Punk, Politics, and the Great American Weirdness
You may know Al Burian as the guitarist for the Chicago, by way of Chapel Hill, post-hardcore band Milemarker, or that band’s offshoot, Challenger. Perhaps you know Al through his long-running perzine Burn Collector, or from his columns in zines Punk Planet and HeartattaCk. Maybe you’d recognize him from his long stint behind the counter of Quimby’s bookstore in Chicago. Or maybe you wouldn’t know him from any of these places.
Al lived in Chicago for the better part of aughts. Even though he made zines in this town and his bands played the local punk rock circuit, I don’t believe our paths ever crossed. Or maybe I wouldn’t have known it if they had. That’s actually the more likely scenario. Chicago is a big sprawled out mess sometimes and even in smaller underground circles, there’s a lot of separating space. At any rate, I did read Burn Collector and Punk Planet. I was also socially and politically aware during those years of regime change, hanging chads, and punk rock purity, which is why No Apocalypse sparked recognition and triggered a few twinges of nostalgia (thankfully, just a few).
The book is a collection of writings originally published between 2000 and 2007 in Punk Planet, Heartattack, and the short-lived Skeleton. The apocalyptic theme suggested by the title doesn’t really tie these pieces together, and the subtitle Punk, Politics, and the Great American Weirdness hints at Gonzo journalism more than it delivers. In these columns Al ruminates on American cuisine, war, Y2K, gentrification, and dental dilemmas, but more generally, this collection illustrates the thinking of an itinerant creative type in the underground at the dawning of the 21st century. Nevertheless, No Apocalypse is a good read and a collection of stuff you can’t find anywhere else.
Al left Chicago in 2007 and eventually left the U.S. altogether. He has lived in Germany for the past decade where he continues to write and make comics. Al will be the main attraction at a free event at Quimby’s Bookstore tomorrow night where he will read selections from No Apocalypse. Al’s serial graphic novel Dean Street, made with German comic artist Oska Wald, will also be making its U.S. debut.
BUY: No Apocalypse: Punk, Politics, and the Great American Weirdness (Punx)