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!

ON THE COVER

CP: The annual Comics Issue: foiling my ability to use block-quoted excerpts. It’s a strange crop of published winners this year – I can only imagine how weird the submission pool was – but PatRapa lets us know to expect as much.

It appears we like robots, and ghosts, and animals. We like when animals do it. Sometimes, cp_2009_08_13.jpgwith people. We’re nostalgic for our old toys — Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc. We think unicorns are neat. We hate hipsters. We’re pretty good at drawing but lousy at geometry. We’re weird. We’re funny.

I’d say the jury’s still out on “funny,” though a few of the winners raised a chuckle, including the Power Rangers delivering tampons and unicorns shooting the shit in a corner store. In other panels, though, the preoccupation with animals has a twisted bent — “Timber Cat” murdering ignorant tourists, a dog and its owner getting it on side-by-side. There’s also some none-of-the-above stuff: anthropomorphized fruit trading quips, a brief treatise on race relations titled “The Minority Nod.” Apart from the dead tourists looking for the Rocky steps, not much of it seems distinctly Philadelphian, but the anything-goes vibe does reflect the nature of the city’s indie art scene. Keep it weird, folks.

PW:
Tara Murtha digs into the stories behind some of Philadelphia’s top session musicians — players whose names you might never know, but whose chops are legend.

PW_8_13_09_1.jpgThis is a story about the unsung heroes of the record business, the workhorses who tighten, rave up and otherwise trick out countless records with no expectations of fame or glory. Instead of the glare of the stage spotlight, these virtuosos work anonymously in studios and basements. Sometimes, though never admitted above a whisper, they do it just for the credit line and once in a while just for the musical satisfaction.

Session players. They’re the recording industry’s minutemen, waiting on the sidelines, ready to rock. They have to be supremely adaptable by trade and able to deliver on demand, whether it’s a homogenized, commercial riff fit for a beer commercial or an inspired, balls-out solo. Their expertise lies in listening to the bare bones of a song, slashing out the perfect guitar riff, bass-line or what-have-you that’ll bring those bones alive, maybe even make ’em dance—then laying it down perfectly.?..

Impressively, Murtha brings across the interconnectedness of the studio musician world: how a one-time gig leads to a second, how a musical career is built up like a tower of stacked dishes. It’s perilous, of course, and that’s where issues of both economics and music technology come to bear. The specter of the cratering recording industry looms over the players and their livelihoods, but the rising tide of remote session work – collaborations between people who aren’t even in the same time zone – might allow these players, torchbearers for The Sound of Philadelphia, to keep going.

INSIDE THE BOOK

CP: Artistry + dentistry = awesome. Let us now praise… Allen Iverson? Gutsy! The dark side of black power. Joe Pug: perfect for the dog days of summer.

PW: Fishtown’s finest go to court. Blog feuds cross over to Twitter to little fanfare. A Jersey Shore secret gets out. Sense and sensamilla: the case for medical marijuana.

WINNER: PW takes it, for a cover that’s informed by both the city’s musical history and that effectively captures the people kicking out the jams today. A nice reminder of where music comes from before going through the critic/blogger meatgrinder.

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