When I finished university and was faced with the possibility of having to move abroad to get a job, I lost interest in buying and owning physical albums. After all, what’s the point in investing in a large collection of music that will be such a hassle to take with you, or alternatively, to sell at short notice? Due to this, my interest in vinyl has taken a bit of a nosedive. It really takes something special to convince me to indulge.
When I heard about the release of Turnstile Comix #1, a 40-page 7’’ black and white comic book and marble blue 7’’ record package, I pre-ordered it instantly. I was curious why this hadn’t really been attempted before. When I finally received the package, held together by a simple resealable plastic sleeve, I wasn’t too sure which part I wanted to check out first.
The Slow Death are a relatively new punk band made up of members of bands like Pretty Boy Thorson, Rest of Us and The Ergs! From the opening riff of “Poor Little Fool” that really reminded me of the song “Rosa” by Dear Landlord, the band establish the sound for the whole record. Simply put, it’s palm-muted, power-chord pop punk. Musically, it’s not rocket science, but the throaty lead vocals help to give it a bit of an edge, and the well-placed backing vocals inject what would be best described as a ‘drunken singalong vibe’, particularly on the track “Punchlines”. It’s a great 7'', and fans of bands like Iron Chic, Rumspringer and Latterman will really feel at home here. Thankfully, a free download code is included. Now, onto the comic book!
The comic is lovingly drawn by punk rock cartoonist to the stars Mitch Clem, the creator of Nothing Nice To Say. The book starts with a story related to how Mitch first discovered the band. It’s typically self-deprecating and very funny, although, much like his long-running comic strip, the humour may be restricted somewhat to the fans of the genre. What makes the package worth buying for fans of the band though, is that the members of The Slow Death have told two of their best stories from the road that Mitch has drawn as two separate comic strips. This is the ultimate substitute for liner notes. Without spoiling the stories for you, I guess I can say that the first story is a great depiction of life on the road for a band of that level, and the second is an extremely funny story about one of their members, Dave Strait, being drunk. Also included is a bonus comic on the very last page by the fantastic Liz Prince, the writer of Alone Forever.
With my initial excitement over the concept alone, I easily set myself up to be disappointed by the finished product. I’m happy to say that I was wrong on this occasion, and the split comic book and coloured 7’’ package has, in my eyes, been a huge success! It really got me thinking on how physical music should be presented, and of the effort that little known bands go to in order to convince people to buy their products. One of the really positive developments in an increasingly digital-orientated world is that artists in every sense of the word are being pushed to create something special. It really goes to show that in the sale of any physical product, going over and above the expectations of buyers and trying to offer something made out of love is always likely to win people over, even those that swore to stop buying these things. If there was ever a message I'd like to convey to the writers of zines, it would be to follow this logic religiously.