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Rock paper scissors 

Just when the Man seems to nip at the heels of every subculture, and MTV has spit-combed rock's errant cowlick, along comes Art of Modern Rock: The Poster Explosion, promising that the working men and women of graphic design are still keeping rock real.

Poster art has retained its us-against-them, hippie-era ethos at a time when contemporary CD art feels commonplace and mass produced. Authors and historians Paul Grushkin and Dennis King argue that, with the collapse of the tactile pleasures of great vinyl art, poster designers had to pick up the slack.

Art of Modern Rock surveys some of the leaders in contemporary poster design including Sub Pop art director Jeff Kleinsmith, Frank Kozik, and The Ames Brothers, offering (count 'em) 492-pages of drool-inducing eye candy. A stroke mag for music and graphics fans, Art of Modern Rock is a page-flipping, up-all-night bounty. A cursory pass-through reveals the influence of Art Nouveau, movie credits/poster designer Saul Bass, Warhol, R. Crumb, exploitation film imagery, Soviet-era propaganda and '70s record art.

Sure, some of rock's iconography hasn't gone Darwinian yet: Skulls, devil girls and Jesus still populate many posters. And every possible permutation of chicks-and-their-tits remains a staple of the genre. A smattering of girl designers like Tara McPherson offer sweetly surreal imagery that foils the cookie-cutter boys' shtick.

Some of the most arresting images in the mix are from Atlanta's own poster kids at Methane Studios. Mark McDevitt and Robert Lee's posters for Echo Lounge headliners illustrate their own debt to clean, vintage graphics, retrolicious color combinations and witty understatement. The local boys will be featured in a Dec. 9 Holiday Poster Supershow at the Echo Lounge.

Art of Modern Rock: The Poster Explosion, Paul Grushkin and Dennis King. $60. Chronicle Books. 492 pages. Methane Studio's Holiday Poster Supershow is Dec. 9, 8 p.m., at the Echo Lounge, 551 Flat Shoals Ave. Free. 404-681-3600. www.echostatic.com/echolounge/

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