reviewed by Tom Hartman

Published in Issue No. 45 ~ February, 2001

Given the extensive UK fanzine resum├ęs of its editor and staff, it isn’t surprising that Tangents is marked by the sort of quirky, cheeky, home-brewed charm you’d expect in something sold for two bucks at the local indie record shop (the one where you can still buy vinyl).

But Tangents is also much smarter than the average fanzine. In addition to bits of whimsy like “Britney Says” (which skewers pop’s reigning teen diva by pairing photos and selected lyrics with absurd quotes), there’s plenty of measured, serious writing here, much of which is supplied by staff writer Marino Guida. Guida, the “resident academic” of Tangents, contributes regular features that correlate seemingly unrelated pop-culture artifacts.

By turns scholarly and chatty, Guida’s pieces offer a slight variation on the brand of cultural criticism being produced at Britains “New” universities: places like Suffolk and East Anglia, where no one would look askance at you should you mention the Stone Roses and Shakespeare in the same breath. Take, for example, Guida’s current piece “Some Kicks,” in which he weaves fragments on A Clockwork Orange, jazz greats Stan Getz and Cecil Taylor, and The Fall’s 1981 single “Kicker Conspiracy” (as venomous an indictment of Brit football culture as you’re likely to find) into a Barthesian reading of the kick as sign in culture.

In addition to Guida’s exceptional contribution, there are other reasons to recommend the latest Tangents. Publisher and critic Rupert Loydell reviews a recent crop of books about London (including Julian Barnes’s England, England and Michael Moorcock’s novel King of the City), contributor Mark Morris examines the work of Danish director Lars von Trier, and staffer Everitt True interviews Kevin Rowland and Kevin Archer, formerly of Dexy’s Midnight runners, the Brit blue-eyed soul band who scored a huge international hit with “Come on Eileen” in the 1980s.

Reading Tangents, one is likely to encounter much material — like the Rowland/Archer interview — that looks back affectionately (but usually objectively) at mid-eighties UK indie, guitar and synth pop. If your record collection contains albums by such long-disbanded units as Simple Minds, Wham, or Howard Devoto’s Magazine, you’ll find in Tangents‘ writers kindred spirits.

Ordinary Americans, however, should beware: unless you’ve got a working knowledge of UK pop culture, the in-jokes and obscure references here may be off-putting. Still, Tangents boasts a growing fiction archive, articles on jazz and film, a virtual art gallery, even a page of e-postcards (from the gallery) that you can send to friends — which means even non-anglophiles are likely to find worthwhile content is this smartly written, always entertaining online magazine.

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Tom Hartman has been a regular contributor to Pif since 1999. He lives in Philadelphia.