Rising, coming out on Homestead, and them beginning to tour the entire country, often with Swans and at least once in the Mojave Desert with the Meat Puppets and Redd Kross (and *cough* Psi-Com). This gig from Chicago is a helluva live document and might remind you why Sonic Youth, at their best, divorced from all the recent drama, really are a unique and powerful band unlike any other. The set is basically all of Bad Moon Rising with a few things off the impending EVOL. The recording is excellent, utilizing both board and room mics to give a real presence to the room, while still being able to hear what each instrument is doing. You know the guitars are going to be gnarly and otherworldly, but what really comes through is how pulverizing the rhythm section is. Steve Shelley had just joined the band following Bob Bert’s departure, and his time in Wisconsin’s Crucifucks had prepared him well for Sonic Youth’s intense sets. He’s a more straightforward drummer than Bert, and live it comes together as he keeps the band from floating away or jamming too long. They start things off with “Halloween”s slow grind, then get “Death Valley ‘69” out of the way. It thrashes pretty hard, but it’s “Intro” into “Brave Men Run” that really kicks the set up an extra level. Shelley and Gordon drive the song forward as Moore and Ranaldo make Swell Maps chimes on their guitars. The dark, tribal threat of “I Love Her All The Time” is so focused it feels like an incantation. “Ghost Bitch” sets hackles on edge with arcs of achingly abrasive feedback, eventually erupting in what sounds like a voodoo dance in pitch-black darkness. Older gems like “The Burning Spear” and “Making the Nature Scene” get feverish readings. This is before Sonic Youth felt compelled to weld their outre’ tendencies to traditional rock songcraft. At this point in their career, Sonic Youth sounded like no one else, aided by their heavy use of tape loops during this period. They had shed all of their No Wave forebears’ trappings and established a singularly menacing style of rock noise. Smart Bar has some of the heaviest SY action I’ve heard on wax, we’re talking some real head-banging noise rock, so come get ducky, dodos.  

(Goofin’ //

The Thing From the Crypt LP
Seminal comp of an isolated sub-scene gets the treatment by coldwave impresarios Dark Entries. There’s a gothic sensibility to much of this music, but it’s not heavy-handed, and often, tongue-in-cheek. Released in 1981 and containing two songs by each band, this comp’s quality is, for the most part, excellent. Exhibit ‘A’s “Rain” sounds like a New Zealander’s take on darkwave, ditching the menace for an extra dose of melancholy. “Take Me Inside” by Sad Lovers & Giants comes off as a more accessible, new wave Screamers, while Flying Beechcraft’s sly “Bugger Off” is a minor classic. Of course, half the reason to own this LP is for the two songs by the supremely satisfying Soft Drinks, a synth-vocal-drum combo that approach their arch songs with a thuggish glee. Imagine early Passage in a caveman karaoke and you’re getting close. “Squash” does just that, but “Pepsi Cola” is the choice of a new generation (of miscreants). A muscular drumbeat pounds away as synths act like a quickening pulse, while the singer yammers on about drinking a soda, literally, everywhere. Flying Beechcraft come up with another winner in “Frog Girl,” almost like an angles-rounded-off Embarrassment, or perhaps a slightly less pretentious Verlaines. I really dig how most of the bands walk this strange line between synth-punk-pop-new wave-goth. But trust me, there’s more than enough guitar here, this is still rock music, generally speaking. Joy Division looms large, but taken in creative directions. S-Haters provide good, noisy mope but Sad Lovers & Giants “Clint” could easily get an ‘80s nite dance floor moving. On the other hand, Mex’s “Functioning Fripp Girls” has more in common with Danny & The Dressmakers, and the album closes out with Gambit of Shame’s nearly trad garage-rockin’ “She Lawn.” If anyone would like to send me a copy of Soft Drinks’ lone 45, “Popstars In Their Pyjamas,” well, shucks, that’d be just swell.

(Dark Entries //

[most reviews originally appeared on Terminal Boredom]

Monday, September 9, 2013


He should never have walked through those doors. 

He knew better.

Knew better than to let the rusty smell of whiskey tempt him. It’d been one year four months and who gives a fuck how many days. Rules are meant to be broken, eh?

The look that slip of a girl had shot his way (or had he imagined it?) at the rest stop was enough to set him off. Weak. He hadn’t sold shit in days anyhow. Fuck it. The gaping maw of drunk awaited him; jaw slack, tongue throbbing, nose twitching.

“Whiskey, two ice cubes.”

He leveled the last of these words at the bartender like a threat.

Larry Lynch, you sad-sack shit of a man. Drink your fill, vomit your guts, keep on laughing. No one hears, except for the grave, which sports the biggest smile of all – a broad grin that could swallow the whole world.

A woman walked in, like an echo of the rest-stop girl. Except quite a bit older, perhaps even older than him. She sauntered in like she owned the damn place, like she owned every damn place. Shut up, you idiot, he chided himself, you have no business even being here. The woman walked around the right-angled bar, exaggerating her movements almost theatrically. Who’s she trying to impress, Larry thought, it’s just me, the bartender and that schlub in the corner. The sun was still beating the blacktop and unless you were some kinda do-nothing hippie, it sure as hell wasn’t party time yet. But this woman -- with her finely-coiffed medium-length blonde ‘do, and her hip-hugging high-waisted white slacks, which revealed a sculpted torso culminating in generous breasts -- was acting like she was Lauren fuckin’ Bacall, and where’s my Bogart? her pursed lips seemed to be on the verge of asking, hell, more like demanding. Well, I’m taller than that dead fuck, toots, is what Larry wanted to not so much as say, but throw at her -- right at her pretty little head.

Larry made a vague motion towards one of the beer taps and the bored-looking bartender, so used to this scene as to be hopelessly mundane, poured the cheap suds and shuffled over to where Larry half-sat at the bar, one leg up and one leg firmly on the ground, as if he was ready to sprint out of there at a moment’s notice. Mr. Bartender delicately dropped the pint glass right next to Larry’s now-empty whiskey. All it took was Larry making eye contact for the bartender to blindly reach behind him, snag the whiskey bottle, and swing it around in an arc, coming to rest directly above Larry’s rocks glass. The bartender looked Larry directly in the eyes as he turned the bottle upside down and expertly poured the brown liquid. Just as Larry was about to demand two more ice, the bartender’s other hand seemed to appear out of nowhere with a small, stainless steel scoop sporting two square cubes. He slid the cubes into the glass without so much as a fleck of whiskey escaping over the lip of the glass. Larry picked up the glass, took a long sip of the rich, smoky poison, quickly followed by a desperate guzzle of the beer, draining half in one swallow.

A full bladder equals an occupied mind, as his father used to say. He lifted himself off the stool, wobbling slightly, legs still weak from the ass-numbing ride of the past few hours. He practically stumbled away from the bar and the bartender shot him a warning look. After all, it was only quarter after three in the afternoon, he wasn’t quite lubed up enough to deal with some shit-heel drunk who came floating in on a cloud of fumes. But Larry quickly righted himself and made his way to the restroom in the back, snaking his way through a cluttered maze of mismatched tables and chairs.

In the bathroom, Larry kept inching into the urinal, the tip of his dick touching cold linoleum at a steady rhythm; the only steady thing about Larry as his pants slipped down his weak-kneed chicken legs and his worn-out buster browns slipped on the dirt-tiled floor, his soles squeaking in his own piss.

It took him a few minutes to recover any sense of his surroundings. Oh yeah, here I am again, trapped myself in a bar. Bet the sun is still out there pounding the concrete. Fucker is merciless. Might as well stay in here and beat the heat, Larry thought.

“What’s the harm, hell it’s good for my skin,” Larry said out loud, to no one. Then he realized he was talking to his own reflection. At first, he hadn’t even recognized the unkempt vagabond staring back at him. It had been days since he’d shaved; and last time he shaved he had to use one side of a pair of old scissors, digging at the stubble in his chin as if he were foraging for root vegetables, or digging mines out of an old warzone. It hadn’t gone well, especially as hungover as Larry had been, as Larry was, in that moment. Both moments. Every moment. At this thought, he felt the vertigo hit him again and he swayed in place, like an inflatable wind dancer. Those inhuman advertisements that reminded us all how small and earthbound we truly are. Larry felt inhuman. Just then the portly schlub came barreling into the cramped bathroom, shocking Larry out of his fog and nudging him towards the sink. Larry reached out, suddenly desperate, and managed to secure the lip of the sink in his clutching hands. He steadied himself as the man pulled up at the lone urinal like a horse to water.

“Sorry, chief, gotta drain this weasel something fierce, boy I tell you!”

Back at the bar, Larry’s head swiveled around like a broken-necked doll, unsteady on his badly-shaven throat. He felt like a forgotten toy at the bottom of a child’s closet. For how long would he remain neglected? Perhaps not as long as he thought, as the bartender decided to take pity and poured him a double, this time catching his eyes with a slightly sympathetic look. We’ve all been there, he seemed to say. Larry raised his glass in salute and the man said, “No problem, bud, this one’s on me.”

Larry asked for another beer on top of his full rocks glass (he somehow forgot to ask for ice and the man had not offered). As the delicious warmth began to spread over his body – is this what heroin addicts feel like? Larry thought – he managed to take a little more control over his upper spine and found himself gazing fixedly at the lone woman. She was sitting catty-corner from him and she matched his stare, her face betraying no emotion whatsoever. Not so much as dismissive, but impassive. Stone-faced. Larry imagined her elegant features supplanting one of those fuckers at Mount Rushmore, might even class that craggy rock up a bit. She was certainly making this shitty bar more inviting by the minute.

“I like the way you look at me,” she said. “Like a problem you are trying to parse.”

A dim recollection of grade school pushed its way to the front of Larry’s brain.

“Don’t you ‘parse’ sentences?”

“Oh I am a sentence, baby. Some would say ‘life,’ some would say ‘death.’ I say let the chips fall where they may.”

“Easy to say, hard to follow through.”

“Oh sugar, don’t make it too easy for me now, would you? It’s still early yet.”

Larry waved this comment away with a floppy hand, accidentally rapping his knuckles hard on the bar counter. Somewhere, nerves screamed in pain, but they failed to penetrate the spreading warmth.

“Leave that poor, old bar alone,” the woman mock-scolded him. “What’s it ever done to you?”

“Plenty. More than plenty. It’s done it all, and then some, and then one more time for good measure.”

“Yet here you are, sucked back in.”

“Goddamn black hole.”

“We’ve all got holes, honey, just depends on if you want to turn the light on or not,” she smiled. And all Larry could think was, There, that smile, that’s my light. Turn me on, baby. Hit that switch.

Instead, Larry grunted a response, in an attempt to show that he was above it all.

The woman wasn’t fooled. “Come on, stranger, come closer. Let’s co…..mmiserate.”

Larry let the comment float in the air for an extra beat. Then, feigning reluctance, he gradually lifted his sore ass off his stool and slow-walked down the bar, trying his best to appear as nonchalant as possible. But secretly, desperately, his heart was taking a drum solo and he felt something like electricity shooting through his veins. Aha, now this is what junkies feel.

Larry led with his whiskey, placing the rocks glass close to her cocktail, and parking himself next to her.

“You got a name, sugar?”


“That’s a strong name, Larry. Larry of Arabia,” she giggled to herself. “Desert warrior. I’m Annabelle, pleased to make your acquaintance, sir. Are you coming in from a long journey through sandstorms and the like?”

“Something like that. I sell, I travel. It feels like war sometimes.”

“And what do you sell, Sir Larry?”

“Vacuum cleaners, cleaning products, peace of mind.”

“Do they still do that? I had no idea.”

“I still do it. It’s all I know. My brother got me into it fresh outta high school, and I guess I’m just too dumb or too stubborn to figure out how to do anything else.”

“I think it’s charming.”

“Feh, don’t bullshit me, Annabelle. It’s the pits and you should be laughing at me. God knows I do. Sometimes I turn off the AM and just laugh myself silly.”

“Oh Larry, that’s sad. Please don’t do that.”

“Looks like your drink’s empty. What’s your poison?”

“Today, I’m feeling tropical. I can almost smell that Caribbean air, the salt and the sand and the sun.”

“Going on a trip?”


“Hey buddy,” Larry jerked his chin at the bartender. “Can the lady get a pina colada?

The bartender rolled his eyes and began to prepare the cocktail. The entire time, he shook his head imperceptibly, not knowing whether to laugh or be annoyed at this putz.

Larry was oblivious, trying to appear in charge, in control – to not let on that his head was swimming and his thoughts were growing more primitive by the second. He took a sip of whiskey, figuring that would level him out.

Annabelle smacked at her lips, the sound drawing Larry’s eyes to her mouth, and in that instant, he felt like he could disappear into her mouth, that between those lips and those pretty white teeth, he could dwell forever, safe from harm, content in that moist cave. It had been too long since Larry had been with a woman, and this broad was a step-up from the usual floozies he took to second-run movies and then dingy bars to patiently wait for them to get drunk enough to fuck him. Now, he was the drunk one, and it felt good, and she was going to be his, he could just feel it.

The bartender frisbee’d a cocktail napkin onto the bar-top and placed the garish drink in front of Annabelle. A miniature umbrella poked out of the comically large glass. Larry raised his own drink, “Here’s to you, toots.”

Annabelle clinked his glass and took a long sip from the double-strawed cocktail.

“Thanks, hon. I’ve got to visit the little girls’ room and make a quick phone call. I’ll be back in two shakes, don’t you go anywhere,” she winked at him.

Larry just nodded dumbly. He watched her as she navigated the furniture maze with grace, plump derriere moving in slow motion. As she closed the bathroom door behind her, he turned his head and noticed the corner schlub licking his lips and giving him a curious look. Then the schlub raised his glass as a sort of salute, or perhaps it was a congratulations. Truth be told, Larry was just as surprised as he was. But the whiskey provided bravado, so he gave the guy a pitying look and half-raised his glass in acknowledgment. Sucker, he thought as he turned back around.

As the minutes ticked by, Larry seemed to be frozen in time. He felt like a relic from another age. A traveling salesman. A drunk. A failure. Goddamn, was he sick of all this self-pity. He just needed one good night. One night to feel the caress of a woman, to feel alive again. He deserved that much, didn’t he? Look at all these bastards running the world, starting wars in unpronounceable countries, shitting on the common man. They should be strung up and beaten to death. Give ‘em the ol’ Mussolini headkick.

Larry glanced over to the dimly lit hallway in the back, which housed the cigarette machine and some novelty toy-grabbing doohickey. He saw Annabelle on the payphone, laughing at someone’s words, sure as hell not his. He felt a pang of jealousy, but eased it with a long pull on his whiskey. While she yammered on, probably with some girlfriend or perhaps a family member, Larry ordered another beer. It had been awhile since Larry had drank, but he hadn’t forgotten that he preferred to have a chaser for the brown stuff. Double-fist. A real man.

Annabelle sashayed back to her stool and seemed even perkier than before. She wriggled her perfectly-round ass on the stool, finding her comfort zone. She looked as at home as a lioness on the plains of Africa. There was something slightly exotic about her; not the way she looked necessarily -- although she was a fine specimen no doubt – but in the way her eyes played over Larry’s face, seeming to read all the hurt and bullshit he had been through. If she could see it, maybe she could heal it. Or at least soothe it. This wild beast needs soothing, Larry thought. Before I go extinct.

“Now, where were we?” Annabelle said, tracing the outline of her glass with her forefinger.

Larry snapped himself out his hypnotic trance. “I think you mentioned going somewhere more private,” he gambled. Fuck it, she wants it.

“Oh, did I?” Annabelle chuckled, tossing her head back slightly, revealing her long, pale neck. Larry longed to kiss and bite at that fleshy column.

“Yep. And gentleman that I am, I suggested my car. It’s parked right outside and it’s a Lincoln, so there’s plenty of room.”

Annabelle looked amused. “You brave and dirty man. You are asking for a world of hurt,” she teased, as her hand seemed to drop accidentally onto his knee and slowly moved up his thigh, stopping just as it was entering the no-fly zone, so to speak. Something stirred deep in Larry. A voice way back in the cheap seats of his brain wondered what he had done to stumble upon such luck. Well, a million drunks drinking in a million bars, someone’s gotta get laid eventually…

“It’s like that monkey typewriter thing,” he said out loud.

“What’s that, hon?”

“Nothin’. Wanna get out of here?”

“Not quite yet, I still have my drink to finish! you impatient scoundrel,” she squeezed his thigh good-naturedly. “Don’t forget, it’s still early yet. This bar is dark, but outside, well, there’s a whole wide world, bright and shiny as a new penny.”

“Whatever you say, babe,” Larry said as he slipped his hand behind her and placed it on the small of her back. She didn’t flinch. He needed to possess her. Larry forgot about everything else in his life; it was all a joke anyway, all that seemed to matter was making this flirty broad his, if only for a few hours. Sometimes that’s all a man needs to recharge his batteries. Larry was running low, but he could feel the electricity radiating off of Annabelle. The current ran up his arm and juiced his brain.

Just then, the front door swung open and daylight burst into the dark bar. Everyone jumped slightly, except Annabelle, who continued to smile her enigmatic grin. Even the bartender had appeared to be lost in some sort of reverie, perhaps recalling a time when he didn’t spend his afternoons in this shit-hole.

Once Larry’s eyes adjusted to the burst of light, and the door swung shut, he saw a tall, dusk-skinned man stride in purposefully. A few steps in and he took stock of the bar and its patrons. He gave the schlub in the corner a perfunctory glance and the man nodded his head. He shot the bartender a look and the bartender seemed to shrug, almost invisibly. Or perhaps Larry imagined it. The room was teetering and he was having trouble staying on his stool. Finally, the man fixed his gaze towards the couple at the bar. He lingered momentarily on Annabelle’s visage, but he fixed his gaze right on Larry. Larry felt like lab rat, or a zoo animal. He didn’t appreciate the attention. He only wanted attention from one of these people and this big fella sure as shit wasn’t the one.

To Larry’s surprise, Annabelle waved at the man and motioned for him to walk around the bar. With his gaze still locked on Larry, he cleared the corner, came up on the other side of Annabelle, and planted a kiss on her cheek, which she offered willingly. Larry’s heart hit the floor and the back of his neck tingled.

“Larry, this is Ramon. Ramon, meet Larry. He sells vacuum cleaners. He’s a real sucker!” Annabelle erupted in hysterical laughter at this last sentence, cackling like some idiot hyena.

“Pleased to meet you, Larry,” Ramon said with the trace of an accent, “Now get your fucking hand off my girl.”

Larry realized that his left hand was still perched on the small of Annabelle’s back. He almost drew it back, but then the whiskey re-asserted itself and Larry thought, This is it. This is my moment. I can get it all back, here, now, in this bar. My self-respect is within reach. Fuckin’ grab it, Larry!

“Sorry, bud, I don’t think so. Me and the lady were having a nice conversation, and we ain’t finished with it yet. Ain’t that right, darlin’?”

Annabelle just looked straight ahead with that smile playing on her lips.

“Oh, I don’t know, Larry, I was just thinking how my flight was soon. That trip, remember? To the tropics? Well, here he is.”

As Larry’s whiskey-soaked brain tried to piece together what was exactly happening, Ramon grabbed his wrist in a tight grip and flung it off of Annabelle’s back. That seemed to spark the adrenaline Larry needed and he immediately stood up, knocking his stool over. The beast was loose.

“Touch me again, and you take a trip to the hospital.”

“Oooooo,” Annabelle cooed, her smile widening.

Ramon, a good six inches taller than Larry, stepped forward and pushed him hard in the chest. Larry went flying backwards into a mass of tables and chairs. He hit his head, but barely felt it. He was barely feeling anything. The schlub jumped up and Larry could have sworn he saw him rub his hands together. Larry looked at the bartender, and once again, he shrugged so faintly, Larry couldn’t tell if it was just a weird tic he had. Guess I’m on my own, he thought, as he made his way to stand up. He felt like he was moving through molasses. The room was still spinning, but it had slowed down enough for him to focus on Ramon. He was a big motherfucker, that was for sure. But Larry grew up with two older brothers, and they were merciless in their youth. He suffered beatings on a daily basis until he was big enough to swing back.

Larry took a step forward, and so did Ramon. They were almost in each other’s radius. The bigger they are, Larry thought, as he rushed at Ramon. He threw a punch at the man’s chin, but ended up hitting him in the arm -- like he was kidding, like this was all just a joke. Ramon pushed him hard again, but Larry came back for another try. This time, Ramon blocked the punch, covered Larry’s face with his hand and threw him back onto the floor.

The schlub was roaring with laughter, “You swing like a rusty hinge!”

Larry had picked a fight with the wrong man, but it was too late to back down. He charged at Ramon with all of the desperate strength he could muster. Ramon side-stepped Larry’s clumsy attack and grabbed him by the collar of his cheap suit. There was a split-second where everything in the room stopped moving, the scene became as tranquil as a deserted street during first snow -- pure calm and peace reigned.

“A rusty hinge!”

Ramon pulled Larry towards him and everything went red as Ramon’s fist detonated on Larry’s nose, blood and cartilage flying everywhere. His only satisfaction was seeing a few flecks land on Annabelle’s white slacks as Larry hit the floor for the third time in less than a minute. This time, he wasn’t getting up. He was beat. The beast was dead.

The couple towered over his prostrate body, his muscles limp and defeated.

All Larry could manage was a squeak.


“Just needed something to kill the time, sugar.”

They walked out into the heat and light and Larry just lay there.

He wasn’t going anywhere.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Lou Reed's singing in your coffee cup
"Here comes the snow"
Swallow that disappointment, child
There's more on the way
                             Letters from nowhere
   it's OK to feel lost
We can always abandon this building

Squat in summer century row
Flame out far above this planet
gleaming   fleeting   expired
This is how you see yourself:

Surrounded by rusted carcasses
Suffocated by asbestos desires

Crawling though our mother's ribcage --
What happened to all the blood?
How far is the trauma center?
Why does it take so long to become?

There are more years ahead
Even more than lay behind

Who can truly die
when our images
      are trapped so completely
so   clinically        so           exquisitely?

Empty suits hanging so sad in your closet
"It's like a meat locker in there"
A reason to rise
Ashamed of your own energy

Here is proof
Here is your talisman
Here lies your ancestors
Here comes the snow

Thursday, August 29, 2013

ZED'S DEAD part one

Zed was dead. 

He knew he wasn’t. But this knowledge did not make him feel any less dead. He smelled the death slowly seeping off of him; a horrific stench that made his eyelashes feel as if they had withered, nay melted, across his desert-dry eyes. His mouth desperately sopped at itself – a cruel joke soaked in foulest water. The irony did not escape him – to be dead yet acutely aware of these undesirable sensations, these tiny tortures, like the ineffectual interrogation routines of Akborovia’s “secret” police. Those fucking bastards could bore a man to death before any relevant information was rendered. This ridiculous thought – that he would prefer to be in a darksite prison on the other side of the world instead of his current foetal position location in what was the nearest place he had to a home – served to rouse Zed beyond his free-associating head-chatter into a state of near-consciousness.

Immediately he cursed his return to the land of the living. For now, the bell tolled for the core of Zed’s body. His muscles felt angry, as if they were in revolt. They were poised for a revolution, long past the planning stages, against the weakened executive branch atop his shoulders. The smug powers-that-be; their abuse of the peasants was coming home to roost.

“No war but the class war,” Zed mumbled to himself, resulting in a spasm of laughter that twisted through his body like a wine-screw shearing apart a rotted cork, opening into a sour bottle of spirits. All that effort – ruined. The time and patience to cultivate the grape, the care put into selecting the perfect bottle-shape. The agonizing wait from seed to stomach.

Zed thrashed beneath the flannel blanket, alternating furiously between soul-on-ice chill and the raging fires of hell-on-earth. “Make up your fooking mind!” he managed to croak in a pathetic voice pitched between a shriek and a dying dog’s final yelp.

A normal man would grow weary of these afternoons spent in misery and torpor. Looking back upon his last decade of spring-summers, and even harder on his fall-winters, Zed saw his coffin-paned sundowns snaking ever-further behind, like the notorious replenishing Hordes of Chkmahh. Always a new body to fill the void left by the sudden violent absence of the old.

Why-O fookin’ Why – do I always get so godsdamn cheap philosophick when dwelling in this pit of despair?

Zed felt the mutual disgust begin to force its way up from his stomach, overrunning any sort of emergency levee he rushed to erect in the space leading to his throat, erupting full-force into his mouth, and spraying like dragonsbreath over the interior of his flat. The irony of the blackened insides of his defective body befouling the insides of his cramped domicile did not escape him. Even though he felt as if his very essence was evacuating his shell, his mind remained alert enough to laugh bitterly at his predicament. Zed felt like a creature of legend, spewing forth his deadly poison with a venom reserved for cave-invaders.

As the minutes ticked by, and Zed’s grasping hand found an old wooden bucket, which perhaps once upon a time held just-ripe apples or about-to-blossom pearflowers, the torrent of blood and black goo began to assume a rhythmic cadence. And, once again, this little ditty Zed had conceived during an earlier bout with himself, came to mind –

I’m the human dragon           I’m the human dragon

with the teeth rot action       with the teeth rot action

This asinine couplet ran in his head, over and over, like a hummingbird hovering outside of his ear, reverse-feeding him a mantra to clutch. Something non-corporeal to anchor him to a reality he loathed, but one he wished to survive out of pure spite. He found the simplest emotions carry the most weight. They kept him tethered to this awful now-ness with an unbreakable vengeance. He had sworn a blood oath to himself several seasons past. He recited the oath precisely as the blood flowed over his lips and tongue – as if he had sacrificed a virgin in the deepest recesses of his guts, an intestinal temple to all that motivated him. Zed tried to laugh, as a Fuck you to his circumstances, but all that resulted was the sickening pop of a blood-bubble bursting on his seared lips. The acid from his innermost lining cascaded from his gaping jaw, singeing his bottom lip and dissolving his teeth in quicktime. The outer shell of his teeth fizzed and lathered, essential bone in imminent disintegration, his mouth a source of stalactites, sharp crags to snag a soft pink tongue. All the bad days and nights – an unkind soul would call them evil – but you’re damned if you do and fucked if you don’t, Zed always thought. And nothing had proved him wrong yet.

It had been nearly a sun-cycle since Zed had radically altered his existence – since he had assassinated the Ascended Masters. Zed had endured a body-shattering post-omnipotence comedown. That taste of eternity had set off a series of ravaging events that plagued Zed’s body. No witch, healer or clerk had been able to definitely diagnose what was ailing Zed. Then again, the majority were charlatans; Zed had tasted power beyond what they could even comprehend. Nevertheless, what plagued him remained a mystery -- a new quest to fulfill his lifelong restlessness. The treasure he sought was now his health, his well-being, his very life. That should have made it precious, but more often than not, Zed found it difficult to give a solitary fuck. Zed found his thoughts dwelling upon the darker realms, the nether regions where lurked a lust for oblivion, for a final cancellation of all breath, all need to gather another fistful of oxygen. One day, Zed would vomit out the remains of his internal organs and that would be that, ashes will be ashes and dust will be dust. Zed would be dead and the birds will still chirp. The breeze will still blow and the gallows will still swing. All will be as right with the world as it had ever been. Zed could only manage a weak smile at the thought. The rest of his energy was devoted to keeping himself propped up enough to enable the crimson waterfall of rancid body juices to funnel forth from his chapped and burning mouth.

Zed read the churning fluids in the wooden bucket as a witch-woman reads the swirling leaves of their famous tea – the one purported to kill hangovers, enliven the sexual glands, and generally restore humans to being humans. But even the strongest Witches’ Tea could not compare to Zed’s preferred poison – the perfect blend of cycles-fermented barrelwhisk and heaping nosefuls of finely-grated unicorn horn. Round off this demonic duo with copious amounts of the sageweed Zed incessantly smoked, and you had a triple thrash threat of intoxicants coursing through his poor body nearly every moment of the day. Even when on dangerous missions to shadowy corners of this sprawling world, Zed found himself absorbing these sometimes expensive, sometimes difficult-to-procure chemicals into his ever-roiling insides. He had managed to stave off that most amorphous of emotions, guilt, until the recent past. Now the little gods inside of his skin were demanding his tributes cease. Even they could not endure much more.  


The day seeped into night and the night folded into day.

Outside of his window, Zed heard the early morn rustlings of the townsfolk; the shouts of greeting, the sighs of resignation, the unfunny jokes bandied back and forth like the world’s least valuable currency. It felt like a half-remembered dream, a semblance of an idea of society. Zed refused to believe that these people truly existed, that they lived lives of modest ambitions, of a hard day’s work and a good night’s rest. That the wives toiled diligently in their little houses as their husbands wore their calloused hands to the bone, whether humping in the fields all day or slaving in the scorched air of a blacksmith’s workshop. That the confluence of these events, initiated and silently agreed to by a certain vicinity’s citizens, constituted what most people viewed as a healthy, functioning society. This implicit social contract made Zed’s head swim; his brain plummeted down a mineshaft, and the blood continued to funnel forth.


The day ebbed. The hours shifted amongst themselves, hiding their time away like a child hoarding sticky-sweets. It took a severe state of disrepair for Zed to drift into memories of his own wretched childhood. A non-childhood, truth be told. Zed was a foundling, a literal babe in the woods, stumbled upon by caravanning Jipsies. To them, he was a novelty. A family pet for an expansive set of relations. A chaotic, tumbling family rife with internal friction and hair-trigger tempers. But also full of the toughest love a boy could ask for, or endure. By year four, he was the finest pickpocket in the entire traveling village, by seven he was leading daring burglaries of the aristocracy’s ill-gotten gains, and the following year he thanked the Jipsies for his brutal education, spat in their faces and went along his way. And he never looked back. Except in these pitiful reveries.

If he wasn’t occupied with vomiting so violently that his entire body quaked with the force of a mage’s earthshatter spell, he would have shed a tear, perhaps two. Instead, he was an active volcano spewing the earth’s guts into the air with a fury borne of centuries locked underground, biding its time for the inevitable molten prison break.

His attitude towards Jipsies was ambivalent, at best. That was a step-up from his attitude towards most things, which see-sawed between indignant vitriol and an acidic humor which threatened to poison those around him. If it didn’t kill him first. Days like this, spent in bloody fugue, acted as a sort of antidote. If he could come out laughing through this hell, then what he did he have to fear from any man, monster or demi-god? He had not only rejected infinite power, he had survived himself, the deadliest son-of-a-(presumed)bitch around. He was Zed Nihil, so Fuck you and Eat shit, asshole. You never heard of me? That’s probably because I killed everyone you know and stole their bedsheets while I was at it. Maybe burned their house down, or dismantled their castle stone by stone. Drank the godsdamn moat in one gulp and pissed a new river, sure to give a nasty disease to any fool who bathed in its waters.

The bravado was earned, but it meant nothing in the present moment. He hadn’t figured out how to defeat himself yet. But he was working on it.


It was the following day. The crimson froth had subsided, and Zed had finally managed to sleep longer than the brief intermissions that granted him blessed relief at those moments when he thought he was finished with this mortal coil. And even though Zed had intimate knowledge of other mortal coils, he still had some things to take care of on this particular one. And perhaps a few people to kill.

Just as Zed endeavored to raise himself to his feet, for the first time since the ordeal began, a hideous squawking penetrated the cracked glass of his drafty window. What the fucking fook? Zed grabbed ahold of the rickety sill and pulled himself up, his face smashing against the glass like a bird with bad eyesight. As his eyes congealed into focus, Zed saw a messenger crow glaring at him from only inches away. Ahh fuck me, I don’t think I’m in the condition to deal with this shite. In his experience, messenger crows brought only news of impending hardships and future misery. And they were used exclusively by only the wealthiest bastards in the land.

They were the only ones who could afford the crows’ high prices. Their services did not come cheap, and they weren’t shy about informing you of their excellent performance record. Reluctantly, and with great effort that he tried his best to disguise, Zed lifted the window and let the bird in.

“Rough night?” the crow squawked.

“Aye, keep it down, willya? I’ve got neighbors, and ears.”

“Well perk them up, Mr. Nix, I have an urgent message for you. A summons from his Highness himself, Sir Lord Altimore.”

Zed’s head was still foggy, but he quickly pieced together the basic facts. Sir Lord Altimore was a pompous ass that had employed Zed to steal his father’s crown back from the bandits who had savagely murdered the patriarch. It was a relatively routine, if bloody, job, and paid handsomely. Zed had used one of his myriad aliases after accepting the quest. By pure chance, he had read a parchment nailed to a communal bulletin board in some random beatdown village he was passing through. Talking walls, they called them, usually situated in the town’s square.


While Zed did not relish the idea of walking straight into one of his most hated institution’s many outposts, he was also flat broke, and, as usual, bored silly. Everyone in the surrounding area was so poor and miserable that he would feel like a complete and total shit-heel for picking a pocket or breaking and entering a supply store. And they had Sir Lord Fuckface to thank for that. The man taxed as if money was going extinct, and did he provide his subjects with better roads, clean wells or even basic protection from marauders? Hell no, he didn’t, and this pissed Zed off almost as much as this crow’s presence in his flat.

“And what the fuck does his High-ass want?”

“Mr. Nix, please conduct our communication cordially, we crows do not appreciate disrespect.”

Uppity fucking birds, Zed thought. I’ll murder the lot of them one day.

“Apologies, Mr. Crow. Now spill it.”

It seemed as if the crow almost sighed. Zed thought – can a bird sigh? Fucking drama queens; get on with it, before I puke blood and guts all over your preened feathers and unblinking inhuman eyes.

“Sir Lord Altimore requests your presence at his court. He is in need of your particular…….skills. Please prepare yourself and present yourself -- with some decorum this time. The court is still chattering about your last visit.”

Zed managed a smile, more of a smirk, at this last comment. Hoo boy, did he have some fun at the expense of a certain lady’s innocence, and to the embarrassment of a few of the minor royal ass-ends’ chagrin. Stick-in-the-muds, all of ‘em. They should have showered him with praise and luxuries, not ran him off, especially considering he got the damn crown back from a formidable gang of killers, Hexnar’s Raiders.

Zed considered telling the crow to fuck off, but then he remembered Altimore’s hellhounds, and he certainly didn’t have the strength to evade those snarling beasts. They did not require rest and would not cease hunting until they were dead, and they were a bitch and a half to kill. Fuck. Typical rock/hard place situation Zed seemed to constantly find himself in.

“You can tell Alto I’ll be there as soon as I can gather my thoughts, tools and testicles.”

“Hurry, Mr. Nix, time is of the essence.”

The crow gave him one last disapproving glance and then, without warning, spread his wings and flew right past Zed’s face, out the window and back into the sky from whence he came.

“Fuckin’ cocksucker!” Zed yelled after him, but the crow was gone, back to deliver the news to his employer.

Zed looked around his disheveled flat, spied a roach of rolled sageweed, balanced it between his lips and forefingers, struck a match, inhaled deeply and sharply, held the smoke in as long as he was able, then exhaled in a long sigh. Zed slapped himself in the face and goosed his plums. Time to be yourself again, he thought.

Lock up your daughters and clasp your jewels tight, Cypher Nix is on his way, and he is one bad motherfucker!

to be cont.