Clare McCullough

Frankie and the Witch Fingers

Frankie and the Witch Fingers’ wiped the sweat out of their eyes. It was a hot summer night as they ducked into Milwaukee’s Cactus Club for sound check. Later that night, they would be an endless source of power between the anthem and the poetic. This headline show put on by Hear Here Presents gave the hot July night something to scream about.

They elevated their energy by starting with a bliss-ridden vibe mirroring King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Their guitars supported a singer who together achieved psychedelic perfection in their song, “Realization.” Their guitar is the main star. Its momentum is clearly felt by their drummer, Nick Aguilar, “When I see people moving, it’s my love language.” He told me, in between the background elation of his fans’ post-mosh revelry. 

But just beyond the curtain, two more bands tapped their feet. They all waited for their chance to take the stage.

At the end of their show, they thanked Hot Garbage, who opened for them. Hot Garbage, based out of Toronto, was dope dope dope. The bass and the drums existed almost independently from the guitar and keyboard, playing with extreme contrast. They incorporated an enticing tone that reminded me of Meatbodies. Alex Carlevaris, the lead on Hot Garbage, said he wrote “for no one and for nothing.” 

Fellow Kinsman is a Milwaukee band I have been meaning to see for years. Their music had clear influences of Miles Davis. Nate Kinsman, the lead singer, and guitarist told me they will release a new album in the Fall of 2022, which was “a long process but a good one.”

The Book of Koli Review

As a work of science fiction, worldbuilding is the most significant element and the most enjoyable in The Book of Koli. M.R. Carey’s The Book of Koli is marvelous, one of those science fiction books which did not feel like there was an author, only the character. You are so completely immersed in the world, you become as a part of it as any of the characters which populate the book. You stand among them. The themes explored technology, power, and coming of age in a post-apocalyptic world where the tree is carnivorous.

But it’s not so much about the Trees as Koli’s life in his village or the Trees, it’s how society has formed and adapted around their knowledge. Ramparts are the military and police force of the village where you are ‘chosen’ by a piece of old technology.

Koli’s realization of the truth of his world and his place in it make you want to read more and more. After reading the first one, I cannot wait to get my hands on the second one of this trilogy.

See Clare McCullough’s short story, “The Treasure Notebook”

“In infinite dimensions, all things are possible”

Ava’s story begins like most of our lives begin, at a low-paying job. Finna by Nino Cipri joins the ranks of trailblazing gender representation in contemporary science fiction.

It addresses the mental illness and depression of an underpaid service employee. Ava and her fellow works are asked to do too much and out of their job description, asked for endless service to capitalism. It reviews the injuries caused by the relentless allowance of capitalism’s oppression of the worker.  The morphing and changing scenery around them is representative of the author’s fear of conformity and Ava’s realization of identity. Until she imagines the infinite possibilities available for her future, does the main character fully realize hope.

It has an almost anti-romantic arc in that the main characters have fallen out of love. They are trying to make their way into friendship. The most outstanding impression I got from this book was not from the main character, but of the love interest, Jules who is only referred to as they/them.

The biggest strength of this book is its razor sharp-wit and the pure fun it was to read. It was touching and had qualities of exuberance and righteousness.

It challenges us to rethink the traditional and patriarchal approaches toward science, capitalism, and gender. Examining attitudes that span across generations and multiverses. All knowledge is fundamentally gendered, being construction of possibility and more oftentimes than we’d like to admit, a self-fulling prophecy.

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks Review

My first thought after reading The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks was ‘What a fascinating muddied depraved book’. It is set on a Scottish island, bare save for Frank, their father, and the housekeeper. I am still not sure if this science fiction book that is definitely a science fiction book is even in fact science fiction at all. I suppose it is. I am forced to believe it, because Banks creates one of the most immersive settings – turning a dreary island into an alien planet, million miles away and Frank- it’s alien. It is definitely an absurd gore thriller. The Wasp Factory doesn’t follow any standard traditional way- bending genre. 

Frank, the psychotic serial killer doesn’t let you out of their sight or save you their brutality. All actions calculated and thought through. Although his brother, Eric, recently escaped from the insane asylum, always seems to call Frank’s house the few times when he is off guard and the absolute craziness that ensues is pure dark comedic gold.

When not resenting his father for being vegetarian and for smelling Frank’s farts and then for commenting on the fragrance; Frank spends his time building dams, maintaining a litany of arms including a flamethrower. Frank reveals the details of his killing with matter-of-factness. Though it is mostly animals that he murders (Banks spares no details) he also includes all of the children that he had killed. 

The Wasp Factory is not for the faint of heart. If you have loved ones, may you stay away from this book forever. That being said I am glad to have read it. I am interested in other works by Banks. As Banks dunks you into his misogynistic nightmare where wasps are used in divination rituals and gruesome violence is the currency; you are glad that you do not have to live in Iain Bank’s head.

Picture of Iain Banks
Picture of Iain Banks

Stuffed & Ready by Cherry Glazerr

Cherry Glazerr’s 2019 album Stuffed & Ready was an altogether turn into unintelligible with few diamonds. Throughout the songs in the album, the brooding guitar was strong and suited the singer’s voice and it’s effect.

Their song Stupid Fish is definitely the best on the album. Its rhythm was soothing. The guitar together with the drumming kept the sense that the music was moving around you as if you were in a warm aquarium. Listening to the music I felt compelled to raise my fists and wiggle like a stupid fish. The sense of melody was well being incarnate

Those facts in mind, I wish that I had gotten more of a sense of what the message of most of their songs were. At times the song got monotonous like in Daddi. I am a big fan of their song Ten Dollars but I fear that I am no longer their audience.

Overall, Stupid Fish is worth mentioning but Cherry Glazerr failed to deliver on their usual slick style on all the over tracks.

Falling for Cullahtivation

Introducing the world of purposeful play into a world of lockdown. The good-natured growth of Cullah’s anticipated Cullahtivation album is one of the only things I have been looking forward to. His single, “Falling”, could lift the spirits of even the most cantankerous soul. Injecting his soul into a world in pain he demonstrates that even in times of isolation and uncertainty there is still rain and sunshine for us to grow.

He proves that all we really need to cushion our fall; is the amount of love that we give. It is easier to be kind and spread love than it is to be mean and hard. To be good is to fall in love everyday with growth and your compassion for others. Cullah wants to be there for you when you fall; because he has fallen too.  The full album release occurs, like it always does, on April 27.

The link to his website is here –>

Coronavirus Reading list

  • Henry and June: from the Unexpurgated diary of Anais nin – Anais Nin
  • Dune by Herbert, Frank
  • Diary of Anne Frank
  • Geek Love – Katherine Dunn
  • Rose of No Man’s Land – Michelle Tea
  • An Education – Lynn Barber
  • Veronica – Mary Gaitskill
  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon cake – Aimee Bender
  • Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
  • How should a person be? – Sheila Heti
  • Where’d you go, Bernadette – Maria Semple
  • The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
  • The Shock Doctrine – Naomi Klein
  • Epileptic – David B.
  • Flowers for Algernon by Keyes, Daniel
  • Carrie by King, Stephen
  • The Shining by King, Stephen
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Pollan, Michael
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  • Assata: An Autobiography
  • Watership Down by Adams, Richard

Review of “Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?”

“Is it wrong to pick girls up in a dungeon” is a substandard anime. Grading it a D+ only seems fair by the virtue of the animation itself being almost okay and tending toward the simplistic. That being said, I see the main failure of this anime as failing in character development and plot. Any character development. Any plot. Why should I care?? I don’t know. There is no good vs. evil to compel us. Besides, of course, the evils of lazy writing. This anime relies on outdated tropes and is lacking totally in originality.

This is what I’ve gathered from the first two episodes. I had to force myself to watch the second one. (I wish I had my 20 minutes back) It is about a basic young man, who for some reason lives with Hestia, the Greek Goddess herself who is childlike both in reason and in temperament. Anyway, the boy decides that he wants to be an adventurer. When adventuring, he meets a girl in a dungeon. He is almost about to die; when who is to save his life than the beautiful girl. After these events unfolded, he walks away realizing that he has fallen in love. However, this girl is unattainable as she is apparently is a super badass elite fighter who is waaay out of basic boy’s league. During his quest to prove himself as an adventurer to a girl who is unattainable, and she is therefore not given many lines. All the rest of the women characters are given their roles. To be sexualized. Every single one of the supporting characters is a big-breasted individual who falls flat because their basic function and trait are fawning over the main character.

All in all, “Is it wrong to pick up girls in a dungeon?”. I would say that it is a waste of the viewer’s time because of lazy writing and disrespect toward feminine people. Plot-wise it’s not exciting. The reason for this is because when your plot relies on characters’ development, none of the women characters are allowed to develop and deepen.

I challenge the poser that wrote this anime/manga/whatever to write an original script for once.

Velveteen Echo’s Nuclear family

Velveteen Echo has come out with a new music video to celebrate their sophomore album golden ring. Authoritative drumlines and dreamy climbs of the guitar make the background. Lauren Massa looks out at the water. When the first organism crawled out of the sea and made its home in the dark soil it was the beginning of everything, but more accurately, it was the beginning of Velveteen Echo’s Nuclear family. A shedding of inhibitions like the way that you take off your clothes. Nuclear family is an embrace of the more animal sides of humanity. Through its lingering guitar riffs and an otherworldly female vocalist, it transforms what was once a standard person. Examining what it means to separate ourselves from nature, from ourselves, how far we have come from the joyful play of our evolutionary ancestors.

Velveteen Echo’s first music video, “Do You” was written and directed by Lauren’s sister, Kristin Massa. Like the bright and shiny music video called Nuclear family it has to do with non-humans taking on human wants and needs and humans developing more animal inclinations. Velveteen Echo Lauren’s concern is with the line or liminal space between being, and existing as a human being with all of the caveats and challenges. There are so many emotions that humans experience. There is so much to be gained when we cast off our human garments and go play a while. When asked about what excited her most about being in this newly formed group was the fact that “it’s the first time I’ve ever played amplified with an electric guitar and performed as a frontwoman. It’s incredibly fun and empowering.” It’s this power that she channels into her sophomore album, Golden Ring and sustains her plans for a Texas tour in December 2019.

Tossing normally held conventions and flipping it all upside down on top of the head. A celebration of senses and pack mentality. Velveteen Echo sets itself apart from others through its high quality and acknowledgment of the divinity of nature. How if we can be more like nature and follow the seasons just as the animals do things would be simpler. Being a part of something, rather than being separate. The warmth of the drumline and the guitar cradling us, making the listener whole. A yearning for the fulfillment of promises rather than the breaking of truths. Being together, a community of animals that we are, all worshiping the things that take care of us, such as the dog in the music video. We are left with an animal howl and a yearning to be a part of Velveteen Echo’s soft ambient soundscape.

The DIY Strength of the Sunkin Suns

When I first met Sam Catral, he was wearing a patterned button-down and a full beard that would give some the impression that he was much older than what his years were. Snow was still in drifts along the streets and you couldn’t go outside without shivering. After our toes had thawed, we made conversation about our shared love of guitar music. Being a full-time student and teacher of jazz guitar, he gave me some pointers that have served me since (Keep your hand still, let your fingers do the talking). He was giving me advice on life, which I thought was a bit bold – me being two years his senior, he at the time was only around 19 years old.  Despite, or perhaps because of this youth you’ll find Milton, Sam, and Yanni’s influence dominate in just about every stage in Milwaukee.

The Sunkin Suns are the human embodiment of the DIY culture that permeates the Milwaukee music scene. Their ethic is one of empowerment of the individual and the employment of alternative approaches outside of traditional mainstream consumer culture. They are as punk-spirit as it gets… but make it jazz. Since their conception, they have created Milwaukee music nights where other DIY bands have a place to excel. Be it in sweaty attic shows where the oppressive air seems to take on a cross breeze pushed only by their groovy guitar bends and eccentric drum lines or loud basement shows hosted by a local anarchist. They push on, despite societal and bureaucratic obstacles. Circumventing the traditional route of the creation of music. They take total control of their final product. The pleasure of watching the Sunkin Suns perform is like stepping outside of your comfort zone, outside of the established cultural community and finally being able to choose what you want your night to look like.

The Sunkin Suns was originally Sam’s pet project with his friend Milton. They officially met on the high school bus he informed me, introduced by a mutual friend. It was the beginning of a project that has survived through undercover jobs at jazz bars in Milwaukee; brief ill-fated forays with cover bands and has now culminated in a Psychedelic Jazz Trio Jam Band that plays everywhere that matters. Despite Milton and Sam having incredible talent, they were lucky enough to pick up one of the best drummers that I personally have ever been lucky enough to see, Yanni. The might of that man’s internal metronome and quick humor makes a person think that anything is possible. Their forces combined; the smooth music is like cold water on a sultry day and refreshes all parts of the good land from River Revitalization foundation fundraisers to Marquette University’s Straz Theater.

Four years later after Milton and Sam met, more often than not getting turned away from shows because of their age, you can find their sticker on every lamp-post of Milwaukee county’s streets from West Allis to Oak Creek. They have around eight songs in rotation that they wrote themselves and are more than willing to hop on the bill with other up and comings of the music scene in Milwaukee. Most famously, Cullah but also other lesser known but should be known Christian Porter, Graham Scott, Gnatcatchers, and Dogbad. There is so much to be seen in the streets and stages of Milwaukee both in snow and in sunshine. Like a duck, calm above the water, but below- a flurry of productive activity and everyone wants in.

The Sunkin Suns mixes old favorites with new takes like a twist of lemon on your mineral water carbonation of sound-buds. As their deft fingers pick out the classic melodies and lift up the spirits of every pair of ears they touch, they weave notes as if they were cotton strings set precisely on a loom. If the songs they create bring so much happiness, then the influences that they leave behind are DIY euphoria. Leave all of the out-moded disbeliever talk at the door and let your soul decipher the meaning of the connection of the melodies to your past, your present, and your future. Without realizing, you will find your head bobbing to the beat.

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