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June 1, 2007

Book Notes - Benn Ray ("I Keee You")

The Book Notes series has authors create and discuss a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published books.

Have you ever been walking down the street, or standing at a show, and overheard something outrageous, ridiculous or funny? Benn Ray has taken a collection of these overheard utterances, and had them visualized by some of the best comic artists (including previous Book Notes contributors Nick Bertozzi and Emily Flake) in his book, I Keee You!!.

Preview or download this playlist at iTunesicon

Disclosure: Benn has contributed to this blog in the past, and his bookstore, Atomic Books, has sponsored my "52 Books, 52 Weeks" reading project for the past three years.

In his own words, here is Benn Ray's Book Notes essay for his book, I Keee You!!:

When I first started thinking about doing Book Notes, I was a little confused about what direction to go in.

Should I take songs that I think connect to my book in some way (in some cases only remotely)? Like Marvin Gaye's "Heard It Through The Grapevine" or The Police's "Every Breath You Take"? These songs don't directly relate to overhearing a conversation though, one is about gossiping about a break-up and the other is creepy obsession.

Then I thought maybe I should include something like Found Magazine's found tape, especially the song "The Booty Don't Stop". It almost fits the spirit behind collecting overheard conversations, but it doesn't quite. The Booty Tape is more a found object, not an overheard item.

Then I thought about a story a friend told me, how he was walking home drunk from a good night at the pub, and he was unaware he loudly singing The Stooges "Search & Destroy" as he walked until he noticed a car full of girls slow down and point and laugh. Sadly, that's the only "overheard" song story I have, so it'd be a short list.

Instead, I decided to go with songs that are somehow connected with comics (since the conversations in my book are illustrated by comics creators).

So this is I Keee You!!’s playlist.

"Don't Trust Whitey" - James Kochalka Superstar

James Kochalka Superstar has many, many, many great songs (and even a whole concept album) under his belt. He also has made a lot of great comics, perhaps his most important being American Elf - his ongoing diary comic. James has been documenting his life daily for about 8 years now, and he manages to keep it fascinating and fresh (and at times poetically profound) - and for those looking for a meaning to life, it can be found in one of his American Elf Sketchbook Diaries collections. "Don't Trust Whitey" warns, as the title suggests, of the dangers of trusting whitey. All amusing and funny as the song progresses, until just at the point when you realize, "waitaminnit, Kochalka is white," he explains, "I'm not whitey, this is just a disguise." Just the sort of thing whitey would say, James. But maybe that was your point.

"My Janeane" - Action Suits

Show me someone who hasn't had a crush on Janeane Garofalo at some point in time and I'll show you someone who needs to stop listening to Rush Limbaugh (seriously, you need to stop listening to Rush Limbaugh. Right now.). The Action Suits is a power-pop trio that features Pete Bagge (Hate comics) on drums and Eric Reynolds of alterna-comics publisher Fantagraphics. Sweet, sugary, retro-poppy – and I wish they’d make more music.

"Like A Monkey In A Zoo" - Daniel Johnston

Daniel Johnston's illustrations are just as fascinating and charming as his songs. At some point someone is going to get wise and give him a comic contract (Joe Rybandt from the comic company Dynamite Entertainment was trying to talk me into doing it, but I don't think I have the fortitude after seeing the documentary The Devil And Daniel Johnston). Having spoken to Daniel several times, I know he is a big Jack Kirby fan and it's apparent that he's influenced by Kirby's Marvel-era comics. His illustrations are simple and magical, just like this song.

"13 Monsters" - Lightning Bolt

Hailing for Providence, RI, this band is fueled by Brian Chippendale's intense drumming and mic-crammed-in-mouth vocals. Brian was a part of the now-legendary Fort Thunder collective, that has changed the world of indie comics and illustration by yielding not only Chippendale, but Brian Ralph, Matt Brinkman, Jim Drain, Leif Goldberg, Paul Lyons, and many more. Chippendale's graphic novel Ninja is a twisting and artful personal allegory of epic proportions.

"210" - J Church

A few years back, Ben White, AKA Ben Snakepit, joined J Church. Until then, I had only heard of J Church, but I knew Ben from his diary comics in Snakepit Quarterly. Ben documents each day of his life (like James Kochalka) with a diary comic. Unlike James Kochalka, Ben's life seems to revolve around drinking, drugging, rocking and partying. Reading his life in the collected Snakepit books provides a zen-like rhythm of punk rock life.

"Sporting Life" - Sea & Cake

While Sam Prekop is a terrific painter, the main reason I include Sea & Cake on this list is because of Archer Prewitt's Sof' Boy comics. These comics are stories about horrible urban atrocities that befall an adorable, possibly retarded, dough-boy looking character. Funny, disturbing, and excellent illustrations. Oh, and while I have your attention, any time you want to another Sof’ Boy comic would be great, Archer. Sooner even better than later.

"Hot Topic" - Le Tigre

Ah the shout out song. Songs like these were instrumental in my development as a kid. They reference/point out things that as a fan of whatever band you happen to be listening to, you should check out because they are the things that influenced the music you like. In this song, cartoonists Julie Doucet and Ariel Schrag (who edited the new collection of middle school story comics called Stuck In The Middle) get name-checked. And you should check them out.

"Luxury Condos For The Poor" - Double Dagger

Double Dagger play graphicdesigncore. Their songs frequently deal with issues that complicate the lives of designers, which is not a surprise since two of the three members are graphic designers who work under the collective name of Post Typography. They create a lot of amazing rock show posters, t-shirt designs, alt-weekly covers, etc. This song deals with over-development which is taking place in my town (and many others). The lines "They're building waterfront grave sites, thirty stories high, where the dreams of fictional people live, while the city around you dies" gives me chills every time Nolen Strals speaks them. Okay, technically they’re not comic artists, but they are superior illustrators and astounding designers.

"DJ Night" - Fascist Fascist

Fascist Fascist was a short-lived Baltimore sorta-super group made up of a bunch of people from various other area bands that managed to hold it together just long enough to release one album on Reptilian Records (which is a location of one of the overheards in I Keee You!!). Their raw retro punk style came off not as generic, but as refreshing and new. This song mocks the inane rise of DJ nights in clubs. Guitarist Brian Dubin also produces his own minimalist, endearing, autobiographical mini-comic called I Really Stepped In It This Time that documents things like him striking out with girls and accidentally peeing his pants.

"Packin' & Drivin" - Secret Crush Society

I work with Lisa at Atomic Books. But that's not why I put this song on my list. I put this song on my list because I respect any chick who sings about leaving a lover and makes it a point to pack up her Love & Rockets comic book collection before she splits. As the song continues, you realize she is not exactly a light traveler. But still, when she sings, "I packed my collection of Love & Rockets, but I'm gonna leave you behind," I say “Awesome. So she’s single then?”

"No New Tale To Tell" - Love & Rockets

Okay, actually I hate this song. And that hatred is mostly based on living my sophomore year in college with 1/2 of an Indigo Girls-type duet who continually practiced this song (never getting it quite right) on horrible Ovation guitars when all I wanted to do was listen to Dinosaur's You're Living All Over me. I put this band/song on my list because they took their name from the legendary comic by Los Bros. Hernandez. Love & Rockets was a comic book first. Then it was a band. But it’s also still a comic. Okay, my work here is done.

Benn Ray and I Keee You!! links:

the author's blog
the author's bookstore
the bookstore's blog
the publisher's blog

reviews of I Keee You!!:

The Comics Reporter

see also:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)

Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)


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