Sunday, November 4, 2012

Neo-noir(?)* books

I recently took a break from my steady diet of horror fiction to read a couple of noir-ish works. Admittedly, I am a complete novice when it comes to crime/noir/thriller books. I haven't read any of the classics, and I haven't even seen any of the classic movies. I'm a little hesitant to explore further, as I already buy more horror and speculative fiction than I can read. With a whole other genre to obsess over, I'm afraid I would never get anything done, nor save any money for my impending old age. Still, these two books - one a novella and the other a full-length novel - were so enjoyable that I may have to venture out into that wide, dark world after all.

Also interesting, and somewhat new for me, is that both of these books are only available in Kindle format - no print versions. (Although one looks to be heading that way, see below.) I am a steadfast physical book fan; I think e-books have their place, and I do indeed own a Kindle, but I can't see myself ever preferring an e-version over good old wood pulp. Yes, you can argue for the democratization of publishing and the convenience of a lightweight device that holds dozens of titles. To an extent, I'll agree with you. But as a print production person by day and book lover by night, my loyalties lie with the increasingly archaic world of media that exist in hard reality instead of electrons stored on a high-tech device. And get off my lawn, dammit.

Anyway, on to the stories...

(Jason S. Ridler, 2012)

Punk rock, pro wrestling, and mystery… Yes! This was a ridiculously fun book to read. Fast-moving, and a real page-turner. Many interesting plot twists, leading up to a truly bizarre climax that had my jaw literally dropping. (That does not happen very often.) Nicely played, Jason S. Ridler.

In DEATH MATCH, former punk musician and current local newspaper journalist Spar Battersea, newly sober, is barely scraping by in his hometown of Dismas, living with a local indie wrestler and trying to drag his own cranky ass into adulthood. When his roommate is killed in the ring, Spar sets off on a twisted journey through the gutters and back alleys of Dismas, searching for the truth while getting deeper and deeper into the city's sex- and drugs-fueled underworld.

I finished this book a while ago, and a number of the characters are still tumbling around in my brain. Recovering alcoholic Spar Battersea is fleshed out nicely, and is flawed enough to be a real person. Past-his-prime wrestler The Bullet is slightly reminiscent of Mickey Rourke's Randy the Ram, although even lower down and harder up. Human freak show Johnny Silent (aka Mime Boy) makes a deep impression without any dialogue, and is one of the creepier characters I've come across recently.

Lots of recognizable archetypes from punk rock and related scenes, including a straight-edge drug dealer (!) and psychobillies who are truly psycho. Also a couple of prostitutes with a surprising connection, a nasty biker gang, a crooked promoter, print journalists, and other assorted rough trade. (I kid, I kid.)

I really got a kick (so to speak) from all the wrestling terms and indie-league stories. I watched a lot of Ring of Honor and ECW back in the day, paid for membership to a great wrestling news site (, and I occasionally drop in on WWE to see what is happening. (Spoiler: it is still 95% crap.) Still, you don't have to be a wrestling fan to like this book, or even understand the lingo; Ridler explains a few terms, and the rest can be picked up easily from context.

There are two other Spar Battersea books (CON JOB and DICE ROLL); I bought CON JOB before I was halfway done with DEATH MATCH, and I plan to read DICE ROLL too.

(Ed Kurtz, Abbatoir Press, 2012)

Abattoir Press launched a new novella series in April with "Catch My Killer! The First Sam Truman Mystery." Each Sam Truman book will be written by a different author, and first up is Abattoir main man himself, Ed Kurtz. Hard-boiled noir meets sardonic horror, with wildly entertaining results.

Hard-luck gumshoe Sam Truman has lost his PI license and is one small step above outright homelessness. While stopping a robbery at his buddy Clu's diner, he plugs the perpetrating punk; this is enough of a problem for Sam to begin with, especially given his particular relationship with the local cops (and the fact is not allowed to have a gun), but it gets worse when the corpse shows up at his door and asks for help… The corpse, of course, is actually possessed by the spirit of a murdered woman, not the hood Sam shot. She makes the titular request, and we are off to the races.

Very real concerns, such as having enough money to pay for a meal or an extremely limited number of bullets for your gun, are just as important as the reanimated corpses and black magic rituals. Kurtz does not skimp on the little details that ground the story in almost-reality, nor does he hold back on the blood-soaked undead action when it's clobberin' time.

As mentioned, this is currently available as an e-book only, but rumor has it that an omnibus edition of the first three Sam Truman books - "Catch My Killer!" (Ed Kurtz); "The Last Invasion" (Brandon Zuern); and "Soft Kiss, Hard Death" (Tobin Elliott) - will be published next year on real paper. Even though I have the Kindle edition of the first two books, I will undoubtedly pick up the physical book when it is available. These stories are too much fun, and nothing beats the experience of reading an actual physical book. The fourth book, "Bound By Jade" (Adam Cesare) was released for Kindle a couple of weeks ago.

*I may be using this term wrong, not sure. Please correct me if necessary.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

"American Idol" by S.C. Hayden

I finally bought a copy of American Idol (Black Bed Sheet Books, 2011) by S.C. Hayden at this year’s World Horror Convention, something I have been meaning to do for a while. I had read part of it in manuscript form last year as a submission to Montag Press; I liked it enough to enthusiastically recommend publishing it before I was even halfway done, but was chagrined to find that Black Bed Sheet beat us to the punch. That being the case, I vowed to pay real American dollars for the final version in book form, and I happily did so at WHC. (Full details of that trip, including meeting S.C. Hayden and Black Bed Sheets honcho Nicholas Grabowsky, can be found in an earlier post.)

I have since read the whole thing, and yeah, I really liked this book. It is one of the more unconventional and straight-up fun, and often funny, books I’ve read in a while, bristling with irreverence – literally, as Hayden mocks every major religion I can think of and goes after the very notion of organized religion itself. 

American Idol tells the story of two friends and a sister who revive the practice of idolatry, not because they believe in it as a spiritual system, but purely for profit (and maybe a little provocation too). This simple premise sets the stage for commentary on many aspects of our modern culture, primarily faith and commerce. And Hayden certainly has a lot to say.

A few surprising plot twists really change the tenor of the story as it unfolds. The general mood ranges from hilariously anarchic tweaking of values and beliefs to more somber and emotional passages, before arriving at a decidedly surreal climax. Hayden starts many chapters with quotes from religious texts like The Bible and The Koran, as well as relevant quotes from folks as diverse as L. Ron Hubbard, Nietzsche, and Tom Waits. A number of the quotes had me thinking they must surely be a joke, but every time I Googled them, I found they were authentic. Wow.

Hayden has a laid-back and conversational writing style that is well-suited to the story and its multiple digressions. At times I was reminded of the great Illuminatus! trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. Faith, loyalty, synchronicities, and strange numerology as well as shifting perspectives and voices figure into both works. American Idol isn’t nearly as Byzantine or completely over the top as Illuminatus!, but the parallels are there, I think.

My only real complaint is with the physical book itself. As with so many small press books, there are a number of typos throughout. Nothing that makes passages unintelligible or anything like that, but as a layout guy, these things are hard for me to ignore. If you are not an editor or designer, you probably won’t be distracted by them, and they certainly shouldn’t impede your enjoyment of the story.

It probably goes without saying, but this is not a book for the easily offended. Hayden’s targets of parody and scorn are many, and odds are you or someone you love falls into at least one of the many groups within his sights. Hopefully you can take a joke, because this is a book worth reading. There is a great deal of interesting ideas and thought-provoking commentary to be found in these pages, along with an enjoyable and engrossing plot involving well-written characters. A book that can’t really be pigeon-holed in a distinct genre, American Idol should appeal to anyone with a sense of humor, an open mind, and an interest in the absurdities of modern American culture.

Monday, May 7, 2012

"The Croning" by Laird Barron

The Croning is a stellar book, in many senses of that word. Firmly implanting the cosmic in "cosmic horror," Laird Barron's first novel takes a number of threads started in his short stories and weaves them into a stunning gallows rope.

If you've read any of Mr. Barron's short stories -- many of which are collected in The Imago Sequence and Other Stories (Night Shade Books, 2007) and Occultation and Other Stories (Night Shade Books, 2010) -- then you know he can rapidly set a mood and get down to hallucinatory, nasty business. His first longer-form story was The Light is the Darkness (Infernal House, 2011), a novella published in a very limited edition last year. It is a gorgeous, exquisitely produced volume, and features a story that is just as much weird action pulp as horror. It hits some different beats than his shorter works, but is still unmistakably Barron.

Leather bound with an amazing debossed cover in a custom tray case. Yes, I have a copy.

Having read his short stories multiple times and then the novella, I was confident Mr. Barron would make good use of the longer novel format to further inflict his vision upon the reader. I was not wrong. With The Croning, he has the space to lay out a deep back story and slowly simmer his nightmarish stew, as opposed to the microwave oven necessitated by the short story form.

The Croning tells the story of aged geologist Don Miller and his anthropologist wife Michelle Mock. Jumping around between three different periods in their shared life, we meet their family and associates, as well as government agents and the ancient cult of Old Leech, familiar from some of Mr. Barron's previous stories. Unfolding for the most part in his familiar Pacific Northwest locales, the strange family histories of the Millers and the Mocks slowly but surely crystallizes into a soul-shattering fugue of doom and unthinkable horror.

Mr. Barron includes enough of the mundane and the familiar in the story to give it a good grounding. To his credit, the settings seem very real, even when very unreal things are occurring. As the tension ratchets up and the story starts moving faster and faster, the little details and realistic touches from earlier in the book lay a nice groundwork for the creeping dread and awful realizations to come.

According to a recent interview with Mr. Barron over at the excellent Cosmicomicon, most of his stories take place in a shared reality, and he does a good job of reinforcing that notion with small details; names, places, and a small black guide book make repeated appearances in a number of his tales. Especially relevant to The Croning are his stories The Men from Porlock, available in The Book of Cthulhu (Night Shade Books, 2011), and both The Broadsword and Mysterium Tremendum, published in Occultation and Other Stories. I'd suggest reading all of those before The Croning, although that is certainly not necessary to enjoy the novel.

Mr. Barron's central theme strikes me as an alloy forged from classic Lovecraftian cosmic horror, Thomas Ligotti's idea of The Darkness, and his own unique rare-earth minerals. This overarching mythology has been teased and hinted at in previous stories, and here it is laid bare. If I have any quibble with this book, it would be that the concepts underlying the "Barronic Mythos" (to quote T. E. Grau) are almost too illuminated. The story features some nice twists and reveals right up until the end; when that end is reached, it appears there is little ambiguity left regarding the story of Old Leech and related entities.

Still, at this point I trust Mr. Barron implicitly. I have liked or (more frequently) loved everything he has written to date, and he is a well-reasoned and seasoned writer of exceptional quality. He has another short story collection in the works, and is apparently working on a crime novel. Given that his existing horror fiction mines many noir and pulp tropes, I am excited to read his full-blown take on the genre.

The man himself.

Along those lines, Mr. Barron's personal story is fascinating to the point of almost seeming like good fiction itself. Growing up in poverty in rural Alaska, losing an eye as a young child, training and racing sled dogs, fishing the Bering Sea… Read the aforementioned interview at The Cosmicomicon as well as this revelatory column on the Centipede Press website for more. His hard-earned experience informs his writing to a degree that can only be achieved by living the life.

The Croning is one of the best novels I have read in quite some time, horror or otherwise. Beautiful and brutal, with genuine skin-crawling moments shuffled in with scenes of wide-eyed wonder. I predict you will see this book on many Best of 2012 lists and awards ballots… Laird Barron has proven, definitively, that he can write long stories that are just as effective as his short fiction, and I'm looking forward to reading more, much more, of this unique man's singular and haunting vision.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

So I went to the World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City

I just flew in from the World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City, and boy is my shoggoth tired. But seriously, folks… This was my first WHC, and my first con of any sort in at least 25 years. It was quite an experience: exhilarating, exhausting, excellent. I attended both as a fan and as a representative of Montag Press, a publishing collective based in Davis, CA. Our first book should be out in early summer (Tree Black by Connor de Bruler), more details on that when the stars are right.

I met so many nice and wonderful people at WHC.  Some I had known from online financial transactions; Hippocampus Press and Centipede Press have seen some  action from my bank account over the years, and it was great to finally meet Derrick Hussey and Jerad Walters. I had a nice talk with Derrick about Clark Ashton Smith and Wilum Pugmire. I didn’t get to talk with Jerad too much, as his absolutely beautiful books were attracting a lot of attention (and customers).

Another vendor acquaintance was Paul Anderson of Arkham AntiquesI bugged Paul repeatedly about all the amazing Lovecraftiana he had for sale, and he was very patient with me. I thank him for that.

Since I was there repping Montag, I took some author pitches – the first time I’ve ever done anything like that, for sure. I found out a couple of days before that I would be sitting on a pre-pitch panel session, not the kind of thing I usually do… Still, Friday morning at 10:00, I found myself sitting at a table with six established horror publishers and editors, facing a standing room crowd of around 50 authors. I acquitted myself OK, and later took pitches for three hours from a number of promising writers. Another guy tracked me down the next day and we had an impromptu session, so in all I talked seriously to seven different people. For an introvert like me, that was quite an experience. Thanks to fellow panelists Kim Richardson of Damnation Books, Nicholas Grabowsky of Black Bed Sheet Books (more on him later), Steven Booth and Norman Rubenstein of Genius Publishing, Don D’Auria of Samhain Publishing, and RJ Cavender of Cutting Block Press for the advice and camaraderie.

While I truly enjoyed taking the pitches, the highlight of the con for me was meeting all of the other small press folks who were there. I was pleasantly surprised – stunned, really – by just how friendly, open, and supportive they all were. My badge did say Montag Press, and I figured the other presses would be a little wary or guarded. Boy, did I misjudge this community. Every single press I talked with was happy to share information and discuss the field.

Dark Regions Press brought many of their books that are on my master To Read list, so I picked a few up from Joe Morey in person. What a haul: Nightingale Songs by Simon Strantzas, Charnel Wine by Richard Gavin, the brand new Gathered Dust and Others hardback by W.H. Pugmire, the dark poetry book Shroud of Night by G. O. Clark, and The Engines of Sacrifice by James Chambers. Mr. Clark and Mr. Chambers were both at the booth, and graciously chatted and signed my books. Joe threw in a copy of Pain by Harry Shannon for free and we made a nice deal. Thanks Joe!

Post Mortem Press had a nice selection of their wares. I hung around with publisher Eric Beebe and author Scott Lange for a while. Later, they let me sit with them at the Bram Stoker Awards banquet. Thanks guys! We also spent some time together in the Radisson bar. Genuinely nice fellas. I bought a copy of Scott’s The Beer Chronicles – with a name like that, how could I not?

Eric Beebe and Scott Lange

In the bar with S.C. Hayden and Scott Lange

ChiZine Publications from Toronto was there, and I got to meet publisher Brett Savory and his wife Sandra Katsuri. I picked up a copy of Katja From The Punk Band by Simon Logan and talked with them for a while. ChiZine had a room party Saturday night; I know I was there and I think I donated a few remnant  beers I picked up when the Stoker party shut down, but then it gets a little fuzzy. Ahem.

At the Stoker Awards banquet. See all the formal wear?
Now guess which doofus wore army pants and a t-shirt. Oops.

Over the course of the three days I was there, I also had some good conversations with a number of other fascinating people. Lori Michelle and Max Booth of Dark Moon Books, Ed Kurtz of RedRum Horror, Roy Robbins of Bad Moon Books, Hollie Snider at Evil Jester Press, and last but not least Blake Casselman of Rare Legend Films stand out the most. I even briefly met Ross Lockhart, managing editor of Night Shade Books, one of my favorite imprints. That was seriously cool.

Ed Kurtz

And then there was the Black Bed Sheet Books posse: publisher and author Nicholas Grabowsky, and authors S.C. Hayden and Alexander Beresford. I met them on the first day, and ended up spending a good deal of time talking and drinking with them in various locales. In one of those “it’s a small world” moments, it turns out Nick lives just a few miles from me, hah. I had read the first half of Sean Hayden’s American Idol in manuscript form, and loved it. When I found out another press was going to publish it, I stopped reading the manuscript and promised myself I'd buy the book when it came out. I’m happy to say I finally did that, really looking forward to reading the final version in its entirety. I have also added Alex’s new book Charla to that To Read list mentioned above, hearing good things about it. I sincerely hope I haven’t seen the last of these rogues, we had too much fun.

Nicholas Grabowsky, Alexander Beresford, and S.C. Hayden

I also want to mention Zombiance, who played a free show in the convention suite on Thursday night. I only caught the last few songs of their set, but really enjoyed it. They have a hard/punk rock style, with songs exclusively about horror topics. Not content with mere corpse paint, these guys and girl have costumes that include make-up, latex and prostheses, very well done.

Zombiance and small, well-behaved punker audience

I had to leave on Sunday and missed the last day of the con. Almost missed my check-out time too, as I apparently returned from those Stoker and ChiZine parties pretty damn late. When I got to the airport, my plane was delayed, everything was crowded, the food was bad, the whole thing. But it didn’t matter. Those three days that came before were worth any travel hassles, without a doubt. This was my first professional convention, and I get the feeling there will be many more. Hoping to make KillerCon in Vegas later this year, fingers crossed.

I took this picture of a deserted SLC at 3:30
Sunday morning. I'm sure I had a good reason.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Surgery (the band, not the hospital thing): a personal history

In 2012, AmRep rockers Surgery are long gone. No retrospective box set, no articles about their place in and influence on the post-hardcore scene, not even a proper live recording of any of their songs. This is a shame. 

L-R (I think): Scott Kleber, Sean McDonnell, John Leamy, John Lachapelle
Surgery dropped my jaw back in the early 90s. An excellent blend of rock, noise, punk, and smarm, they had just the right concoction to go straight to my little black heart. A four-piece with the same line-up for their entire recorded career, they went from Syracuse to the unknown zone of Lower East Side NYC to a major-label deal that unleashed one album on the world before singer/guitarist Sean McDonnell died in 1995.

The majority of their recorded output appears under the auspices of the splendid Amphetamine Reptile Records, home of other kindred spirits busy spiking the post-punk punch with incongruous elements. They  have a track ("Action Candy") on the third installment of AmRep's legendary Dope-Guns-'N-Fucking In The Streets compilation series, released in 1989. I bought a cassette tape compilation of the first three volumes in 1989; with the exception of Mudhoney, all of the bands on the tape were new to me. At this point, Surgery didn't really leave a lasting impression in my mind. Helios Creed, Cows, and Halo of Flies grabbed my attention more then the others, and I started buying just about anything I could find on AmRep. (To my shame, I did not have a working turntable at the time, and was only buying cassettes and CDs.) 

Here is Surgery performing "Action Candy" from the Ugly American Overkill video, a document of the 1990 AmRep European tour featuring Helmet, God Bullies, Surgery, and Tar.

Also in 1989, Surgery released their first 7" under the AmRep imprint ("Not Going Down" b/w "Blow Her Face"), as well as a the vinyl-only mini-album Souleater (on Glitterhouse in Germany, and Circuit Records in the USA). Both chunks of solidified petroleum swagger and lurch, taking a leisurely stroll down the art-noise trail on their way to the rock mountain.

"Not Going Down" b/w "Blow Her Face" front cover
Souleater, front cover

In 1990, Surgery released another 7" on AmRep, "Feedback" b/w "Fried". Still lots of noisy art-rock leanings, but their distinctive guitar was really starting to crystalize. But back then, I was out of the loop on all three records. They completely flew under my radar and I wouldn't hear them until some years later.

"Feedback" b/w "Fried", front cover

Then, in 1991, Surgery dropped their first full-length (if you can call 31 minutes "full-length") LP and CD on AmRep, Nationwide. I was hungry for a music fix, saw the CD, and figured hey, it's on AmRep, how bad could it? Nationwide changed everything for me. Only nine songs, and just over half an hour, but what a statement...

Nationwide, front cover

At first, I wasn't sure what to make of it - while definitely loud and somewhat angry, it didn't really sound like Black Flag or Poison Idea or even the other AmRep bands I was already digging. So much unapologetic r-o-c-k, and what can only be described as "boogie" guitar. Like most of my favorite records, it took a few listens before I was convinced, but once I understood it, I became certain that this was one of the best rock records ever recorded. 21 years later, I maintain that belief.

Here is an actual music video for "Maliblues," the second track from Nationwide. This is taken from Dope Guns & Fucking Up Your Video Deck Volume I. You get a minute or so of build, then watch out for the falling rock.

Nationwide has joined a small group of albums that I have played a ridiculous number of times, where I am intimately familiar with every single second released for public consumption. It is in good company with classics from Slayer, Public Enemy, Black Flag, Black Sabbath, and The Makers, amongst others. I became obsessed with releases by all of these bands at one time or another, and I still listen to them all now. I'm not sure, but I think I have listened to Nationwide more times than any other album I own, and that covers a lot of ground.

Inside of CD insert, Nationwide

Anyway, Surgery next put out a phenomenal 7"/CD-EP, Little Debbie, in 1992, also on AmRep. Just three songs and 14 minutes (on the CD, only two songs and eight minutes on the 7"), but it is damn near perfect. "Little Debbie," "Queen to Queens Level Three", and "Exquisite" are so, so good. Full-tilt art-damaged rock-n-roll savagery, vaguely menacing and menacingly vague.

Little Debbie CD-single, front cover

And here is another actual music video, this time for "Little Debbie," taken from Dope Guns & Fucking Up Your Video Deck Volume II.

Next up was 1993's Trim, 9th Ward High Roller, once again on AmRep. This one also didn't immediately grab me, and is still feels a little different. Not to say it isn't good - it is a damn fine rock record. As with most things like this, the more I listened to it, the better I liked it.

Trim, 9th Ward High Roller, front cover

Here is that song "Maldia" from that record. I don't think any further music videos were made after "Little Debbie", so you can just stare at the record cover while you listen to it.

Even way back when, I liked this record enough to go see Surgery when they toured behind it. On May 28, 1993, Surgery played the infamous Kennel Club in San Francisco, with Chokebore and Today Is The Day. As usual for most bands I have seen, their live set was faster, sloppier, and funnier than the studio stuff - they were great! I bought a t-shirt (which I still have) and asked the guy at the merch table if any live releases were planned. He stunned me by saying that it would be up to Atlantic - Surgery had just signed a major-label deal.

The band, circa 1993

Wow. The Nirvana thing was still in effect I guess, and a lot of indie bands were still getting snapped up by the majors. I held my breath and waited, and in 1994 we got Shimmer, Surgery's first and only major-label record, complete with PMRC tattoo...

Shimmer is an odd mix of their old boogie-noise-punk with newer and seemingly more radio-friendly tracks. The lead single was "Off The A List"; Atlantic obviously hoped this would be a hit with those crazy alternative-rock kids, but it wasn't. I have read references to a music video being made for this song, but have not been able to scrape it up online. I'm kind of glad if that is the case; this is very far from my favorite track by the band, and certainly not my favorite track on Shimmer. It's a nice little ditty, but barely hints at the ferocious intensity the band was capable of exhibiting. 

Here, listen to "Off The A List", then we'll listen to another cut from the same record:

Not bad, right? You could imagine hearing that on your local "cool" commercial rock radio station, nestled in between Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Now check out "Bootywhack". More swagger and old-style Surgery boogie-down rock, even if it is noticeably cleaner.

My favorite songs from Shimmer aren't even on YouTube in any form. "Vibe Out" (complete with weirdo organ breaks), the rollicking "Mr. Scientist", and the low-key "Gulf Coast Score" are nowhere to be found. But you know what? You can buy Shimmer used on Amazon for a goddamn penny (well, plus shipping), maybe do that if you are curious.

So, Shimmer was not then, and is not now, my favorite Surgery record. I was underwhelmed by the new, more commercial direction and cleaner sound. Worse, I was young enough to be indignant that one of my favorite bands had made the unforgivable sin of selling out. This just wasn't punk, man!

Still, the album had some catchy rock songs, and now that they had sorta belly-flopped with the first major-label release, I had hopes that the next record might be a more "back to our roots" kind of thing.

Sadly, it was not to be. Outside of a couple of CD-singles taken from Shimmer, this was Surgery's last release.

Off The A List CD-single (promo only), front cover and CD

Early in 1995, singer/guitarist Sean McDonnell died from complications due to, of all things, asthma. He was 29. According to Your Flesh magazine, for which Sean used to write, his death was due in large part to "a missing medicine bottle", which seems all the more tragic. While apparently a party-hearty dude, his death appears to have little to do with rock-n-roll excess. Years later, a guy from whom I bought a 7" on eBay claimed that the asthma attack was just "code" for a heroin OD. I can find no other references to this, and I am disinclined to believe Random Internet Dude.

Your Flesh #31 features a memorial section about Sean, including some wicked and/or hilarious reviews he wrote for YF, and Sean's eulogy from Surgery drummer John Leamy. This is actually how I found out about it - in those pre-internet days, I got most of my music info from zines like Your Flesh, Fiz, Flipside, Thora-Zine, stuff like that. I was floored.

Your Flesh #31, front cover

Afterwards, the band broke up and that was that. In doing some research for this article, I found that drummer John Leamy went on to play with Masters of Reality for a few records. I knew nothing about that band, so I checked 'em out real quick. Seems kinda like Hawkwind-lite, not really my thing but I'm glad to see Leamy is still an active musician.

As for Surgery, there is one fan-made MySpace page that features four tracks from Shimmer and nothing more, very bare-bones. (I didn't make it. If I had, it would be better.) No real website, nothing else except a few blog mentions from other music dorks, and thankfully a few live video clips uploaded to YouTube. The following three videos include about 43 minutes from a live show in NYC, May 20, 1992:

Songs: D-Nice (Amphetamine Reptile Peel Sessions, later on Shimmer); A.K. (Trim 9th Ward High Roller)

Songs: Exquisite (Little Debbie); Maliblues (Nationwide); L-7 (Nationwide)

Songs: Brazier (Souleater); Little Debbie (Little Debbie); Caveman (Nationwide) (w/extended jam or...?); Queen to Queens Level Three (Little Debbie)

And here we are... Another awesome, important band is relegated to the tiniest margins of underground culture, and people continue to get up and go to work every day without knowing or caring. Such is the way of the world.

End Notes
Surgery shows up in a few places not listed above. These I know for sure, maybe there are more?

A quick word about MP3 blogs… Most of Surgery's output can be found and downloaded for free from MP3 blogs. I am not sure what to make of this. Nationwide, Trim 9th Ward High Roller, and Shimmer can be purchased as CDs or MP3s through Amazon, amongst others, so downloading these releases from some guy's blog is pretty pirate-y. Listen to the songs via YouTube, or even the previews at Amazon if you are desperate. If you like the music, go legit and buy it. I have no idea if any money from new CDs or MP3s makes it way back to AmRep or the band members, but it's the principle that counts, right?