The PopCult Bookshelf Magazine Rack

This week instead of recommending a book or comic, we’re going to mosey over to the other part of the bookstore, the magazine rack. Magazines seem to be a bit of an endangered species these days, but one area that’s thriving is niche-marketed specialty magazines. This week we’re going to look at a couple of entries that we picked up on a recent trip to the large chain bookstore with the giant magazine rack.

Mob Candy
Volume 1, number 8
“The Entertainment Magazine of Mafia Politics Pleasures and Power”

My dad would have loved this. It’s a whole magazine devoted to Mob Culture. Aimed at folks who can quote “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas” at will, this issue of the magazine celebrates 40 years of “The Godfather.”

This mag is a real retro kick, a throwback to hardboiled, anti-hero men’s magazines of the 1960s and 70s, like “Stag” or “Men’s Adventure.” It’s a mix of black-and-white and color on the inside, printed on a newsprint paper that is a refreshing change from all the slick paper mags out there. Editorially, Mob Candy is a mix of Godfather-centric articles and profiles and interviews, plus reviews of Mob history books, profiles of classic gangsters from years past and even some cheesecake photos of some lovely models.

A sample of an article from a previous issue

I think they may be going for a “Playboy Mystique for the Guidos” vibe, and they’re succeeding.

This particular 80-page issue is devoted to “The Godfather,” but I will be looking to see what their non-themed issues are like. As a theme issue, it’s a home run, with profiles on all the actors, the director and articles reflecting on the movie’s influence.

The magazine has an associated website, but be warned that as soon as the site loads, it starts blaring loud, obnoxious rap music. This was a disappointment, since they really should be blasting Sinatra, but you can toggle it off with a button at the top right of the page.

At six bucks, this magazine is well worth picking up if you have any interest in the days of the Mob. How can you not love a magazine who’s Director of Promotions is named “Frankie The Rat?”

Issue 35
Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music

Okay, this magazine is a luxury indulgence that I pick up regularly. A few years ago the idea of a magazine devoted to progressive rock music would have been unthinkable. If you even dared to admit in print that you enjoyed the music of YES or Emerson Lake and Palmer you would be dragged before the tribunal of Dave Marsh, Jann Wenner and the ghost of Lester Bangs to be banished from the Secret Society of Rock Critics.

Luckily, nobody gives a crap about that anymore, so we can have an entire magazine that treats intelligent, complex music with respect instead of fear and ridicule. PROG began as an offshoot of Classic Rock Magazine, and graduated to 8-times-a-year frequency and independent status. Each issue is over 120 pages on slick, full-color paper, packed in a large envelope along with a sampler CD that features mostly new artists creating great new progressive rock. It’s a bit pricey, at fifteen bucks an issue in the US, but after thirty years of a drought of progressive rock print coverage, it’s well worth it.

Regular features in PROG include hysterical essays by Rick Wakeman, interviews with closet prog fans, scads of new music reviews, spotlights on forgotten albums and discussions about whether or not particular artists qualify as “Prog.”

The King Crimson special from a few months back

That last bit is sort of ironic for me, since the cover feature for this issue is RUSH, who I never really considered progressive back in the day. Along with Blue Oyster Cult, I always considered RUSH to be “thinking man’s heavy metal.” However, in the intervening years since the days when I had the energy to label music thusly, Dream Theater blurred the lines between metal and progressive, and the tent of Prog has grown accordingly.

Prog is a meaty mag, filled with plenty of gems that can take you days to work through. Buried in this issue are cool bits like Jello Biafra prasing Hawkwind, a look at the first album by Marillion, and an interview with Todd Rundgren.

In addition to CD reviews, Prog covers live gigs (from the UK mostly, Prog is a British publication), musical gadgets, DVD releases and brings us news of groups currently recording new material in the studio.

If Prog ever went monthly, I don’t know if I could justify buying every issue, but as long as I can remember to head out to the Books A Million at Corridor G ever six weeks, it’s not too bad. What other magazine is going to feature YES, Kate Bush, Steven Wilson, King Crimson and Mike Oldfield on it’s cover?