Read the Fucking Manual is a fanzine dedicated to the metro music scene. But after scanning the second issue’s 40 pages, (featuring interviews with local labels Cuneiform, VHF, and Nut, in addition to a zillion record reviews) you get the feeling publisher/editor/writer Robert Thornton Jr. doesn’t really like the locals that much.
“Initially, I wasn’t so down on the scene. When I started RTFM, I wasn’t as familiar with as many of the bands as I would’ve liked, but enjoyed Fugazi, Antimony, and Nation of Ulysses, and realized that there would always be a lot of dreck along with the gems. But, bang! There went Antimony and NoU, and the bands that followed didn’t seem too hot,” explains Thornton.
Despite the first issue’s positive vibe, Thornton’s perceived implosion of interesting local music left him “discouraged, but I tried to go on with RTFM No. 2 without too much success. The only way that I could start working on it again was to admit that the entire scene wasn’t working too well for me. After I admitted that, it gradually became clear that the D.C. indie scene is really a social activity first and a musical activity second. If the D.C. scene was really on top of things, everybody would be looking forward to the next Rake show so they could get blown away by a wall of avant-noise and wondering where Wingtip Sloat is. Instead, people are worshipping second-rate recycled musical clichés à la Romania, the Make-Up, etc.”
Yowch. Harsh stuff, but Thornton hasn’t heard any feedback from the bands he has ripped. “I guess that not too many folk will speak up,” he says. “In the D.C. scene, the tactic ‘ignore it and it will eventually go away’ is often used with much success.”
Thornton plays bass in the “lounge noise” trio Shiny Brites, which probably won’t be opening for, well, anybody soon, so if you want to read the friggin’ Manual, mail-order copies are available for $3 from RTFM, P.O. Box 10254, Rockville, MD 20849. It’s also available at Go!, Vinyl Ink, and Atticus Books.