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Yeast Hoist: Does Music Make You Cry?

Yeast Hoist: Does Music Make You Cry?
by Ron Rege Jr.

Highwater Books

BW, 64 pgs
$8.95 US / Higher in Canada

Ron Rege Jr.’s Yeast Hoist opens up with a drug strip entitled “Madness”. A guy, probably about Rege’s age, tactically takes a moment to blast a quick hoot in a stranger’s bathroom. To hide the fact, he exhales down the tub’s drainpipe to rid the evidence the smoke and stench would leave.

Rege’s work has been saturating comic anthologies for about 15 years now; appearing in the worst and the best. Drawn & Quarterly had him, Rosetta had him; Rege’s work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Canada’s The National Post. This is only a hint of Rege’s artistic resume. I haven’t even touched on to his own books Skibber~Bee~Bye, Boys, The Dum Dum Posse Reader or Fuc(k).

The cover for Yeast Hoist: Does Music Make You Cry? is one of my favourite parts on Rege’s book. It sports a wild, crazed, dancing fiend letting loose his flailing feet. The energy and vibe coming through these drawings is enhanced with the sketchy pencil crayon auras Rege colours around the action. This dancer is caught up in the moment and I couldn’t help but hear the beats and grooves to which he was dancing.

Rege’s art style is definitely original and distinct. Rege uses action lines and arrows to show movement in his comic strips. Most artists stay away from the use of these lines or use them sparingly, but Rege integrates them into his drawing using motion as a narrative devise. In “Madness”, the stoned up character bangs his head on the end of the tap; he curls up in pain as lightning bolts spray from his head and his arms and legs wiggle about. The motion lines blur and blend together giving the reader so much to take in it’s almost like watching a movie.

The headlining strip “Does Music Make You Cry?” is about the love of music. Rege’s character finds himself crying uncontrollably during a band’s practice run, and he thinks himself a weird emotional robot. To stop this, the character picks up a set of drum sticks and beats upon everything he can lay his sticks to, sampling the sound of all things. Rege easily transfixes his audience as they groove to his beats as his friends’ band plays on.

I can’t help but think much of Rege’s work is autobiographical. Actually, I’m pretty sure they are one way or another. Many of the strips are dated and a location is named. Rege’s strips start at Berkeley and move east to Amsterdam and Italy. The content varies every strip; from people he has met on his journey, to places he has visited.

Another great set of panels in this collection is “Where I Slept”. This strip is based on the sleeping habits of his friend Andy Bernick in England over a three week period. Andy slept wherever he could; sometimes outside and rarely in the same place twice. Each panel describes the rooms Andy slept in, with the number of people, and if he was able to sleep fully extended. Andy also comments on the cleanliness of each room and its contents.

Though Yeast Hoist: Does Music Make You Cry? is published in graphic novel format, the title Yeast Hoist reflects Rege’s own ongoing work. Does Music Make You Cry? is technically number eleven in the Yeast Hoist series, which has appeared regularly in one form or another since 1995. Previous Yeast Hoist stories have appeared mostly in anthologies; #10 appeared in Ganzfeld #3, #9 in Expo 2001, and so on. Good luck finding them.

Ron Rege Jr. is a great cartoonist. Aside from his trademark character depictions (always sporting spherical round heads and bulbous noses), Rege knows how to tell a superb comic book narrative. He is always attempting to break the traditional panel layout, and does so successfully. His action lines often work as panel borders, yet when borders do appear, they are distinct and different every time. Rege isn’t in comics to fill the mold; he’s reinventing them every day. (Dana Tillusz)