Carpal Tunnel Syndrome insert mini-comic, 2000, Ninja Tune Records
by Kid Koala
Blogger's note: Entry for Sunday, March 9, 2008.
When's the last time you bought a CD? I don't mean bought a CD's worth of music off of iTunes, either. I mean, when was the last time you purchased a CD by an artist or band you'd never heard before, just to see if you'd dig it? C'mon, I know "the kids" used to do it all the time, before MySpace and iTunes made rock stars out of any garage band with a dial-up connection, when "sampling" a song meant listening to a track or two through those big puffy headphones in the record store. I'm very set in my ways and musical tastes, but I try to go out on a lyrical limb once or twice a year, if only to test the bounds of my patience and consumerism. When my girlfriend and I were in uptown Whittier, California this weekend, and I found Kid Koala's debut CD for $1.99, I decided to take such a gamble. I really couldn't remember the last time I'd purchased a CD . . . let alone a CD with an enclosed mini-comic!
Indeed, Kid Koala is one part DJ, one part comic book artist, whose scratchy style in both fields creates a multimedia experience that inspires connoisseurs of one to become an instant fan of the other. In the Carpel Tunnel Syndrome mini-comic, the corporation behind the Disco Flakes cereal kidnap a little DJ (we'll call him Kid Koala for now, assuming this stream-of-consciousness tale is allegorical to the author's life or experiences), miniaturize him, and sell him as the prize in one of their cereal boxes. Koala breaks free, and before he can enjoy the record his guardian had given him and that he'd hit under a birds nest, a bully confronts him and breaks it. A hooded stranger points him toward the Ninja Training Academy, where he masters the art of spinning records and gets his revenge. The hooded stranger again comes to his aid and unmasks herself -- it's Koala's old guardian! Apparently, Koala's victory is purely Pyrrhic, though, for while he wins the adoration of the crowd, his lady love rejects his mixed tape.
Kid Koala's style reminds me of a combination between frequent Con Small Press attendee Bumperboy and the works of Jim Mahfood, whose comics have often boasted their influence from hip hop culture. The Carpal Tunnel Syndrome comic exudes raw creativity; artistically, it starts much stronger than it ends, but that last page of romantic rejection actually packed more of a punch than I expected. Koala uses the black and white contrast to his advantage, though this little comic is printed on brown (recycled?) paper. Much like his music, this story is void of narrative, relying heavily on the art, consequently making this booklet a quick and effortless read. From what I've read on Koala's website, he has continued the tradition of incorporating these two art forms, completing a 350-page volume for his next recording, and based on this fleeting first impression, I'm genuinely interested in seeing more. In short, Kid Koala made every creative effort he could to share his love of music with his audience, and the assault on my senses was successful.
So, did I like the album? I'm generally not a fan of music devoid of lyrics, since I like to shamelessly sing along with almost anything I hear, but the Carpel Tunnel Syndrome record makes for complex ambient music. It flirts with sociopolitical commentary but remains an impressively simple soundtrack for the novice fan of such mixology. Of course, for a geek like me, comics speak louder than music -- but I'm grateful the two are so easily intertwined.