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: Free Energy? I’ll take it! This lame joke, ripped off from “Family Guy,” runs through my head at the sight of this year’s Best Music issue, because, once again, I have been remiss. I still have no clue about the local music scene and little idea of who or what I should be listening to. Though I’ve squandered much of my headphone time on classical and contemporary-classical, Pat Rapa is here to set me straight.

If you want, you can dance to Free Energy. You can bop around in your socks to “All I Know” and sing along to “Bang Pop” till your fly off. You can hum their rabbit-punching riffs and catchy choruses — maybe you heard them in the background of some commercial? — and just feel great.

That’s fine. But a vein of doubt pulses beneath the sweaty, steady rockin’ beats and sprinting guitar solos. I’m not talking Inception-deep, just an undercurrent, a whiff of a whisper of fear. Let’s pick up Stuck on Nothing’s best track, “Dream City,” from the beginning:

“Hey we’re comin’ out, dancin’ downtown, free like whatever we dream about./ And we’re moving through the night, cruising ‘cross town lost in the endless sound.” Yes. We’re getting the gang together and hitting the town in a haze of beer and bliss. The guitars and drums gallop with the adrenaline of freedom, of youth. But then.

“And the city’s all right but the streets are all the same and you know deep down you can find a better way./ Tired of feelin’ bad so don’t you wonder why you keep tellin’ yourself it’s all right?”

Wait. What the hell happened? The music’s still buzzing, but suddenly we’re feeling sober, vulnerable, old.

Sounds a little like LCD Soundsystem, a band I know a little bit about. And there they are at #2 on the year! Arcade Fire? Vampire Weekend? I’ve heard of these bands! The Roots? I even had them on my
Top 10 (coming soon to a Phawker near you). It seems I’m not so out of the loop after all, though I have to say, I’m looking forward to the classical/jazz/other shiz next week.

PW: It’s very hard to summarize Tara Murtha’s cover story, in which she thoroughly investigates a 2005 shoot-out in West Philly, an event both shockingly violent and stunning commonplace, and takes apart every bit of the case — the motive, the suspects’ rap sheets, the guns they used. Her thoroughness is mind-bogglingly impressive; the term “procedural” hardly covers it.


One of the gunmen, Lionel Campfield, known as Man Man, is the youngest of the suspects. He was 16 years old at the time of the shoot-out. Though too young to face the death penalty, Campfield’s court docket listed the trial as a capital case until about a week before trial when the mistake was realized. He faces life in prison. Campfield pleaded not guilty at his week-long trial last month. story barely made headlines even though—and perhaps because—it represents a brutal kind of murder in Philadelphia, where the artillery is heavy and the players are young. In Philadelphia, guns are used in more homicides than in any other U.S. city—and semi-automatic weapons appear to be playing a larger role. Most notoriously, Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski was gunned down by a Chinese-made assault rifle similar to an Ak-47 in May 2009. This past July, Officer Kevin Livewell was shot in Kensington by a masked man with an assault rifle.

These trends, coupled with the ‘no-snitch’ street policy that any Philly cop will tell you hamstrings most homicide investigations, weigh down an already overburdened justice system.

“You’re going to see the ugly side of Philadelphia,” announces Assistant District Attorney Gail Fairman to the jury in her opening argument at Lionel Campfield’s trial last month. “You’re going to hear from men who say things like the death of an 11-year-old was ‘unfortunate,’ ‘fucked up,’ in their words.”

It makes you wonder how long Murtha’s been on the case, how many murders like this happen each year, and how many of them — likely a depressingly small fraction — end up going to trial. One commenter asked: “Will someone please offer whatever is the most sought after investigative journalism post in the city to Tara Murtha ASAP?” She won the Philebrity award, right? Until we can dream up a bigger and better accolade, mad props and admiration will have to do.


CP: Who’s down with JG? Yeah you know me. You better come to your Census. “When news breaks, we make jokes… mostly about anal sex.”

PW: Fish, meet barrel: way to take on the Center City Grille, guy. Darryl Hall: Behind blue-eyed soul. Be jubilant, my feet: Philly’s pedicabs. Blue Man Group = Smurfs on Stage?

WINNER: PW all the way. Tara Murtha’s cover story, like justice, is complex but ultimately cannot be denied.

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