A Sticky Situation

You can see it from a distance: a pane of glass struck by a bullet. Words such as gunfire, blood, and choking displayed prominently on the cover. At first glance, a new reader might assume that Paste is produced by the NRA. However, a closer read displays the true subject matter of this magazine in its tagline, “Signs of Life in Music, Film & Culture.”

This is “The Violence Issue,” (as the editors have cleverly penciled in the word “death” to its original tagline on the front cover). Yet, why would a music magazine devote an entire issue to violence? We can assume that the regular Paste devotee is mostly interested in reading about emerging independent artists and feature articles on his/her favorite bands, what the magazine has thrived on since its inception in July 2002.

Paste stays somewhere within its usual boundaries as it carefully crafts the October issue by splicing in bits and pieces of music into the violent oriented front of the book blurbs.

Take the magazine’s first piece, “Red in the Face: Wayne Coyne on Fake Blood.” Coyne, the lead singer and showman behind the Flaming Lips, a psychedelic-rock group from Oklahoma City, frequently uses fake blood as an on-stage prop. Many Paste readers are fans, or are familiar with the Flaming Lips.

Still, the Coyne piece has really nothing to do with violence in the first place. The guy uses fake blood on stage. It is a unique and hilarious prop. But how does that fit into this so-called “violence issue?”

The music and violence comparison continue as we see a piece on the surprising lyrical similarities between death metal and gospel music. Although each genre produces its own distinct sound, both constantly cite stories about blood, sacrifice and pain. It is an amazing comparison. You are unlikely to see longhaired, face-painted metal fans with Black Sabbath tee shirts cavorting amongst church-going folk and vice-versa. This piece has to be the kind of thing Paste was hinting at when it printed “The Violence Issue” on the cover.

Despite its usual review of albums, books, and films at the end of the issue, the October Paste’s mentioning of music begins to disappear as we get into the main features

The first feature by John H. Richardson discusses the author’s investigation into the way violence affects, consumes, and (ultimately) inspires. The writer does an excellent job in discussing material that is new to Paste, while staying in the pop culture confines that the typical reader can relate to (discussions of the book/movie Fight Club and the video game Grand Theft Auto).

Overall, Paste carefully balances the introduction of a new topic (violence) with a sprinkling of music, film and culture. For regular readers, this issue will be a nice departure from the usual music features. In its place are two well-written, entertaining articles that discuss other issues in pop-culture that readers will likely be familiar with.

-Alex Suskind


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