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: The CP music issue isn’t fooling around. They trot out a man they call “Philly’s secret guitar hero.” Secret? Well, I never heard of him, so check. But is Jef Lee Johnson a guitar hero? See below.

“Man, I can’t believe you’re letting my secret out,” says Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson. The Roots drummer hosted Johnson on his band’s cp-march.jpgPhrenology (2002) and played with him through studio sessions and tours backing D’Angelo and Erykah Badu. Thompson, a renowned musicologist, didn’t even know the fellow Philadelphia native before the D’Angelo gig.

Johnson’s had an innovative slate of solo albums, starting with 1995’s Blue, that have equal footing in legato-loving jazz, out blues and frenetic space funk. Usually, he plays all of the instruments and does all of the production. Each album is ripe with his gorgeously appointed melodies, deeply pointed lyrics and, more often than not, sketches and photographs that he’s taken for that project.

“To be so damned great, not only in a supporting role but as an artist in every way,” marvels Thompson. “In a fair world, I should be carrying Jef’s bags.”

Shit, that kind of praise from Questlove? I’m blown away. Gotta hear him. Elsewhere, there’s spots for RJD2 — PW’s recent cover was longer and thus more thorough, but this one’s respectable, too — ambitious emcee Thee Phantom and, with the best name of the bunch, Drink Up Buttercup. At the other end of the name spectrum, there’s a bunch of college kids called Post Post. And with an album called Meta Meta to boot? How clever…

PW: Tales of liberty and freedom are often heard in this city with regard to the American Revolution. Instead, PW brings us refugee stories — the tales of immigrants from war-torn and oppressive places the world over. What makes Philadelphia such a welcoming haven? Aaron Kase finds Liberians who fled civil war in their homeland to start again in Southwest Philly. By the numbers, “since the late 1990’s, more refugees have arrived in Philadelphia from Liberia than from any other country – about 3,300 in total.”

In another part of the city, the refugee population wasn’t fleeing civil war, but instead totalitarian government and religious oppression. Practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual and meditative movement banned in China, can practice openly in Philadelphia, and do so weekly near the Liberty Bell. F.H. Rubino draws out harrowing testimony from Jingfang Yang, who resettled in Cherry Hill, N.J. last year after facing abuse and mistreatment in China.

pw_cover_march3-2010.jpgYang, who sports a pageboy cut and looks younger than her 60 years, is recalling days when staying alive warranted an internal celebration. She remembers the indignity of being handcuffed to a hotel-room chair for 32 days following her October 2002 arrest, one that precipitated a three-year labor camp sentence. She’d already served a year in a detention center. Describing daily life in the camps, Yang says she and other detainees, lumped with convicted murderers, robbers and drug offenders, toiled 16 hours a day making chopsticks and light bulbs. They slept on cold cement floors. Often they were shackled to one another, sometimes for more than a week. The most defiant suffered beatings, although no one escaped physical abuse altogether. They lived on spoiled rice and cabbage. “It didn’t matter how old a person was,” she says. “They mistreated everyone.”

American stances on human rights have come under fire in recent months and years — military tribunals, enemy combatants and all that — but stories like this make it clear how this country is still seen as both a beacon for the oppressed. Freedom of religion, along with every other freedom we enjoy: even a non-believer could be tempted to thank God for it.


CP: Nothing more need be said: Jesus Christ on a Tastykake. If you want to see a film and vomit at the same time. Desperately seeking steak. Will the Foxwoods Casino drop before Steve Wynn’s balls do?

PW: Another brick in the wall, part 3: Hey! Ackerman! Leave those kids alone! Life and everything you hold dear: on the cutting block. Man Man: still batshit crazy, still awesome. Texting about food: Fexting?

WINNER: A pretty even match this week, so I think it’s gonna come down to one category: bands with double names. And in that category, friends, the freaky-funky stylings of Man Man go the distance, outpacing a bunch of college kids from the mainline. PW takes it. Stay freaky.

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