Exclaim! is more than a Toronto-based alternative music zine. This zine is a more extensive companion to the print magazine Exclaim! (over 100,000 copies of which are given out free throughout Canada). The zine includes columns on popular culture, art, a rather amusing message board, and a new radio show each week. By alternative music, they don’t merely mean the kind of alternative soup MTV dresses up for purchase. Much of this music will never find its way onto mainstream radio stations.
The Features section of Exclaim! consists of thorough, informative articles. This month, the section includes a look at South Asian music (complete with glossary), A Tribe Called Quest, a look at the Brian Setzer Orchestra, and Buffalo Tom. The Reviews section is even more impressive, with tons of reviews, mostly of bands with unfamiliar names, such as Hecate Enthroned and Frigg A Go Go. The reviews are divided into several categories: Aggressive, Electronica, Garage, Groove, Jazz, Hip-Hop, Lounge, Moonshine, Pop and Rock, Psychedelic, Ska, World, and Covers. Unfortunately, most of the reviews are short, and on some of the shorter reviews, the reader is left with no idea of what the reviewer thinks of the band being reviewed.
The Columns section boasts a similar richness of variety. They have comic reviews, short reviews of zines (endearingly entitled “Between a Rawk and a Harddrive”), and even a special deviant culture zine review. Films reviews are also covered, with coverage in the most recent issue of the Vancouver International Film Festival, as well as criticism of mainstream fare such as Beloved and Pleasantville. The boob tube is not neglected, either, with a review of a new Canadian T.V. show about the politics of hockey.
Exclaimites are also given the chance to communicate with their brethren, and the results are amusing. In one thread, a large discussion of Toronto bands ensues, complete with subtle threats of violence, with bands such as Sex Without Souls and Hard Tail trading barbs with detractors and each other. Although childish, the chat here is relatively clean and civil compared with the garbage spoken in other chat areas.
The Music section is my favorite, with a different radio hour every week devoted to a different genre, provided by virtuallycanadian.com. It’s a very cool opportunity to delve into music beyond what one finds at the neighborhood Wal-Mart. As far as commercialization goes, my source admits, “we do sell T-shirts, but not very effectively. In the future, we might also have hats, sweatshirts, mugs, etc.” But selling music is not their main mission, or even a secondary one. It’s a pleasant change of pace for a music magazine to use its powers to convey information, rather than to engage in blatant commerce.