Justin Melkmann's Punk-Rock Comics: Life Irritates Art

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Art by Justin Melkmann/Courtesy of Melkmann Comics
This is a story about the sometimes roundabout ways we encounter new music. It's also about expectations: why we make them and how we adapt, often for the better, when they aren't fully realized. I'll start there.

TMI alert: I like to read in the restroom. I planned to spend a few minutes "reading" one morning, so I grabbed a 'zine one of the kids brought home from a show and was flipping through the pages when I came across some well-drawn, music-related and genuinely funny cartoon art. The artist's name was Justin Melkmann.

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Gary Numan: the Dark Genius Behind a Broken Mind

BB Gun Press
Gary Numan's own dark days inspired the creation of new album "Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind)."
"There are still people trying to work out what a genius Gary Numan is"
-- Prince

In the U.S., Gary Numan is mostly viewed a one-hit wonder. His 1980 Top 10 hit "Cars" (and its accompanying iconic video) remains a perfect little time capsule of synthy New Wave keyboards and a contagious melody guided along by Numan's robotic vocals.

But in much of the rest of the world, Numan is seen in an entirely different light, as a pioneer of EDM, synthesizer-based and industrial music, and an artist who is forever seeking to expand the technological frontiers of music with a deep discography. He's just released his 20th record and first full length studio effort since 2006, Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind) to overwhelmingly positive notice. Combining elements of New Wave, industrial, goth, scuzz-rock and the occasional dreamy ballad, it's a dark work of foreboding and walls-closing-in doom. Not surprising, since it's mainly about Numan's fight with depression, with which he was diagnosed in 2008.

"I went through a fairly rough time and was on medication for three years and didn't write a song for four," he types in an email interview while on a plane from London to his current home in Los Angeles.

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Are You Houston's Best Music Photographer?

Categories: Art Rock

Photo by Mark C. Austin
One of the best parts of running Rocks Off is going through all the concert photos we run every week. We're proud to say we feature the work of Houston's finest music photographers on this blog, but now we're upping the ante by putting that to a vote. In other words, think you can do better?

For the first time, we're going to let our readers determine Houston's best music photographer. (Not us; we just work here.) But entering is super-simple: Make sure you have a portfolio of 15-20 concert pictures you'd like to enter (a mixture of artist and crowd shots is best), and either write your name and email in the comments area of this blog post or email it to music@houstonpress.com.

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UH Design Students Show Off Their Unique "Guitarchetecture"

Photos courtesy of UH Media Relations Office
UH industrial-design student Lindsay Lahaug working on her custom electric guitar
Shop class was never like this in high school. This past semester, 12 students in Prof. Mark Kimbrough's industrial-design class in UH's Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture have been working on a pretty hip class project: creating their own custom electric guitar to rock, blues or jazz specifications, with the assistance of the folks at Collings Guitars.

The students have been traveling back and forth all semester between Houston and the Collings factory in Austin, where they have been working under the guidance of advisers including company founder Bill Collings himself. This is no easy feat, either; one student spent several days sanding her guitar to get the finish exactly right. Supposedly some had been sleeping under their desks as the deadline approached, too.

"It's been quite a spectacular experience for everyone involved," says Kimbrough via the UH Media Office.

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The 10 Worst Album Covers to Get as Tattoos (NSFW)

Photo by Dr_Colleen_Morgan
We like you guys. We like seeing you out at shows, and we like writing for you, even when we don't agree on the semantics of one blog or another. We're tight like that. You can hate on our lists, and we'll still think you're pretty cool.

But you know what's not cool? Ugly band tattoos, which seem to be an epidemic as of late. But don't worry. Because we like you, we're here to help keep you from making poor tattoo decisions. You know, like that misshapen Black Flag tattoo you're sporting on your forearm. Those are never a good idea. Neither was that blink-182 tattoo.

As a sort of PSA, we've compiled some more album art that will make for bad tattoos, so please pay attention. We don't want to have to hear you lamenting that unfortunate Death Grips tattoo next time we run into you.

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Your Houston Press Artopia 2014 Bands: Electric Attitude, Featherface & Deep Cuts

The Houston Press and Rocks Off are proud to announce the musical lineup for our sixth annual Artopia, set for Saturday, January 25, once again at Winter Street Studios (2101 Winter St.). While you admire the creations of some of the Bayou City's top visual artists and fashion designers, Artopia's Music Stage will be rocked, rolled and thoroughly funked up by Houston's own Electric Attitude, Featherface and Deep Cuts.

Still riding high off their superfly 2013 album Skintight & Solid Gold -- which the band reports is now being ordered from as far away as France and Switzerland -- Electric Attitude has all kinds of shizz going on right now, hardly limited to their opening gigs for Girl In a Coma at Numbers Thanksgiving Saturday and Har Mar Superstar New Year's Eve at Walters(!).

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Added Music Takes Bayou City Art Fest to Another Level

Every great band requires a great timekeeper. The man behind the drum set for Houston Press Music Award winners The Suffers is named Nick Zamora. He's one of those dudes who just gets it, man.

The guy is a musician's musician, who can keep time, sing back-up vocals, act as a sound man, and book your next show. So when the Bayou City Art Festival was looking for assistance in increasing the appeal of the annual event's musical fare, it was only natural that they called upon Zamora.

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Meeting of the Minds: Morrissey and Charlie Brown

Morrissey always seemed like a rather gloomy chap, on that we can all agree. But how does he stack up against the all-time glum heavyweight, Charlie Brown?

In case you never wondered that before, go ahead and kick yourself just like we did. That's the germ of an idea behind This Charming Charlie, an inspired new Tumblr currently making your favorite music-tracking Web sites drool. (And now this one, it appears.)

The site superimposes dozens of Smiths lyrics onto panels from the old Peanuts strip, and that's about it: Snoopy lazing on his doghouse pondering "Does the body rule the mind or the mind rule the body? I don't know...", Charlie Brown contemplating the sidewalk as he wonders "Is it wrong not to always be glad," Lucy perched on her front step sulking "Now I know how Joan of Arc felt," Marcy informing Peppermint Patty "I dreamt about you last night and I fell out of bed twice." That sort of brilliance.

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The Melvins & Honky at Warehouse Live, 8/8/2013

Photos by Francisco Montes
Melvins, Honky
Warehouse Live Studio
August 8, 2013

Kind of feels like the Melvins have been around forever, doesn't it? There's just something primordial about the band's sludgy, signature sound. But it's actually only been 30 years now since the weird, noisy little Washington rock group began showing everybody exactly how much was achievable with high dosages of ambition and distortion.

King Buzzo and company could never sit still long enough to break up, so the Melvins never got a shot at the big reunion tour. Instead, it was a trek celebrating three contiguous decades of crushing riffs and crashing cymbals that rolled through Warehouse Live on Thursday, and the band's cult of fans turned out in numbers to witness the deafening spectacle.

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The Rocks Off 100: Richard Griesser, Vintage Camera Hound With Enviable Archive

Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See the entire Rocks Off 100 at this link.

Photos courtesy of Richard Griesser
Bo Diddley (left) and Dr. Rocket & the Sisters of Mercy backstage at Rockefeller's, 1984
Rocks Off "met" Richard Griesser a couple of weeks ago, when we were looking for pictures of Houston music venues that had closed, and he went above and beyond the call of duty. When we posted a notice on Facebook, we figured we'd be lucky to get a handful of shots we could use. Griesser sent us dozens, from all sorts of long-defunct local venues -- Rockefeller's, the Rhythm Room, Mary Jane's, Fabulous Satellite Lounge, and more.


Houston's Top 25 Closed Music Venues

But Griesser also sent just as many from places that are open to this day like Dan Electro's Guitar Bar and Last Concert Cafe, which will host an exhibition of his photos starting Thursday. After he did us such a huge favor, we couldn't help but induct Griesser into The Rocks Off 100.

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