British Infiltration: Rockers Ryker Sear, Lux Lisbon Fight the War for Discoverability

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Ryker Sear is fronted by Regan Vincenza and James Torselli

Review by Google“>Shawn Stjean

I’m about as far from a London music-scene insider as an introverted teacher from east-coast US with few social media connections can be; and yet, they found me.  And if these up-and-coming bands can root me out and evoke a review, they’re a lot closer to the mainstream than maybe even they know.  That’s the beauty of the great artistic endeavor in the 21st century: if you’re a writer, a painter or illustrator, a musician, a prophet or pundit–whether you’ve got battle scars or henna tattoos–you can scream your message to a global audience.   If you’ve got the the talent, the brains, and the balls–not necessarily in that order–then dare to deafen the masses!

I admit I’m a little concerned over the ultra-competitive gene such an electronically facilitated/driven marketplace will breed into the DNA of the younger generation.  Social Darwinism is never pretty, and social-media-darwinism (SMD) won’t likely class it up (“she with the most friends, wins”).  But maybe there are enough followers to go around.

Sure, you’ll have to give your art away for awhile, which is how they found me.  But ask yourself: is that any worse than an office internship, or signing five figures deep into student loans, or pulling an oar on the good ship EvilCorp until your passage is paid?  As Lux Lisbon themselves put it, “Money doesn’t make a man a man.”

Maybe it’s worthwhile to describe the tactics by which this war can be fought by the guerrilla non-elite.  My publishing imprint has a Twitter account which is completely automated, to the extent that all I do is choose people and entities to follow back–and if they have anything to do with books, or art in general, I do.  That way, I don’t dilute the imprint “@GlasDaggrePubs” with a bunch of unrelated connections–hoping to attract more writers and artists.  Now, the folks across the pond, being undoubtedly more savvy at the game than I, followed me, and I followed back.  They then thanked me with a follow-up reachout, by name, and offered a link to some free tunes–which I ignored.  Here’s the key: persistence.  The next day, Stu from Lux Lisbon e-mailed me directly, with a cleverly worded message that the link had been broken, but would now work.  A harmless fabrication, there, I suspect.  But, I decided to spare the bandwidth for their new EP, which is routed through their website with plenty of YouTube video links.  Never a single Ask for money.  And now, the crucial requirement, without which no amount of promotion can save an artist:  Much as one would do with a car radio, I decided to give three songs only a listen–for about thirty seconds each.  If nothing grabbed me in that amount of time, case-closed and on to the next thing.  Well, on the third random press of the old electronic jukebox button, “Show Me the Money” got its hooks into me.  So yeah, the talent end of the equation is, and always will be, the necessary bullet in the gun.

Standouts from the Get Some Scars EP include “Demons You Show” (good enough to feature an alternate, acoustic duet version to anchor the album) and “The Devil Got Me Dancing” (instant classic–trust me.)  Stuart Rook and Charlotte Austen trade lyrics clearly influenced by early Springsteen in their relentless resistance to one-and-two syllable words, but more importantly, simplistic meaning. Someone in this outfit happens to be an inventive videographer, as well, and they’re tech-literate enough to offer multiple download formats for all your devices. Check it: http://luxlisbon.com/

A year earlier, the initial process followed by Regan from Ryker Sear had not, details aside, been dissimilar.  She kindly offered me some merch when I wrote to praise a the free video (and remember, I’m nobody special) which I declined on principle until I could at least write a review (both bands have cannily maintained online stores–I agree, screw the middle-man, he earned nothing!)  And, that last vital requirement reveals itself: you’ve gotta be deadly patient–I mean Viet-Cong patient.  Discovery happens, but like songwriting–any kind of writing–it’s slow process and one-soldier-at-a-time recruitment.

Ryker Sear have got HD videos up on Vevo: http://www.vevo.com/watch/ryker-sear/to-the-ending/QMGR31402673 Soundcloud:https://soundcloud.com/rykersear and of course the inevitable YouTube host through their own site: http://www.rykersear.com/ “To the Ending” alone is a great track, a great music video, and deserves airplay here in the States better than 90% of what’s getting it on the commercial stations glutted with tired 80s/90s recycled junk that never was very good in the first place. “Forever Criminal” makes a worthy follow-up. Unlike the lyric-agile tongue-twisting and acousti-fused material of Lisbon, Regan Vincenza’s voice weights her tunes in equal proportion with a punchy percussion and juiced-guitar riffs that will make Sear‘s body of work more appealing to the traditional rock crowd.  Their EP is 2012’s Tell Me Why, with free single release “Forever Criminal” promised for this October 13.  The material of either band may not sound fully cooked in the ears of music-industry professionals, but then again, it hasn’t been commodified, homogenized, and neutered yet by pros, either.

Remember, youngsters, you may not be raking in much on the front end, but you’re also not paying a mortgage payment to the Man in promotional fees, letting an agent take his blood-pound, or signing deals that will lock you up for another three albums, like the rock legends of old had to do.

As for you fans, you need to know that these guys have fanbases still modest enough in size to be appreciated, up close and personal.  Write the band members–they write back!  Years from now, as every twerp with an iPhone17 is bragging to his pals about his great musical taste, you’ll be able to say you’ve been following the greats since the 20-teens.

Do your best, and the money takes care of itself.  Heat the oven, and the bread will bake.  Or, as I like to opine when in a metaphor-mixing mood, sweat always rises to the top.

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Lux Lisbon is Stuart Rook, Charlotte Austen, Tom Cooper, Jamie Shaw. EP cover.

Evil Archetypes of Pop Culture: Satyrs, Succubi, and Other Sexual Predators/Book Review: Crea DelRand’s “Lure of the Prairie Monster” and Monster Erotica

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King Kong (2005) can be read as symbolic landscape hosting the battle between reptilian/predatory aspect of the Freudian Id and the life-force aspect of the Id.

Review by Google“>Shawn Stjean

For this eighth entry into the blog’s most popular essay series, I’d like to change up the format and combine a review of a particular writer’s work with my more general, cultural analysis.

First, as you read what follows, you must understand one thing.  I’m a man.  Which means: it’s okay if I’m completely wrong after this sentence ends; just don’t expect me to admit it.

As deep as we all are into the era of postmodernism, when a “new” genre gains popularity, it’s a safe bet that it addresses some old need in a refreshed manner, rather than having recognized a facet of human nature no one’s ever uncovered before.  The rise of Monster or Creature Erotica in not only the marginalia of video game and porn sites, but in the mainstream book culture, signals such a resurgence.

One of the most overlooked episodes of Homer’s eighth-century B.C. epic the Odyssey, excised from most high-school textbooks, concerns the adventure of the protagonist on the isle of Circe, the witch/exiled goddess.  Pedigreed as the daughter of the sun, we may safely infer that the Olympians have not banished her because she conforms to their idea of a “good girl.” Hermes, whose phallic stone herms can to this day be found all over the peninsula, explicitly instructs Odysseus to threaten Circe with his sword and rape her (though most translators employ poetic euphemisms).  Turns out, however, that Circe is a willing victim, and much of her mysterious power blooms from yonic symbolism–the island itself, her voice, her weaving, her drugs that turn men into beasts.  A full year after his “victory,” the hero is still there, in what his men call a “trance,” and the crew must nearly riot to tear him from her arms.  Although Homer casts the details more subtly than most mythmakers, overall this looks like a satyr/naiad seduction of a mortal (or incubus/succubus, if you prefer more medieval terms.)  We humans constantly wage cold war with the demands of our Freudian Ids, (to complete my jargon-journey into the twentieth century,) and they, as incarnations of powerful desire, are absolutely capable of knocking us down, sucking the air from our lungs, and drowning us–at least for a time.  And, most frighteningly, all without us necessarily acknowledging it’s happening, at the conscious level.

Now, the shadowy Id–often mischaracterized as our “evil” self–also comprises our very life force, the power that gets us out of bed in the morning, keeps us seeking and striving and sowing and reaping all day, so its cyclical ascendance over the ego (our manufactured identity) and superego (our “moral” self) needn’t be a terrible thing.  If we can break the spell.

DelRand’s story (packaged as an inexpensive e-book on Amazon and other e-tailers, and sampled on her over-18 blog https://creadelrand.wordpress.com/) treads the edge between fantasy and realism, as undoubtedly much of the genre does. Heroine Tess isn’t fulfilled by her sexual encounters with “ordinary” men.  To be clear, the problem lies in intimacy and sensitivity, not physical dysfunction or performance issues.  A century ago, her dissatisfaction would have been diagnosed by male doctors as some variety of female pathology: frigidity, perhaps, or nymphomania.  I suspect the genre’s writers–many of whom are women, though pseudonyms abound–have often used this motif as a convenient plot device. However, monster erotica can be interpreted, as here, in the vein of social criticism.  Our culture groups its inhabitants in so many ways: by race, religion, ideology, age, income bracket.  Naturally gender and sexual orientation could not escape polarization, either.  Tess’ tale begins post-coitus with her lover, an alpha-type who’d rather break up with her than confront her unarticulated needs, lest he have to confront some inadequacy of his own.

DelRand swells the fantasy structure in her second act, when Tess awakens–minor SPOILER follows–to find herself grown to many times the size of her “small self” (a phrase I read as code for “inhibited, repressed, oppressed self”).  Now she can mate with the titular monster, described by locals as “Godzilla” but suggested by the narrator more in terms of a giant primate, like King Kong.  Thus can her empathy and identification with him as Other be <ahem> worked out.  She’s been, after all, complained of by her erstwhile boyfriend as a kind of monster herself.  So, while for the local (male) farmers the roaming monster could be a psychological projection of some other evil, for Tess–I don’t think this too much of a stretch–he functions as a means to embrace and love her wild, Jungian animus: her own male side.  However, the ending of the tale comes, perhaps like sex itself, predictably and yet a bit abruptly–dare I say unsatiatingly.  But maybe that’s the point.

One need not embrace theoretical feminism to recognize the tragedy of a culture that pollutes something as natural as sex, to the extent that many normally functioning adult males will admit to having tried Viagra for no reason beyond innocent curiosity.  The problem comes down to the fact that few men and women talk openly about sex: why pornography centers around the penis but rarely features male faces, for example, or why its dominant fetishization is so often facial ejaculation.  Who could blame a woman who interpreted this cliche’ climax as revealing a lust for degrading domination of women, perhaps out of frustration over his powerlessness in other aspects of life (like the competitive workplace.)  It’s just as likely that a man’s base instinct to enjoy such an act comes out of the same deep-seated need for total acceptance by his partner.

Vulnerability over the need for acceptance and love seems obvious when considering women (threat of rape, 9-month extended periods of pregnancy, regular menstruation being accepted parts of daily life) but not so much for men.  Yet DelRand approaches it with the male line “You need so much. I can’t give you enough. You know, it’s terrifying to a man to be with a woman who needs more than he does.”  As a man with many male friends, however, and at the risk of burying the point, I’d urge this writer to resist and revise such mouthpiece material.  Most of us guys would have lashed out, in various stages of anger or frustration or humor, “You’re such a horny bitch/wench/slut!” (a slur being the quickest way to defuse someone else’s legitimate complaints/requests, and evocative of a ever-present double-standard).

So, from my admittedly limited engagement with the genre, the monster-porn fantasy seems to me to fulfill the unconscious female desire to regress the male into his simpler, more primitive form, one perhaps less verbally articulate but more intuitively responsive, undamaged by the demands of his acculturated ego.  Also, of course, as the still from King Kong hints, the feminine need for security, safety and protection by males (correction–the right male) from violent, unsavory predators seems equally served by such fantasies.  DelRand’s monster folding Tess into his gentle palm, an homage to the famous effect from the Kong movies, illustrates this need. In short, there’s a lot more going on than sex here.

Perhaps it’s a dangerous assumption that the target audience for such non-violent erotica is primarily female, but the subject is too broad not to limit it somehow.

For those interested, the subject of fantasy sex need not be male-forbidding.  Jon Norman’s underground 1970s-and-beyond Gor series–a counter-Earth orbiting the opposite side of our sun–explores many of these themes from a man’s perspective, especially of sexually inhibited men and women freed of cultural brainwashing.  Though not technically of the more recent Monster Erotica subgenre, this sci-fi set of cult classics–particularly the first half-dozen of the series–might strike a chord with fans, though undoubtedly too masculinist and chest-thumping for many in the  audience, a sort of analog to the Harlequin Romance.

By the way, some of these authors produce their more mainstream fiction under other identities, for reasons of the marketplace.  I imagine this to be an excellent means of stretching one’s writerly muscles: sex, especially, is notoriously hard to write without invoking unintentional laughter (as many anxiety-causing topics do, cf. gallows humor).  It makes sense, then, that purposeful humor would be a staple of these stories–and a good laugh vents repression and discomfort, too. So it’s a genre meant to be fun.

Well into the nineteenth century, novels themselves–any fiction–were a source of guilty pleasure in Europe and America.  A gentleman would either posture himself as above such “nonsense,” or at minimum be discreet enough to hide such books among the compartments of his home.  Certainly wives and daughters would have the decency to conceal theirs.  And now, as then, if fiction were more compelling and attractive than truth, we have no one but ourselves to blame.

Purchase links:

http://www.amazon.com/Lure-Prairie-Monster-Crea-DelRand-ebook/dp/B00UGSWQOE/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lure-of-the-prairie-monster-crea-delrand/1121318957?ean=9781483551050

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Giveaway and Review Copies of Clotho’s Loom

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What’s better than FREE?

We run several giveaways for paperback copies of Shawn StJean’s novel Clotho’s Loom per year, hosted by great sites like Goodreads and LibraryThing.  Check at the bottom of this site’s left-hand column for the current link!

For a review copy, also search left for the author’s contact information.

“Both a military action-adventure and a surreal exploration of the human unconscious, Clotho’s Loom uses a sniper’s mission overseas as a framework for old-style allegory, symbolism, irony, and a host of other literary devices in the tradition of Hawthorne, Poe, and Melville.”