Saturday, July 31, 2010

CBGB OMFUG #1 - A Review

Concerts are a funny thing. They are more than just listening to music in a crowd of people. They take on extra meaning. You remember how the music made you feel, what was happening in your life at the time, the girl you danced with, the girl who just dumped you. They’re not an event, they’re an experience. And sometimes, the place you see a concert is so special, it gives the concert an extra meaning.

CBGB was a club in New York City that through a confluence of luck and circumstance, helped shape the evolution of Punk music and the subculture that surrounded it. Performances here by bands like the Ramones, Patti Smith, and Blondie have entered the stuff of legend and there are always about a million more people who say they were at the shows than there actually were. From 1973 to 2006, CBGB was a wild place, home to some of the best live music in the country. A million and one stories were born here, and that makes it a perfect subject for an anthology series like this.

The first issue of BOOM! Studios’ anthology contains two stories. The first is a NYC Punk Carol, where Phonogram’s Kieron Gillen takes a page from Dickens, and has a disillusioned punk rocker, struggling to live up to the legacy of his music, meet the Ghosts of Punk Past, Present, and Future. Gillen is a perfect choice for the lead story. Music is not an easy thing to write about, but he did it successfully throughout his 2 Phonogram miniseries and he does it again here. His enthusiasm for Punk shines through and draws you in. I like a few punk bands, but I’m hardly an expert, yet I got sucked in as the singer’s encounters with the ghosts explain the history of CBGB and how it influenced punk music. It introduces you to the relevant players in the history of this place with humor and ease. Anyone who ever got lost jumping from link to link in Wikipedia should have no problem reading Gillen’s story. Artist Marc Ellerby’s art evokes the simple style of indie greats and is perfectly suited for a story that is basically about the history of such a low fi, rough around the edges brand of music.

The second story, the Helsinki Syndrome, follows a punk fan in the late 70’s who has to clean out his dead uncle’s apartment. Once there he finds out that his uncle had a band called the Helsinki Syndrome that was “a constant sonic assault for an hour and a half.” It’s short, but it’s a great story about a kid learning about his family and going further into the punk culture. Rob G’s art is amazing and makes you feel like you’re right there in that grimy 70’s rock club with the characters. His depiction of the Helsinki Syndrome on a double page spread is incredible, and to paraphrase the main character, is the most punk fucking rock thing you’ve ever seen.

CBGB is something I picked up on a total whim at the comic shop, but I’m glad I did. It’s a tribute book that celebrates something important in our pop culture history without being exclusionary, tedious, or boring and that’s no mean feat. Whether you wear a suit to work or a safety pin through your ear, you should check this book out. Its good stuff.

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