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‘Printhead’ The Fall

More. T.M.I. blog oldness from April 2008. The magazine industry went into freefall even more than I ever anticipated a few months later.

God forbid these entries might descend into cod-political commentary. That’s not because of apathy, but because sites like New Statesman’s and John Pilger’s opinions are infinitely more reasoned and inspirational. Fuck Bushisms are occasionally entertaining, but there’s an aura of tinpot revolutionary for the most part when idealism and MacBook collide.

And that’s a solid example as to why print media remains relevant. Too much blogging is, like the paragraph above, biased, badly written and unqualified. Just because it’s on paper makes it no more worthy, but selection processes and an editorial shit-filter is meant to maintain some quality control at the very least.

Thankfully there’s a lot less Asian celebs taking pictures of their lunch and parcels they’ve been sent, or pictures of lunch and parcels by white males who wish they were Asian in perfect-bound, rather than screen burnt form.

That’s not to say the shelves are bulging with excellent publications. On an artistic level and when it comes to the ever-burgeoning ‘zine scene, a mere glance at the shelves of Magma reveals goodness, but when it comes to the newsagents, we’re deprived of a store that carries a great homegrown and import selection across-the-board.

Annoyingly, to pick up The Economist and New Yorker regularly costs as much as a heroin habit. i-D’s cover-to-cover Agness was a high concept waste that would have been nicer if it was Zoe Kravitz (the fact she’s American is an irrelevance) heavy instead. Monocle is better than a lot of releases, but is like being spoken to by a thin, solemn man clad in costly cashmere about Scandinavian underwear and foreign policies for two hours, culminating in a forced screening of the world’s worst 007 knockoff anime. So why not do it yourself?

On a DIY tip, once upon a time, British hip-hop media made brave attempts to sit alongside HHC’s crap design and useless opinion pieces circa ’94. Ear II The Ground (big up Byron the hip-hop arsonist), the gloriously OTT look of The Downlow – the equally defunct Fat Boss’ forefather (big up Mat Carter) which once trounced the Guardian and Arena in design award ceremonies, Represent – one of the first magazines to put Biggie on its cover, and one that happily threw the likes of Finsta Bundy up there too was great while it lasted.

Big Daddy then Grand Slam were as fine as Wax Poetics (it’s worth checking out Finger magazine too as well as Straight No Chaser spirit in Shook) gets in terms of content. But they all ceased trading.

For a minute, the Big Daddy spirit was filtered into Keep On – a passionately written magazine that was also given away online in PDF form. Paper giveaways line rucksacks and shopping bags. We run the gauntlet in London during the afternoon, where obtrusive waving arms offer clone newspapers full of whimsy and gossip, devoid of any investigation or insight. But giveaway doesn’t have to represent a disposable art.

Idealistic pamphlets with ads for West Indian supermarkets and musician profiles, padded out with crap health tips, fictional problem letters and horoscopes make one-off store counter appearances, but at time-of-writing, a handful of shop visits and the gratis reads they yield are as strong as most purchased publications.

In the States, the New Yorkers have got their Village Voice as well as FRANK151 (UK edition please) in its book sized glory, RVCA’ s tremendous ANP Quarterly, and Wooooo magazine that once featured an enjoyable Q&A with Martha Plimpton (free at last glance, but that might have been an inadvertent shoplift) – even Ego Trip started as a freebie, but only to dwellers of the Rotten Apple.

On this side of the pond it still seems to be the done thing to take potshots at Vice, despite the original editorial annihilating most things out there. Argentinian female prisoners larking around with photo composites? Prancehall’s column? Johnny Ryan being the second funniest cartoonist on the planet? Some of the wittiest, most concise music journalism out there? Republican schmepublican – it’s still a good read.

‘Sup manages to cover several bases with some solid writing and editorial choices, RWD covers acts precisely two months before you’ll hear the hyperbole anywhere else and does its job admirably. The artier spinoff of skate mag Document , +1, is nicely written and designed – intelligent interviews and one of the best ‘Book Club’ sections of literary recommendations, courtesy of Stuart Hammond, out there.

After approaching with trepidation, FACT trounces nearly all chin stroking music magazines, again, by getting in first and avoiding being bogged down with ‘next big thing’ talk and label payola. ‘The 20 Best Argentine Psyche records’? Yes please. You probably won’t find that in the usual Stones saluting, covermount CD sporting, Bob Dylan fellating Dad-rock monthly.

Even UNIQLO’s ‘Paper’ is more intelligently collated than plenty of sell-through titles, but one of the top pickups out there is FAITH – resurrecting the spirit of Farley and Weatherall’s’ Boy’s Own’ ‘zine, this time with Terry, Bill Brewster, Leo Elstob, Dave Jarvis and Stuart Patterson.

Promising “house, house and more fucking house” it delivers with plenty of vitriol, sharp writing and great pieces like Alan Arscott’s soul dancing retrospective. It’s also a pain in the arse to locate, but Stussy seems to stock it regularly.

The Future Laboratory’s THE publication fares less well, bogged down in pretence from the offset with an editorial that predicts, “…a shift away from individualized, consumer-driven society to a less predictable community-spirited new order.” – where’s cats dressed up like people when you need them?

Contrary to the saying, away from the high gloss hype, you’ll actually get ‘owt for nowt, and avoid the empty feeling a costly import title that burns out after a twenty minute browse provides. The future is free.

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