Cold Heat #7/8
BJ & Frank Santoro, writers
Frank Santoro, artist
PictureBox, September 2009
$20 (hey, it’s a limited edition of 100)
Radiohead threw me not when they made their shift into electronic music with Kid A–I’d been listening to Aphex Twin since I was a sophomore in high school, yeah that’s right, I’m an IDM OG, or at least as close as we got to one on L.I.–but with the two albums after that, Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief. I now listen the heck out of those records (okay, more Hail than Amnesiac), but the band’s sudden lack of interest in providing the big, sweeping, soaring moments of catharsis they were still doing as late as “How to Disappear Completely” and “Morning Bell” struck me then and now as a willful avoidance of their own strengths. Now they’re doing that sort of stuff again on In Rainbows and all is well with the world, but I do wish that more people would acknowledge that guitar rock or no guitar rock, that was the big, not-entirely-successful risk they took this decade.
Something similar is going on in Cold Heat #7/8. For about 4/5ths of this limited-edition double-issue installment of Santoro & Jones’s punk-rock sci-fi saga, the psychedelic vistas and geometric reveries that were the series’ aesthetic calling card are largely abandoned. In their place is a comparatively straightforward, albeit tongue-in-cheek, international espionage quasi-parody involving cynical jetsetting journalists, deadpan quip-dropping CIA agents, sinister pharmaceutical conglomerates, crooked conspiring politicians, and Castle, the small-town American fuck-up who’s unwittingly unravelling the plot. Silence is rare, with more voluminous dialogue and lots of those little labels Santoro likes to drop in. It’s the sort of thing some combination of Stephen Soderbergh, George Clooney, and Matt Damon might release in a limited September theatrical run, or what you might see in one of the Coen Brothers’ seriocomic conspiracy-caper flicks if they were given an effects budget and asked to throw something spacey in there now and then. There’s even some broad comedy about the U.K. rock press and a celestial poker game involving not-exactly-dead rock star Joel Cannon being invited to play a hand with Jimi, Janis, Jim, and John. (Jerry opted to kick it in the hot tub.)
This ain’t your father’s Cold Heat, long story short. Honestly it’s so different in tone it feels more like a particularly off-model Cold Heat Special than a Cold Heat proper. And it may not be the droids you’re looking for–at least until the very end, where Castle searches for her kidnapped journalist lover, running through the streets of Rio in a wet bathing suit, fleeing the psychic and physical attacks of the evil Senator Wastmor’s puppetmasters. That’s the sort of dreamlike/nightmarish imagery you’ve come to expect from Cold Heat, and it’ll be interesting to see if there’s more of that in the offing, perhaps wedded to the new potboiler-parody structure we’re seeing here. Here’s hopin’.