Picture Perfect

The Vice Photo Books music portraits are worth a thousand notes.

The books published by Vice, the infamous free monthly magazine that has been a weathervane of trashy cool, are always smirkingly entertaining, and at the very least practical. My best friend keeps a copy of Vice Do's and Don'ts on top of her toilet tank. Not because it's shitty, but because its hilariously asshole-ish commentary on street fashion (and overall weird urban behavior) makes those, errr, difficult private moments funny and a little less shameful. In college, another friend's copy of The Vice Guide to Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll usually landed handily next to a couch where those three things often occurred. Lesley Arfin's Dear Diary lived on my nightstand on the evenings I needed to feel less like a completely neurotic, brain-fried female. Chris Nieratko's Skinema compendium of porn reviews ... well, that one mysteriously disappeared.

The latest anthology is decidedly more highbrow — coffee table material for sure. The Vice Photo Book collects, across 335 pages, the best images from its favored lens men (and women), as well as a number of its editorial spreads over the years. The usual names in über-cool, raw photography are represented here: Ryan McGinley, Terry Richardson, Richard Kern, Dash Snow, et al. There's plenty of puke, bruises, blood, and incidental, slightly unsexy nudity. There's also an entire photojournalism section with serious spreads of war and strife that would make Rolling Stone's picture prettifyers cry.

But how about music! There are plenty of excellent portraits of your favorite artists here, representing every genre. Glynnis McDarris captures Juelz Santana in a moment of repose, leaning against the window of a neighborhood store festooned with his merchandise. With its twilight duskiness, red-and-gold color saturation, and introspective pose, the whole thing is infused with, almost, pathos. On another stark but beautiful page, Peter Bestes frames Kvitrafn, former drummer of the Norwegian black-metal band Gorgoroth, against a back street in Bergen, Norway. Fully face-painted and glaring at the camera, the drummer exudes an ultimate humanism highlighted by the apple-cheek Scandinavians strolling along the cobblestone streets. Both pictures stunningly upend the conventions of most boring music photography.

Final verdict: Scoop it up as a last-minute holiday present for anyone who likes girls, parties, music — um, life. It's available at American Apparel stores (of course), www.viceland.com, and www.amazon.com.

 
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