A Review Asks Only Whether One Can Live With It Or Die Of It

I've been reviewing small press publications on www.bugpowder.com for a few years now. Totemic small presser Andy Luke recruited me; he'd been impressed with my essay, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll, and was convinced that I could restore some cheer to the reviews section.

Ostensibly a scoff-mixture, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll discusses the pathogenic presence in UK small press of comics creators eager to produce work sterilized by an ambition to be adaptable to the strictures of an intrusive company bent on 'product development', and who derive a vanity-buzz of satisfaction from tucking themselves into deadlines and knocked-off scripts. "This budding hack is fuelled by little more than the desperation for a sense of celebrity," I wrote, "and must be destroyed."

My muscular reviewing-style grated with small press enthusiasts' indulgence in self-satisfied congeniality and writer/artist shape-throwing, but I refused to conveniently dismiss creators with throwaway compliments, employing instead a reviewing discipline based on four simple tenets: 1, perspective is to be achieved; 2, the standards by which one is judging the work are to be made clear; 3, credit is to be given where it is due; and 4, one should not be such a fucking misanthrope, you above-being-human narcissist.

Regularly achieving three of the four principles with my aesthetic evaluations, and quickly developing an obsessive-compulsive urgency for production of symmetrically paragraphed reviews, the meaningless absurdity of opinionative writing soon revealed itself to me. I was not deterred.

John Robbins

Loserdom #15

Posted on February 3, 2007

"It's kind of a portrait of the global landscape as it reaches a crisis level of homogeneity as filtered through the experience of two women," says Loserdom interviewee and Fugazi singer/guitarist Guy Picciotto of the short film 'Chain'. Loserdom could be said to mine similar territory: the socio-political concerns of its creators Anto and Eugene – and their laments for places where "character and soul no longer remain" – are subtly woven with disarming sincerity through their own comics and writings and, by proxy, through the symbiotic work of contributors chosen to maintain this weave. There's a commitment here; charged, one feels, with a rectitude that won't be shackled by the ever-narrowing parameters imposed by law.

Amongst the material presented this issue is the enchanting The Story Of Loserdom, a potted history – ten years in the making – of the zine's development from ragged freesheet to desktop-published booklet. In Anto's Places That Were But Aren't Anymore, clubs, squats and cafes are recalled from the pre-apartment swank era, and specific spliff-friendly atmospheres, piss-poor pints, atrocious toilets and gigs by bands with unlikely names – Bilge Pump, Holochrist et al – are yearned-for with equal degree of rose-tint. Integration sees Eugene lost in translation as he forlornly latches onto the odd English phrase overheard in the conversations of fellow passengers in this lulling, lyrical description of train journeys in Amsterdam. (His is the bike with two locks at the station.) And Anto's cycle-log charts the ups and downs of a trip from west to east of Ireland – a thoroughly enjoyable read despite the dirty headwinds, the stop-start drizze and frequently banjaxed bikes. ("I managed to straighten Peadair's derailleur to some extent, but it will need a slight bit of work tomorrow with tools that I forgot to bring…")

Also on offer: a roundtable discussion with Irish band The Redneck Manifesto, recollections of a sweaty year-and-a-half spent in New Orleans ("A person delivering food for a living on a pushbike can save up enough to buy a house and still be an alcoholic"), the vented spleen of a teen in-the-thick-of-it, thoughtful slice-of-life and satirical comics, and zine reviews of titles diverse enough to introduce audiences to a Revolutionary Anarcha-Feminist Group, the Dublin Bicycle Messenger Association, and to issues related to anti-civilisation, green anarchism and anarcho-primitivism. A holistic balance, then, that's good-natured, personal and quietly constructive, Loserdom is a zine with infectious warmth and sensibly worked conscience.

68 recycled A5 pages, £2.50 – available from www.loserdomzine.com