Glossy Or Not: The Big Takeover

Glossy Or Not is a column about worthy magazines and booklets and zines, as opposed to the authors, books, and events I usually cover in my Scribes Sounding Off column, or the reviews/interviews about Continuum’s 33 1/3 series in its own Odyssey. The basic premise comes from the idea that there are only a handful remaining of really good periodicals, and that many KEXP listeners would probably like to know which ones are worth purchasing, and which match the station’s intelligently eclectic aesthetic with coverage of same.

There are few music magazines that goose me hard when I see a new one on the stands than The Big Takeover. A strange happiness and anticipation comes over me seeing its crisply colored cover and feeling its inch-thickness of content, knowing that after I pay just over a fiver I will have hours of reading up on the best in indie, punk, power pop, hardcore, and affiliated genre bands. These won’t be features that have to be set to a product of a recent release date or reunion tour, though that sometimes coincides. The Q&As will be DEEP DISHES on every aspect of composing, lyric writing, performing live, controversies that aren’t stupid, and always heavy on the discographies and unique details. The Big Takeover doesn’t think of a review as a synopsis or a chance to snigger, either. And it gives you tons of both of those, artist features and record/DVD/book/live reviews, all helmed by an incredible editor named Jack Rabid.

In the early 80s, I received excited, one sheet broadsides out of New York City from Jack, and they seemed just as charming and informative and effusive as the ones we produced in Seattle. That was what shocked me: The Big Takeover started out like any zine, even scrappier, but soon enough busted at the seems with variety and depth. Though for a long time TBT was neither as densely descriptive and bizarrely intimate as The Offense (from the midwest), as sassy and slick as the “DIY” tabloid out of Southern California, and certainly not as cantankerous and sarcastic as Touch & Go out from near Detroit. But it wasn’t as stuffy as Trouser Press or anything like Rolling Stone could be, either. (This was before SPIN, which at the beginning was like TBT‘s older, rail-snorting brother who hung out at the dance clubs.) At that time, it had the usual scene reports, recording updates, and live show and record reviews of bands I was already crazy about, especially the Bad Brains. But the journalism was simply useful, the format unpretentious, and the spirit really inspiring.

At the time, I was still imagining that New York was filled with sophisticated literary punks like Richard Hell and Lydia Lunch running things, so The Big Takeover seemed strangely mine, a first wave hardcore kid who loved all the “old” punk but knew we had to create something new. Then I talked to a guy named Larry of the zine Tribal Noize (who was rumored to spray paint “issues” of his work on tenement walls in the city and then give you a card with the address to go find the latest “edition”). I had just been on a bender after a punk rock show in Spokane, and he called me when he was housesitting between DJ gigs at gay clubs. I asked him about Jack and he told me he was the “Welcome Wagon of New York punk.” Which meant when you came to town, you checked in with Jack to see what to do, who to know, and how to be punk, pretty much.

Thus, while the rest of us zine punks fell by the wayside or in and out of publishing (my own apex being the BANDOPPLER years from 2002-2006, a comics-friendly Seattle music magazine that owed no small debt to Jack’s very personal and passionate vision), my heart beamed at the continuance of the incredible Big Takeover. It’s continued to be published by the one guy who deserves the love, success, power, and fun it provides the rest of us. Its continuance in this magazine-hating economy is a punk rock sign that sometimes you can kick against the pricks and rise above.

The Big Takeover has always been incredibly intuitive about indie, due to Jack loving punk to death but also being reliably up on all things British and NE melodically post-punk, mid-American avant-cool, sweetly psychedelic, soulfully rock and roll. Particularly impressive is the magazine’s attention to the Pacific NW, with cover stories on Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists, The Shins, and other bands as frequent as Bad Religion, Buzzcocks, Stereolab, and the latest cover dolls, Teenage Fanclub (issue 67). Those interviews with Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver BC bands aren’t fluff pieces either -- Jack and his comrades have been following our scenes for a long time, and I learn more out of The Big Takeover about these groups than I tend to in our local alt-weeklies or regional glossies. Yes, NYC is kicking OUR press’s ass when it comes to unveiling the beauty and terror of OUR OWN BANDS! I love it, even if I am a bit ashamed.

It may be a bit bold to say this for everyone involved, but The Big Takeover is the kind of magazine just about every KEXP listener should subscribe to. For a measly $20 you would probably get started on the just-out #67, which has an extraordinary and truly exciting history with Gerry Hannah of Canada’s extremely notable hardcore band the Subhumans (necessary reading for anyone concerned about punk and political action); a deliciously sordid and surprisingly smart conversation with Iggy Pop’s guitar player James Williamson; a fabulous feature on the secret world of Guided By Voices; a howlingly delightful interview with the Brian Jonestown Massacre; a brilliant career recap on Superchunk; The Ramones Part 2 by EXACTLY the guy to write it, Martin Percival. (And a phone book at the back of extremely helpful, insightful, honest, and clever reviews.)

In fact, all the authors of the articles and criticism are the kinds of people you can trust about any non-mainstream genre you’re interested in; Jack seems to hire scribes you want to buy a drink for and talk all night about the Minneapolis scene, the feuds and the love affairs between bands on the road, the albums that kept you alive till the next morning after the night all your friends ran when the cops kicked their way into the club. This is bourbon and fireside rock criticism, and yet it’s as up to date and “on it” as any blog or website you’ll read tomorrow. If you ever wished that Pitchfork was more tied into the original regional-aesthetic based, beguiled but no-BS root of the heralded rock press (CREEM, Crawdaddy), then The Big Takeover is your last great read on slick, shiny paper. It is not just another music publication, it is possibly the only one left.

Available around Seattle at Sonic Boom and Easy Street Records; or send twenty bucks to: The Big Takeover, attn: Jack Rabid, 356 4th Street, Upper Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11215.

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8 Comments

  1. Michael Toland
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the piece - very, very nice.

    I’ve been a BT reader since the late 80s - the magazine really opened my eyes to a world of music, and Jack’s passion has been an inspiration to me when it comes to my own music scribblings. I was very proud when Jack accepted me as a writer for the BT a couple of years ago.

    Thanks again.

  2. Jack Rabid
    Posted January 7, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    On behalf of our magazine, we are truly honored by this kind summation of our efforts, and grateful as well. And as someone known to pop into both Sonic Boom and Easy Street when I make it one a year to Seattle, I hope folks will indeed look into those two excellent stores to buy music, let alone our publication! But if you can’t find the magazine there, it can indeed be ordered straight from us, via single issue order or two-year subscription at the address Mr. Estey was nice enough to list, or via our yahoo secure store at bigtakeover.com. My cheers to Seattle and the awesome KEXP, genuinely one of the few stations in the U.S. I have regularly recommended, for many years at that. --Jack Rabid, editor and publisher, Big Takeover

  3. Posted January 7, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    This just warms my heart. As a reader since the mid-80s, I can’t help but recommend this magazine enough! Jack is THE most prolific, passionate and dedicated person I’ve ever seen in the music world, in any capacity. Where all music magazines seem to falter eventually -- whether good, bad and mediocre -- and the means of accessing music has changed dramatically, the superlative Big Takeover has been the most consistent part of my music experience in all of my adult life. And whereas I may enjoy articles written elsewhere, no other magazine or music institution has held such an non-jaded, only-for-the-love-of-music attitude so faithfully. Other mags and sites may bash artists, songs and albums not to their liking, but BTO prefers to review negatively by omission, focusing rather on the things they love than on the things they don’t. (And anyone who has written reviews knows that it is far easy to eviscerate something than to build it up.) In that, KEXP certainly finds an aesthetic and critical kinship. If you haven’t picked up a copy of BTO, do it now... and Jack will likely send you a thank you note himself. He’s just that dedicated!

    Jim Beckmann
    Blog editor/Online Content Coordinator

  4. Matt Berlyant
    Posted January 8, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    As the author of that Superchunk article, thanks much! I also have to credit my wife for coming up with some of the questions and for sitting in and asking a few questions to Mac and Jim when we did in the interview.

    In any case, reading the above made my day. We also made it to Sonic Boom and Easy Street the last time we were in Seattle and we’ve donated to KEXP in the past well, so keep up the good work!

  5. Martin Percival
    Posted January 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    You sum up my feelings towards BTO too - a wonderful magazine and long may it continue. Glad to hear ‘Sonic Boom’ is still going strong. I was a regular visitor to Seattle from 1997 to 2000 and saw some great shows at the Showbox and the Crocodile Cafe. Long may KEXP propser too!

  6. Paul
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    I’d love to see KEXP and BT collaborate somehow.
    Here in Seattle we don’t hear the NYC broadcast...
    Has Jack been on? How ‘bout giving him a show?

  7. Jim Santo
    Posted January 30, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    @Paul: Jack hosts a weekly Internet radio show called The Big Takeover, which airs every Monday at 12 noon ET on BreakThru Radio (BTR), as well as Rabid In The Kennel, a monthly live performance and interview program, which airs the second Wednesday of each month, also on BTR. Links to both shows, and archives of same, are available here and you can get more info about RITK here.

  8. Ben and Alli
    Posted February 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Hip.

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