People love to bitch about the poor state of mainstream music magazines, pointing to the stagnant, ad-friendly copy in publications like Rolling Stone, Blender, and Spin as examples of how far we've fallen from the days when rock criticism was based on a passion for music and not which record labels/promoters spent money that month. But that sentiment shows a lack of looking beyond the obvious and overmarketed. While pay-for-print magazines do suck up a ton of advertising and subscription dollars, walk into any independent- publication-friendly bookstore and there are plenty of smart rags coming out across the globe where the content and the checks come to different departments. A few of my favorites include England's Careless Talk Costs Lives (from our own Everett True), New York's Skyscraper, and new quarterlies like Bandoppler.

Of the last bunch mentioned, Bandoppler is the one I'm most excited about because it's locally published and because already in its first issue--on the stands now--it's positioned itself as an opinionated, humorous, intelligent voice on music, fiction, and items from the eclectic "etc." category, like junk food.

Bandoppler #1 covers a range of different acts--from a socially conscious interview with Portland hiphop act Lifesavas to a slightly stream-of-consciousness yet insightful piece on Starflyer 59 to a hotheaded (and, in my opinion, kind of unfocused, but I'm biased) critique of a piece I wrote on the Blood Brothers (I'm always down for a good debate, though). There are also articles on talented local author Adam Voith, a look at the Underground Literary Alliance, a brilliant essay on coming around to appreciate the experimental antics of U.S. Maple, and a review of Smirnoff Ice, among other things. The selection is a well-rounded collection of bright fragments of under-covered elements of pop culture, with beautiful cover art done by the esteemed David Lasky. Chris Estey, who edits the magazine along with Jason Dodd and Matt Johnson, e-mails from his other job (a graveyard shift at the Frye Hotel) that they started Bandoppler out of a "genuine conscious hatred of the businesses that exploit the creators," adding, "These days I think rock mags are mostly scams for scene jockeying and swag collecting, and most music scenes are a niched-out nightmare, and yet I think there are great things going on regardless, cool small things that need passionate encouragement and informed criticism."

Inspired by publications like Grand Royal and Creem, funded in part by the Artist Reformation Project (which also hosts Paradox Theatre Productions), the editorial team pools experienced music journalism to create a publication that shows its writers have spent time really thinking about the musicians they're covering, which means a mix of timely interviews and profiles of people they like simply because they've been brooding about those people's work. Estey says one goal for Bandoppler is "making rock magazines something people really want to read again. Reestablishing trust--we don't print reviews of new albums because we haven't lived with those albums yet."

Given their quarterly deadlines, Bandoppler's writers have the space to go deeper in their analysis, but they thankfully stay away from wonky over-intellectualism and self-important monologues. Most of the writing is informed without trying to prove how educated or cool the writer is. "Most mags and zines seem to exist to justify people's existences, to gain status, to get stuff, to be a part of a scene," says Estey. "I could give a shit about any of that. I'm an old white-trash punk rocker in low-income housing that loves comic books and science fiction. Yet I crave revelation and originality and I rarely see it anymore in popular culture."

Co-editor Dodd, who started Bandoppler as a webzine in 1997 but then killed it for a couple years, adds that contemporary magazines don't even exist as magazines anymore, but as "well designed and written catalogs--for perfume, clothing, music, real estate, absurdly impossible, ultimately shallow, and even completely fraudulent 'lifestyles,' and material fetishes of all kind." He adds that magazines have always been a commercial enterprise, but they've also been "a significant part of the development of literature and literary communities and social movements--the zeitgeist--and they absorb the present, prepare the past, and provoke the future. Everything is buying and selling, sure, but what a magazine has the primary capacity to sell is spirit, ideas, language, and evolution and revolution of milieus--they can sell virtue."

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