By Jimmy Alvarado
March 30, 2012
I remember repeatedly picking up, then putting down, a copy of Rudimentary Peni vocalist/guitarist and visual artist extraordinaire Nick Blinko’s first novel when it initially came out in the mid-’90s, undecided on whether or not to buy a copy. Though a fan from their initial releases on, the band’s most recent release at the time, Pope Adrian 37th Psychristiatric, was a bit of a chore to listen to, to put it nicely. I was a bit skint, so I was unsure whether or not it was worth the risk. By the time I decided to plop down some cash for it, of course, it had gone out of print, and subsequent efforts to procure a copy over the years yielded opportunities dependent on spending vast sums of money.
Lucky for punters like moi, it’s been reissued. Part quasi-autobiography, part homage to H.P. Lovecraft, The Primal Screamer recounts the tale of Nat Snoxell, an attempted suicide patient, as told through the journal entries of his psychiatrist. Over the course of the novel, Snoxell undergoes primal scream therapy, forms a punk band named “after the androgynous human embryo’s undeveloped genitalia,” and the band’s subsequent records and performances garner them a modicum of popularity before they, and Snoxell, fall apart. At the same time, his psychiatrist has increasingly bizarre dreams which culminate in an ending that reads like it came straight out of Lovecraft’s “Dreamlands” story cycle.
What seems a pretty nifty idea in theory, however, doesn’t quite gel in execution. Blinko clearly has a handle on the overall tone and basic conventions of Lovecraftian horror, but while both storylines provide the potential for a number of different ideas-some of which are actually set up at various points- virtually none are ever fully explored or ultimately lead anywhere. Similarly, the ending feels rushed and tacked on as a way to get things over with, in part because not enough care has been given to setting up the machinations necessary to convey both character’s slip into the gray area between madness and “reality,” and the resulting disintegration of their psychological states.
Still, despite being a near miss as a horror novel, it nonetheless serves as an indispensable read for those interested in Blinko’s oeuvre. The elements of the quasi-autobiographical portion are fictionalized-anyone familiar with the band’s history will catch on fairly quickly-but enough rings true that one is likely to glean that Snoxell’s feelings about his band’s escapades might be close to Blinko’s feelings during Peni’s early years. PM’s edition includes all of the drawings included with The Primal Screamer‘s prior editions, plus some additional artwork unique to this pressing. (PM Press, PO Box 23912, Oakland, CA 94623)