The cover includes the tagline “Music/Pornography,” but fear not this has little to do with Limp Bizkit, Blink 182, Kid Rock, et al and their teenage masturbatory porn fantasies that have been covered ad nauseum in the mainstream music press. No, Ugly American is probably the most well-written and angry ‘zine that has come my way all year. It could have something to do with the opening page gleefully burning every possible industry “contact” bridge that would ever come their way, but this is the only way that a tome as brilliant as Ugly American could exist, in total paranoid isolation. I’m not sure if every issue is like this, but #18 is divided between interviews with porn types and tape reviews handled by Greg Chapman, and record reviews by J. Marlowe. The porn side, I can’t comment much on, as I am unfamiliar with any of his interview subjects. Suffice it to say, Chapman combines a love for the medium with a welcome critical perspective/grasp of reality that makes his stuff readable AND thought-provoking. The interviews are grim as hell, intentional or not, and it’s evident that Chapman has done his, ahem, homework. Now on to my favorite part.
After reading the completely voluminous reviews section of the magazine, I can see why J. Marlowe wants no part of the music industry at all. See, he lets fly every dirty little secret of our precious little “hip” bands that we always knew in the back of our minds but were afraid to admit. Marlowe’s reviews are more jihad than journalism, exposing an entrenched white liberal media circle that champions mediocrity and watered-down eclecticism over true inspiration and anger. Marlowe’s reviews are at times so dense and impassioned that he makes Lester Bangs look like those kids on MTV Total Request Live , “Dude! They rock… cuz… They Rock!” Shellac are rightfully lambasted as joyless and turgid. A review of Sonic Youth’s A Thousand Leaves turns into an all-out broadside against Spin / Rolling Stone / Village Voice , major labels, and every other Sonic Youth record after EVOL . Marilyn Manson’s Mechanical Animals is termed “background music for a Web-surfing party where… people are content to smoke cigarettes and palm their own genitals through their stretchy vinyl pants.” Even underground darlings Jim O’Rourke and John McIntire are dismissed as “egghead retards so hermetically sealed within their shiny tin-plated brains that they’ve become aesthetic vampires.” Your favorite band is most likely torn too shreds within these pages. It’s too beautiful for words. Marlowe and Chapman have raised the bar on rock writing and ‘zines to a dizzying height, any takers?
Ugly American, P.O. Box 264, Little Silver, NJ 07739