What a Beautiful Face--A Neutral Milk Hotel Fanzine!

What a Beautiful Face--A Neutral Milk Hotel Fanzine!

by Katie Johnson

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What a Beautiful Face is a brand-new fanzine dedicated to one of thee most fantastic bands on the planet, Neutral Milk Hotel. Between these lovely/lovingly hand-drawn/colored covers, you'll find longer essay writing by Katie Johnson and Death in a Rifle Garden author Rich Baiocco, "fan fiction" by Adam Gnade, photography by Megan McIsaac, and a series of shorter live show reviews and small features by various authors from all over the world. This richly illustrated ode to all-things Jeff Mangum and co. is an ecstatic, wild-eyed lovenote to a band that has made a whole lotta people feel less alone. 






--Suzanne Lindgren, Utne Reader 2/8/2014

Maybe it's Jeff Mangum's lyrics, visceral and vulnerable. Maybe it's the subject matter he dares to tackle (the Holocaust, love across time and space). Somehow every fan's connection to the music of Neutral Milk Hotel feels deeply personal, which can make talking about the music a challenge. Johnson comes to the discussion with an essential honesty, vulnerability, and insights--comparing Mangum's singing to a passage from War and Peace, for instance, without any trace of pretension. The cover, a screen-printed "aeroplane over the sea" designed by Rio Safari, is a perfect complement to what's inside--Johnson's first impressions of the music, short fiction featuring the lyrics of "Two Headed Boy," and reviews of Mangum's recent touring stint.

Lily Pepper, Ravenswing Zines 4/27/2013

I feel fortunate that Neutral Milk Hotel’s two records were around, and that I was privy to them, when I was a teenager. I don’t know if I would have been able to love them so thoroughly if I hadn’t found out about them til I was grown. Their music is earnest and raw like the feelings you have before you know anything of moderation and nuance.

Because the band’s songs are both confessional and impressionistic, they’ve been able to make a whole lot of people feel like they’re speaking directly to them and to their own sorrows and joys and crushes on long-dead teenagers. I’ve listened to and sung along with their songs driving alone out on rural roads, in dorm rooms, on Greyhound buses, around drunk campfires with friends.

Published by Punch Drunk Press, What a Beautiful Face collects writing about Neutral Milk Hotel. It’s a pretty quick read, but full of a good variety of stuff. Mostly, people write about their experiences of discovering, and being moved by, their music. Adam Gnade also contributes fiction inspired by the band, and several people write about the experience of seeing Jeff Mangum play on his recent tour.

As someone with longstanding warm feelings for Neutral Milk Hotel, I really enjoyed What a Beautiful Face, and would recommend it to anyone else for whose coming-of-age was made weirder and funner and noisier by their music.

avatar Kathleen MacPhee 4/6/2013

This zine landed in my hands shortly after having seen the Wondrous Jeff Mangum live, and was the perfect, cozy companion to my aftershow-afterglow. I can't imagine any NMH fan not finding enjoyment in these pages.

JuiceSqueezerRadio review 2/10/2013

I know a lot of you are still totally wrapped into Neutral Milk Hotel sounds. I do. But more or less, a year ago came out a new website Walking Wall of Words with new songs and illustrations: the hope of a new album was carrying with him thousand people to have a look and also someone to realise a fanzine about Mangum & co’s album An Aeroplane over the Sea. What a Beautiful Face (a Neutral Milk Hotel fanzine) is conceived by K.Johnson and is a 24 pages publication with essays, pictures, tour stories and illustration to celebrate (not in a prophetic way) the work of the American lo-fi folk group.

Tobias Carroll, Volume 1 Brooklyn 1/23/2013

The subtitle of What a Beautiful Face: A Neutral Milk Hotel Fanzine pretty much tells you what to expect. Edited by K. Johnson, the contributions range from the essayistic (Johnson’s own musings on the band and their legacy) to the more impressionistic (Adam Gnade’s short fiction inspired and informed by the band’s music.) And as someone who was old enough to see Neutral Milk Hotel live but never actually did (much to my chagrin), the multiple perspectives here rang true. The authors range from writers in their thirties to those not yet of legal drinking age, first encountering Jeff Mangum’s music in a solo setting. Towards the end of the issue, Johnson collects a number of live reviews of Mangum, from festival stops to brief appearances as part of Elephant 6 tours. And it does a good job of puncturing bubbles of nostalgia that listeners of a certain age might have. It’s refreshing to read that not everyone seeking out Mangum live is, like me, in their mid-thirties — that the music he’s made is considered vital by listeners a decade or two my junior. And there’s an image late in the zine of Jeff Mangum air-drumming to a Minutemen song that’s just about perfect.

Dakota Floyd 12/19/2012

What A Beautiful Face is yet another gem of a zine from the folks at Microcosm Distribution / Punch Drunk Press. As the name says, this is a zine tribute to one of Athens’ most beloved bands, Neutral Milk Hotel. In these pages are photos, show reviews, essays, and short stories compiled from some of the best folks currently writing, including Adam Gnade and Rich Baiocco. Tinged with melancholy and nostalgia, What A Beautiful Face almost feels like a Neutral Milk record, organic and natural; it’s something to be held in your hands and enjoyed, shared in dusty bedrooms and quiet corners, and looked at years down the line, still with a smile, saved from a simpler time.

I’d definitely recommend picking up this zine while it’s still available, whether you’re a NMH fan or not.