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Rolling Stone vs. Chunklet

How do you sell magazines? Well, one eyeballing of glossy covers at any grocery store in America will tell you: Scantily clad babes sell magazines (Even the women's magazines, oddly enough, but that's for another column).

Rolling Stone has Jennifer Garner on its Feb. 14 cover, dressed as a bizarre dominatrix-cheerleader hybrid and begging the Joan Rivers question: Is that an outfit or a hastily refashioned beanbag? The issue's special report is on "Muscles, Drugs and Death," which covers at least two of everyone's favorites. The slug draws readers into a story called "Killer Bods," about the dangers of androstenedione, creatine and looking like a character from Street Fighter 2.

Besides the cover stories (which are well-written and interesting, if instantly forgettable), Rolling Stone also volunteers lots of banal little news nuggets like "He's single again," two paragraphs reminding readers that Tom Green is still divorced. Wow. Moving on, "The Next List" hips readers to urgent trends like "Next Club Scene: Estonia." Yeah, but by the time I get there it'll be over.

Useless information of a slightly different pedigree fills the pages of Chunklet, a fearsome presence among the legions of underground writing being scribbled away under the lazy eyes of Rolling Stone and its music-conscious kin.

A handsome roll of toilet paper is the cover model for Chunklet's current issue ("Non-Abrasive!," "Over 180 Jumbo Pages"). Chunklet's special report: "The S— List," a 12-page annotated list of the worst live bands of the year, beginning with Minnesota's 12 Rods and ending with W.A.S.P.

This enormous list is the epitome of Chunklet: dense, esoteric, sometimes funny and bountifully mean-spirited. Publisher Henry Owings and his staff publish the magazine nationwide — "infrequently," he says; it's not a monthly or a quarterly but a "wheneverly" — out of Athens, Ga., where Owings also works as a graphic designer.

Like all zines, it leans to the obscure. Want to pore over a five-page foldout article on Merzbow, an experimental noise band, featuring a collection of reviews on their 50-CD box set? If you have that kind of time you won't mind the interview with ironic-metal band The F—ing Champs; it includes at least four times as much footnoted commentary as actual interview.

Obscure post-rock bands aside, Chunklet is actually very readable, written in a post-journalistic, stream of consciousness, conversational style that comes off like talking to your music-geek/jerk friend by the bar after the show. "The Bruce Hornsby of the avant-garde. The most soulless, whitest guy out there," is an actual quote on Gastr' Del Sol alum and "S— List" inductee David Grubbs.

It's also very funny. The "Chunklet Guide to Administering the Proper Manhug" is a must-read. So is the glossary of rock words and phrases like "Tae Kwon Dork, musicians who wear all black with a white belt" and "Sixty films I've never seen but suspect are s——y." That last article (a simple list) is prejudgment through safety glasses, because you don't have to watch movies titled "Condorman" and "Gymkata" in order to chuckle.

Add in articles on such varying topics as Andy Kaufman and the theremin, commentary from outstanding columnists like Ted Rall, and the longest band profiles you've ever seen (13 pages on Don Caballero?), and you have a magazine that will probably take you until the next issue to read, no matter when it comes out. Find out how to get your own copy of Chunklet at www.chunklet.com.

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