Caught In Flux #6

Mike Applestein’s a “lifer” in the wild world of music fanzines, straddling multiple decades of deep indie/insider fandom with Writer’s Block, Caught in Flux and the very recent Silent Command. (We talked about the latter here). Like a great many insular scribes, Applestein turned his attention to online writing as one century gave way to another, only returning himself to the glory of print in 2022. Because his focus was so heavily lasered-in on deeply obscure pop music and mine wasn’t, I’d really only skirted his stuff for most of the 90s, until getting to know him a little better as an “internet” writer later on.

Seasons change, people change and all that, and now, reading Caught in Flux #6 from 1997, I get the sense that Mike could make me one hell of a mixtape from all the weird nooks & crannies of the sub-underground pop world from that time, and now I’d probably like it. But so much of it is greek to me: Beanpole, The Cat’s Miaow, Honeybunch, The Softies, The Three Peeps. Singles and LPs that I rapidly flicked past because they were pink, or had cartoons, or the band were wearing dopey sweaters or whatnot. Or maybe they had names like this issue’s The I Live The Life Of A Movie Star Secret Hideout. And hey, I’m not saying I’d necessarily like any of it now. Sometimes I’ll do a deeper online dive into the indiepop world and come up with nothing but kelp and crud; and yet sometimes I’ll pull up a Jeanines or something equally wonderful.

Yet Mike and I definitely overlap on so much of the post-punk 80s stuff he’s been such a champ in championing: Young Marble Giants, which I already talked about here; but also this issue’s two jumbo Dolly Mixture interviews, which finally helped illuminate the mystery of why The Mo-dettes were consistently slagging them in their interviews, and just who the fetching Dolly Mixture track, “How Come You’re Such a Hit With The Boys, Jane?” was about. Among many other things, of course. Catching a band only 15 or so years after their time means memories are fresh enough to be recalled but also that wounds are distant enough to heal. And it’s really great to see an au courant 90s interview with mostly ignored Australians Small World Experience, whose Shelf-Life Siltbreeze reissued not that long ago.

There had been a really thriving set of fanzines tackling these worlds throughout the 1990s. I remember Maz from The Mummies had his pop magazine Four Letter Words; Tim Hinely plowed many of these fields with Dagger; there was (and still is) Chickfactor, of course, and I’m sure there were many, many, many others. All of them have much to teach us, but reading Caught In Flux #6, I think Applestein was really setting some of the terms for the scene here, and expanding it to encompass a pretty healthy variety of micro-genres. He’s still got a few available here. Guess where I got mine.

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