Cold Sunday afternoon reading series part 5: K. Johnson’s What a Beautiful Face: A Neutral Milk Hotel Fanzine!
What a Beautiful Face is a brand-new fanzine dedicated to one of thee most fantastic bands on the planet, Neutral Milk Hotel. Between these lovely/lovingly screenprinted covers (mocha ink on sandy cardstock, design by Rio Safari) you’ll find longer essay writing by K. Johnson and Death in a Rifle Garden author Rich Baiocco, “fan fiction” by Adam Gnade, photography by Megan McIsaac, and a series of shorter live show reviews and small features by various authors from all over the world. This richly illustrated ode to all-things Jeff Mangum and co. is an ecstatic, wild-eyed lovenote to a band that has made a whole lotta people feel less alone. Order here from Pioneers Press
"The subtitle of What a Beautiful Face: A Neutral Milk Hotel Fanzine pretty much tells you what to expect. Edited by K. Johnson, the contributions range from the essayistic (Johnson’s own musings on the band and their legacy) to the more impressionistic (Adam Gnade’s short fiction inspired and informed by the band’s music.) And as someone who was old enough to see Neutral Milk Hotel live but never actually did (much to my chagrin), the multiple perspectives here rang true. The authors range from writers in their thirties to those not yet of legal drinking age, first encountering Jeff Mangum’s music in a solo setting. Towards the end of the issue, Johnson collects a number of live reviews of Mangum, from festival stops to brief appearances as part of Elephant 6 tours. And it does a good job of puncturing bubbles of nostalgia that listeners of a certain age might have. It’s refreshing to read that not everyone seeking out Mangum live is, like me, in their mid-thirties — that the music he’s made is considered vital by listeners a decade or two my junior. And there’s an image late in the zine of Jeff Mangum air-drumming to a Minutemen song that’s just about perfect." Tobias Carroll, Volume 1 Brooklyn review
"What A Beautiful Face is yet another gem of a zine from the folks at Microcosm Distribution / Punch Drunk Press. As the name says, this is a zine tribute to one of Athens’ most beloved bands, Neutral Milk Hotel. In these pages are photos, show reviews, essays, and short stories compiled from some of the best folks currently writing, including Adam Gnade and Rich Baiocco. Tinged with melancholy and nostalgia, What A Beautiful Face almost feels like a Neutral Milk record, organic and natural; it’s something to be held in your hands and enjoyed, shared in dusty bedrooms and quiet corners, and looked at years down the line, still with a smile, saved from a simpler time." Dakota Floyd review
I’d definitely recommend picking up this zine while it’s still available, whether you’re a NMH fan or not.
"I know a lot of you are still totally wrapped into Neutral Milk Hotel sounds. I do. But more or less, a year ago came out a new website Walking Wall of Words with new songs and illustrations: the hope of a new album was carrying with him thousand people to have a look and also someone to realise a fanzine about Mangum & co’s album An Aeroplane over the Sea. What a Beautiful Face (a Neutral Milk Hotel fanzine) is conceived by K.Johnson and is a 24 pages publication with essays, pictures, tour stories and illustration to celebrate (not in a prophetic way) the work of the American lo-fi folk group." JucieSqueezerRadio review
Feature from Volume 1 Brooklyn
Rich Baiocco interview by K. Johnson