Poster given to VO on his 60th birthday, with tributes from Warren Defever, Tanya Donelly, Simon Larbalestier & others. Design: Timothy O'Donnell

Vaughan Oliver, 1957-2019

Vaughan Oliver (4AD/v23)

Graphic design legend Vaughan Oliver (4AD/v23) passed away on December 29, 2019 at the age of 62.

Early on Sunday, December 29, Adrian Shaughnessy of Unit Editions announced, “My friend and design hero Vaughan Oliver died peacefully today, with his partner Lee by his side. Vaughan Oliver, 1957-2019.”

I had a moment of intense disbelief, followed by the ludicrous hope that it was a sick joke of some kind. As the news sank in, I still couldn’t believe it — intense, profane, puckish Vaughan, one of if not THE iconic designer of the 1990s (sorry, Carson, it ain’t you) — was gone far too soon.

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From Los Angeles to the Haçienda: The Ballad of Kickboy + Philomena

Philomena and Claude

There is no shortage of charisma (positive and negative) in Decline of Western Civilization — X, Alice Bag Band, the Germs, Black Flag Mach 1.0. But the segment where a certain Claude Bessy — Slash editor, raconteur extraordinaire, Catholic Discipline ringleader — holds court is different; even the hardcore punks look like poseurs next to Claude’s poetically splenetic rants.

Claude, whose poison pen reviews in Slash were signed with the unassailable pseudonym, “Kickboy Face,” is a profane French chain-smoker who is utterly contemptuous of any kind of hipster canonization of punk or any other music form. When “Decline” director Penelope Spheeris asks, “Does Kickboy have a lot of enemies?,” he practically spits out his reply: “I should hope so, otherwise I am wasting my fucking time.”

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Video still (cropped)

‘Cut, Paste, Bleach, Tape + Love’: Designer Chris Bigg Shares His Inspiration for Piroshka

Video still

When Lush called it quits after a brief but successful 2015-16 reunion, the big question was: Would vocalist/guitarist Miki Berenyi keep playing music? (She left music almost completely after Lush drummer Chris Acland’s unexpected suicide in 1997.)

The answer arrived late in September 2018, when the following message appeared on Lush’s Instagram page: “Miki has a new band! Follow @piroshkaband on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!”

The band’s first official Tweet included a photo of 4 familiar faces (provided one is well-versed in the history of 4AD, shoegaze and Britpop) and the text, “Welcome to Piroshka — Mick, Moose, Miki and Justin. We’ve all been in bands before, y’know.” (Roll call: Mick Conroy from Modern English, one of the first bands on Lush’s label 4AD — and a great friend of Acland’s; Moose, aka KJ McKillop from jagged psych-melancholists Moose; and Elastica drummer Justin Welch, who played drums for Lush’s reunion EP and gigs.)

Piroshka press photo (Bella Union)

Piroshka video still (artwork by Mali Andersen)

But don’t call them a supergroup. And don’t pull the inevitable band algebra to try to figure out the resulting sound — you know, “Piroshka equals Band X + Band Y squared – the square root of P…” Given the weight of their collective histories, the new band seems determined to keep the music relaxed, informal and not weighed down by previous critical responses.

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