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: After the advent of Tea Party, I thought I’d despair at seeing stories about its various incarnations. No coverage, I thought, and they’d run out of oxygen, smothered by their own vitriol. Each story I read, though, reveals Tea Partiers as less the foaming-at-the-mouth, spitting-on-congressmen nutjobs I expected and more as regular people driven by frustration with dire circumstances. So, strangely, I’m thankful for all this coverage, and especially for Holly Otterbein’s piece on Diana Reimer, Robert Mansfield and other big-tent-small-government types who are slowly accreting converts in utterly diverse – and almost wholly Democratic – Center City. Otterbein shows Reimer’s roots, the genesis of her involvement in the Tea Party, and her big plans for making this national movement local.

The recession had shoved the Reimers to the lower end of the middle class, where they weren’t poor enough to qualify for government assistance, butcp_2010-04-15.jpg they also weren’t rich enough to afford what the American dream says they deserve after a lifetime of work. And yet, Reimer didn’t find comfort in the Democratic Party. Instead, she grew increasingly conservative, and read more about politics online. Then one day she saw a story about a Tea Party.

“I was frustrated, but what could I do? Who could I talk to?” she asks. “Then I found out about the Tea Party, and I said, that’s it! That’s how you get your voice heard.” She immediately logged on to the Tea Party Patriots’ Web site and signed up to be the Philadelphia organizer of the upcoming Tax Day protest at LOVE Park, which went on to attract several hundreds of attendees.

She’d never been to a protest before, let alone organized one. But she had surprising foresight. Reimer knew full well it would be easier to find fellow Tea Partiers in West Chester, Valley Forge or the Main Line, and that a more realistic person might hold a Tax Day protest in one of those places. But she was determined to grow the movement here in Philly, and not just because it’s her hometown.

Even more effective is Otterbein’s capturing of a moment of anger from Reimer. It took Otterbein by surprise, and the shift I felt in the tone of the article was artfully rendered. I was surprised, too. It’s not just anger about national issues that hits home, though; Tea Partiers face frustration in being shut out by local Republican leaders. I’ll grant them a few cover stories, especially ones as well done as Otterbein’s, but you’ll have to forgive me if I keep hoping they miss their mark in remaking national politics in their indignant image.

PW: I never know when JV’s gonna land on the cover of PW, though I expect, when it happens, that it’ll be some through-the-looking-glass political shiz. (See ACORN, Tea Party, Birther movement, and so on.) But this week, he gets back to his rock-journo roots with his take on “Oddsac,” the art film that’s not, featuring the indie-rock band Animal Collective. It seems this group, best suited to expanding horizons and making even stone-sober folks feel drugged-out, is harshing everybody’s mellows.

At turns disturbing, confusing, disgusting, hilarious, mesmerizing and stone cold beatific, Oddsac is perhaps best explained by clarifying what it is not: it is neither a rock documentary nor a concert film, nor is it the kind of film you would see at the cineplex. There are no stars, no car chases, no dreamy romantic interests who meet cute and live happily ever after. In fact, there is no plot, no linear narrative arc. Instead, there is a series of pw-animal-collective.jpghallucinatory vignettes: a girl attempting in vain to stanch the flow of black goo oozing out of the walls of her home; a sad-sack vampire (played by AC’s Dibb) slowly disintegrating at sunrise after preying on a young boy; an ominous procession of fire spinners led by a gibberish-spouting demon (played by AC’s Dave Porter); a wigged-out drummer boy (played by AC’s Noah Lennox) maniacally beating on his kit in the middle of an eerie boulder field; a bearded blue-hued muscle man (played by AC’s Brian Weitz) harvesting mysterious eggs from beneath a waterfall; a nuclear family sitting around the camp fire suddenly projectile vomiting foamy marshmallow goo; and it all ends with a food fight…

“If I really don’t feel like explaining I just say it’s a weird, like, art film, but I don’t really believe that at all,” says Brian Weitz, aka Geologist, of Animal Collective. “I don’t even really like calling it a film because that has so many expectations attached to it, like the idea that there is a plot that people are supposed to be looking for or a narrative and if it doesn’t it’s just completely experimental and has no meaning whatsover. And Oddsac is neither of those extremes. We look at it as just another one of our records with a visual component that is like another instrument, another influence on the composition. When you make an album it doesn’t need to have a story or characters or a plot. It doesn’t have to be like Tommy or a rock opera for people to get it. They just accept that it’s a collection of songs by the same group of people and that’s what ties it together and we approached the film with the same idea.”

And if half the people who see it are put off by the way the film drags the viewer down a wormhole of freaky dream logic, that’s a small price to pay for blowing the minds of the other half. “I feel like the film is critic-proof,” says Perez. “You either really like or really don’t like it, there is no sorta in between. That’s just indicative of my personality, all the movie people and music people that I like are all pretty divisive and extreme examples of their genres. And the range of reactions the film garners are all well within my personal experience in this world: fear, joy, anxiety, tension. I feel those things every day, and I am pretty sure I am not the only one.”

The film’s hard to pin down, no question, but it hardly seems critic-proof. The wide audience that the band won with last year’s Merriweather Post Pavilion hasn’t been universally turned on, and even though a “high-profile experiment” at New York’s Guggenheim Museum sold out, necessitating a second performance, the actual meat of the performance left many cold or, worse, bored. JV captures the boys from Animal Collective as wigged-out risk takers, but it’s his take on Perez — his local-guy status is mentioned, but not foregrounded — that compels as well as frustrates. He talks about Oddsac’s far-out scenes and his fanatical devotion to the project over nearly four years with detachment. He may have gotten up at five in the morning to edit the thing, but he doesn’t seem to realize how far he’s stretched the band or its listeners.


CP: Shout-out to the Daily Item! (I was once an intern there.) If you seek Amis. Kick up your heels for “joyous dance.” Blade is a graffiti artist? I always thought he just killed vampires.

PW: Must-read: Q&A with Seth Williams. Bad Vibes Dept.: “I lose a lot of sleep as a journalist, and not just worrying about getting laid off.” Another invader from the Empire State: at least it’s not the Mets. Air guitar: from alone in your bedroom to up on stage.

WINNER: Blah, blah, blah. [You never let me win! I won a frickin’ Keystone Award but I can’t even win a PAPERBOY! This is MY blog, so I win this week, godammit! — The Editor]

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