PAPERBOY: Slow-Jamming The Alt-Weeklies

paperboyartthumbnail.jpgBY DAVE ALLEN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week, PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!


CP: In an interesting counterpart to the “city employees” spread from a few weeks back, CP shows us the names, faces and stories of locals who are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Though deliberately cursory and intended to give a broad cross-section of local soldiers, it still presents the hopes, beliefs and economic circumstances that go along with military service. Take Rob Pomroy of Fishtown, currently in Iraq, for example.

“I was working three jobs,” Rob Pomroy, who was born in Fishtown, says over a pay phone from Iraq, “and Icp_2009_07_02.jpg never really saw my little girl because I was too busy working to put food on the table.” Pomroy was living with his girlfriend and her mother in Chalfont when he decided to visit the recruiting office. After he signed his contract, his 3-year-old daughter, Zoey Rose, had health insurance for the first time in her life. Before long, Pomroy was in Schweinfurt, Germany, awaiting deployment. In the winter of 2008, he gathered with his company outside their barracks; his sergeant read off, “Pierson: November 27, Pomroy: November 27. … ” When written orders followed, he called home to Zoey. “Daddy has to go far away, for work, to beat up the bad guys,” he said.

It’s unnerving how many of the featured soldiers are my age or younger, and the rash of post-9/11 militarism that determined the fates of many of my high school classmates is present in many of the stories. At the time of the attacks, Matt Brennan was a sophomore in high school, and Tim Stanton was in fifth grade; both decided then to join the military. Laura Golembiewski puts it even more succinctly: “I just wanted to fly the planes and bomb the motherfuckers.” Incredibly, these feelings are still smoldering and have been for longer than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been going on. From the beginning, we’ve tried to win over hearts and minds abroad; I worry about our own.

PW: Well, it’s a little hard to address this one head-on: a tribute issue to the late Steven Wells, PW staff writer and longtime music critic and culture warrior. There’s first-person reflections from other PW staffers both current and former, and they’re heartfelt, personal and funny all the way around. Some musical heavyweights even pay tribute: check this from Billy Bragg.

wellscover_1.jpgHis writing was a kind of performance art, a skill he picked up from his years as a ranting poet. They were a rum lot, the ranters, more wind-up merchants than poets, if truth be told, taking on audiences with a bit of humor and a lot of balls. Swells excelled at the job. He was provocative, polemical and laugh out loud funny.

Seething Wells was his poetic pseudonym and the name under which his first journalism appeared in the NME in 1981. Later on in his time at the paper, he also wrote reviews under the name of Susan Williams, seeking to subvert the ladish world of rock journalism. Politics were important to Swells. A supporter of the Socialist Workers Party, his critique of bands and colleagues was often couched in class war rhetoric, but he had too much of a sense of humor to be a real Trotskyite.

He was at heart an iconoclast. Put anything on pedestal and Swells couldn’t resist taking a pot-shot at it. Nobody was spared. He was one of my earliest supporters in the music press, shared my idealism, yet continually referred to me in print as “Bilious Braggart,” even when he was praising my output.

Star turns aren’t the norm, though; I liked the short, pithy ones from Matt Prigge and Tim McGinnis best. Tim’s dead-on: every writer needs an editor to tell them, at least once, to completely rethink what they’re doing. But in the end, it doesn’t matter what I think of these tributes, or of Wells’ writings for PW, because his accomplishments speak for themselves. He found his own style, voice and approach, had his say, and stuck to his guns to the very last. None of us could ask for a better role model.


CP: Moon: At least it’s not about somebody dropping trou. Bike power won’t make you a rockstar. Star bartender talks “testicular fortitude.” Obama misses the point on needle exchange.

PW: The audacity of P.O.P.E. Free jazz? I’ll take it! John Dillinger at the movies: More than a passing reference in High Fidelity. “Springtime for Hitler” during summertime in Philly. Go figure.

WINNER: PW takes the title this week, though I’ll say I wish they’d run Steven’s last column in print. One last by-line would have meant one last promise of something really incendiary.

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