Monday, November 19, 2007
Arguably, the harbinger of the trans-digital age was YouTube, the monster video sharing Web site. We should have known, while watching one of those anonymous fuck-up videos of someone running into something, or having something run into them, that just as the tribulations of the Everyman could be broadcast, so could the great achievements of mankind, and perhaps more easily.
For, just as the camera seems omnipresent in the trans-digital age, it was equally absent in earlier times. Though mankind has had television for some time now, film for longer, and photography for longer yet, we have never suffered such an omnipresent recorder as we do now. These days, though it might not be apparent, there is a not insignificant probability that your actions are being recorded, and furthermore that those recordings might end up publicly viewed.
In Roman times, the lowly plebeian would obviously never consider the possibility of his actions being recorded. Instantaneous documentation was inconceivable, and no one but the most wealthy were eligible for any sort of immortalization. The frescoes, paintings and mosaics we have received from ancient times represent only the tiniest sliver of memorable life.
The only person worth recording, and likely the only person who would consider himself worthy, would be a kind of Caesar. We in the future might possess a deep, historical interest in the life of the average plebe, but to imagine his life recorded contemporaneously, or rather to imagine that he would possess the arrogance to record his own life, is quite hard.
The point being that, from the time of Caesar to, let's say, some time in the 1980s, the seminal, amazing, zeitgeist-changing, watershed moments in human history were witnessed by, at most, 100,000 people, and understood by far fewer. I use the number 100,000, though it is probably far higher than needed, to account for huge historical battles, or speeches and plays that were relayed to a number of crowds.
Caesar's assassination was probably seen by a crowd numbering less than 100. The beach landings on D-Day can be contemplated only by those who experienced the horror. Only a select few know what it was like to listen to The Beatles at the Cavern Club in Germany. Only a slightly higher number could recall the psychadelic freak-outs of the late '60s acid tests.
Yet now, after the worldwide viewing of the fall of the Berlin Wall, after New Year's celebrations have been transmitted to many nations for many years, and finally after a seemingly infinite number of concerts have been recorded and distributed to millions, we have a reached an era when almost anyone can actually see, and probably hear, what it was like to witness an astounding event.
So what's astounding anymore?
If thousands, or hundreds of thousands, can post their comments on YouTube - "Michael Jordan is hardly the best basketball player ever." "You should really check out his performance at Madison Square Garden." - what does that do to our concept of greatness? Furthermore, in the trans-digital age, is it even possible to form a consensus anymore?
What would have happened if The Beatles earliest concerts had been posted on YouTube? I'm guessing there would have been hundreds of comments criticizing their skill and degrading the band as a knock-off of American R&B and soul groups. Maybe they wouldn't have even gotten their start. Or what if our greatest sports moments - Babe Ruth's Called Shot - had been recorded from multiple angles and critiqued by as many voices? Would we even have a "greatest" concept anymore? Perhaps even now we're moving away from consensus, from the idea that one thing can be objectively greater than another. Subjectivity is the lawless ruler of the day.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
One thing I get from Hunter S. Thompson, that I semi-understood even before opening his book, is how to dig everything, in one respect or another. There's a story to be had here, is the theme which one needs to pick up. Perhaps the story only becomes available for experience when you are indulging in one of a myriad array of psychadelic mind-twisters, or marijuana, or cocaine, but it's still there.
Hunter has taught me this, but so (obliquely) did a former roommate of mine. It wasn't as if he lectured to me on life - he is not that kind of person - but what I gleaned from him is that there's a story in everything. Maybe it's landscaping in the heat everyday with a crew of men that includes plenty of pot-smoking loonies and a former felon or two. Or maybe it's digging nature zonked out on shrooms. Or maybe it's reporting for a daily newspaper. Hunter, after all, was dispatched to Vegas by reputable magazines to cover actual stories, but what we got out of it was a mythic American voyage, and what we lost was perhaps a couple by-lined stories we would have forgotten about anyway.
The story is there to be had, if you want it. As Hunter said: "Buy the ticket, take the ride."
Sunday, September 30, 2007
The tribulations of Bonds and BALCO have always been one of those stories that fail to hold my attention, so it took me a while to flip back to the article. After I began to read, I felt a creeping unease. Something in the writing wasn't kosher. It started with the overwrought, over-dramatic phrasing in the introduction: "Prison changes a man. Makes him hard and cold, 'like the frozen earth itself,' as Hemingway once observed. Only returning to the outside has allowed Marlon Leftwich to thaw his spirit, to warm his soul." Then there's the continual interruption of the article's affected seriousness by what appear to be unfortunately humorous details: a junk-food addict taken down by a pimpled FBI agent, Bonds drinking a homemade concoction that included elk semen.
Aside from stylistic issues, there are glaring journalistic flaws. The article relies on one source, Marlon Leftwich, a barely employed ex-con who says, among other things, he overheard Anderson talking in his sleep. The reporters blatantly state they failed to contact Bonds or Anderson for comment. There is one photo on the second page of the article showing a man whose face is obscured by shadow, whom we must infer is Marlon Leftwich. The staging seems out of place, as does the lack of clear attribution.
By the end, after a series of increasingly ridiculous quotes climaxes with someone claiming Bonds actually drives 100 miles every month to masturbate male elk, half of me felt partially that SF Weekly would print such awful journalism and half knew the article had to be fake.
Which it was.
Josh Wolf, a CNET.com blogger who served time in the same prison as Anderson for refusing to give videotape to a grand jury, has performed the best post-mortem on the piece. He contacted SF Weekly, who affirmed the story was entirely made up. The names of the two reporters, Nic Foit and Ira Tes, are anagrams for "fiction" and "satire." Wolf also points out the article's biggest flaw: There is absolutely no indicator the story is fake or meant to be humorous.
I've got no problem with satire, from Swift to The Onion. In fact, I love it. But as a j-school graduate, I do have a problem when a widely read alt-weekly not only writes a fake story but makes it the headlining, front-page piece. A rumor has been circulating that a Chicago radio station read portions of the article on the air assuming they were true. The article is clearly ridiculous, it should be obvious to most readers that something is amiss, so it would be irresponsible for any media personality to simply repeat the story verbatim. Yet even if every reader knew it was fake, what must this make the average person think about SF Weekly, and journalism as a whole?
I can't imagine, given the news media's damaged reputation, that articles like this do any good. Some might applaud (or laugh with) SF Weekly for doing something daring, but satire is not the provenance of such a paper. At the very least this story does not belong in such a prominent position unaccompanied by any disclaimer or indication of humorous intent. Stamping the word "Satire" in caps lock above the headline would, of course, ruin most of the article's fun. But that's not something SF Weekly should be worrying about. Perhaps they might concentrate on news and commentary about the events of real life. It's sad that SF Weekly would waste time, talent and money like this.
Friday, September 28, 2007
With an undulating electrical hum and the simply tapped time-keeping of Glenn Kotche’s drumstick, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot assembles itself out of the void. The first moments of the album swirl like the first moments of a planet: empty and dark, sprinkled with dust, then filled with warmth – the slow strumming of Jeff Tweedy’s acoustic guitar. Kotche’s drums reappear, with life this time, and “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” begins.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot places Wilco in the same emotional spectrum occupied by contemporary releases like Bows + Arrows by the Walkmen, or even the Strokes’ masterful debut, Is This It? The album chronicles the wandering of a boozed and broken mind backward through a mournful tale of lost love, lost possibilities and remorseful acceptance. While it once might have seemed more appropriate to group Wilco with other “alt-country” rockers, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot clearly channels the same lost-in-the-big-city pathos as the Strokes and Walkmen. But Wilco seems to have mastered a sound that captures the wounded, drunken lover better than anyone else, one that is realized beautifully in the last minute-and-a-half of “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.”
The album’s curtain-opener encapsulates the arc of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’s story. As notes from an electric organ hover in the background, tinkling bells and the round clunk of empty bottles complement Tweedy’s defeated and backward-gazing lyrics. “What was I thinking when I let go of you…what was I thinking when I said good-night…what was I thinking when I said hello?” Gradually, the beauty of the song begins to disintegrate. By the time we reach the slow-moving breakdown of its conclusion, a repetitive and heavily-strummed cello and Tweedy’s street-corner, echoing voice signal that everything is coming apart.
At seven minutes, “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” undoubtedly tries the patience of today’s pop-music listener; to be sure it even confuses long-time Wilco fans, many of whom disappointedly concluded that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot moves too slowly and never rocks. While it’s true that no song on the album bounces with the energy of Summerteeth’s “A Shot in the Arm” or Being There’s “Someday Soon,” Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a masterpiece of production whose crispness and perfectionist production distinguish it from the band’s previous albums, recalling the creative leaps and bounds of the Beatles during the era of Revolver and Sgt.Pepper’s. The elements of music and sound layer so well in the opening moments of “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” that it’s hard to remember why music can’t always sound at once this complex and this beautiful. In fact, given the amount of dissonant noises Wilco and producer Jim O’Rourke threw into Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, it’s a marvel the album came together at all, and a credit to Wilco’s obsessive perfectionism.
But it’s also a symptom of the tumultuous storm of intra-band relationships Wilco navigated during the album’s production. As viewers of Sam Jones’ 2002 documentary know, the shipwreck at the end of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’s squall came in the departure of Wilco’s guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, Jay Bennett. Along the way, the band was pushed from the Reprise label (a division of Warner Bros.), signed to Nonesuch (also a division of Warner Bros.), brought in producer Jim O’Rourke and percussionist Glenn Kotche (both members of Tweedy’s one-time three-piece, Loose Furs) and lost drummer Ken Coomer. But chaos can breed beauty, and as any listener can attest, the alternating twinkling, crashing, shaking, caressing sound of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot can find a home as easily in a green summer backyard as your buddy’s living room on a hot night with a bottle of whisky or your headphones the day after your love is gone.
O’Rourke’s production suggests both dark, dystopian city wreckage as well as idyllic green fields over which Tweedy’s voice both skips and stumbles. Throughout the album seeps a tone of remorse, loss and desire. “I want to salute the ashes of American flags, and all the fallen leaves filling up shopping bags,” sings Tweedy slowly, ushering “Ashes of American Flags” into an unlikely but effective transition with “Heavy Metal Drummer,” the most accessible tune on the album. But even here we find Tweedy continuing to dwell on something lost: “I miss the innocence I’ve known, playing Kiss covers beautiful and stoned.” He seems to spend the whole album both searching and looking back.
If the best lyrics in rock are love poetry, and the best in country tales of hardship, defeat and redemption, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot finds Jeff Tweedy combining both in an alchemy whose chemical residue looks, smells and tastes like a confused romantic lost inside his own wilderness. All he wants is the good life, but something – perhaps himself – prevents him from holding onto it. Foxtrot’s Tweedy is war-worn, but not so much that he can’t feel. “You have to lose/You have to learn how to die/If you want to want to be alive,” he sings. But it’s also Tweedy who desperately wants to hold onto his love in “Pot Kettle Black,” promising to keep her in his locket, “a string I never strum.” The nearly uplifting chorus – “every song is a comeback” – gives even the most jaundiced listener hope for a happy conclusion.
But as the strings fade and a soft wind blows in the background, a medical beeping emerges, and a different Tweedy steps into the spotlight for “Poor Places,” the album’s anthem. The lyrics are wildly different from “Pot Kettle Black” and the album’s other summer boppers, they are deeply depressing on a personal level. Here is loss presented; loss of life, loss of a love, loss of faith in oneself. The composition is so clear and simple that Tweedy’s lyrics are allowed to speak for themselves. He’s not going outside tonight, rather the Tweedy of “Poor Places” is melting down all alone in the heat, and when the song begins its climactic conclusion, it’s clear that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot will provide no easy resolution. By the last minute, the song has broken down into static, an emotionless female voice repeating the album’s titular call sign as the world descends into oblivion around her.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot leaves us with glorious doubt. Tweedy’s voice disappears from the album’s finale a good three minutes before the music does, fading slowly back into the darkness with the creaking of a piano bench, the lightning bug zips of soft electronics and the whispered voice of a lover or a friend. There’s a melodic beeping, like the alien greetings from Close Encounters, echoing off tiles in some subterranean passage, perhaps on downtown
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Anyway, I was reading
Bill Simmon's column on Page 2, and in his most recent article he wrote about the power of fans at sporting events. Here's Bill's interesting first paragraph:
"It's easy to discount the spiritual impact of basketball crowds if you haven't attended a playoff game with special fans before. There's no way to understand it unless it definitely has happened to you. Then you know. As strange as this sounds, it's like a woman being unable to tell whether she's ever had an orgasm. If she thinks it might have happened, or it felt like it kind of happened one time ... it didn't happen. When it happens, they know. Then they feel stupid for all the other times when they thought it had happened."
Perhaps I'm like the poor, suffering example he gives, but I feel like I've been around a good crowd before. Although, he's right, I can definitely see how you would just feel it if you were in the presence of an amazing crowd. And maybe I haven't felt it. But this led me to the question: Do sports fans make a big difference in games? Or, more specifically, do you need "special" fans to make a real difference. According to Bill, he and his fellow fans "swung the outcome of six series ('81 Sixers, '84 Lakers, '87 Bucks, '87 Pistons, '88 Hawks and '91 Pacers)". Quite a hefty claim. The one example Bill gives of the kind of things a "special" fan does is this: "These are the fans who instinctively understand stuff like, 'Mickael Pietrus just threw down a ridiculous putback; I'm going to stand and keep cheering for an extra 30 seconds because he's a young kid and we need to keep pumping him up so he'll do it again.'"
This doesn't really sway me, though. I mean, what's the difference between 30,000+ Angels fans screaming all the time at the top of their lungs with those damn thundersticks and the supposedly great Golden State fans at Oracle Arena? Sounds like the same noise to me. I know what Simmons means when he says that "real fans" don't follow the directions on the big screen, don't need to be told how to cheer, but really I think it just all comes down to the noise. Perhaps you could say something about the dedication. Cubs fans at Wrigley get up to cheer for specific at-bats more often than any other fanbase I've seen. The character of the stadium and the city contribute as well. For instance, would you want to be an NFL player and go to Cleveland, where they throw shit at you on the field and destroyed their own stadium after Art Modell sold them out? Not me. It's not necessarily the experience of the fans but their intensity. Yankees fans, Red Wings fans, Bears fans.. they're all probably very in tune with their teams and well-versed in the history of the franchises, but I wouldn't say it's scary to play baseball in NYC, hockey in Detroit or football at Soldier Field. A great time, for sure, but I don't know if the fans affect the game.
Bottom line, Bill Simmons is just a little too nostalgic about those classic series he attended. The only (or at least only major) requirement to be an effective crowd is too make enough noise to disrupt the other team, be it calls for a quarterback or signals for a pitcher.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
by G.M. Levene, M.B. and S.K. Goolamali, M.D.
Published by Wolfe Medical Publications, Ltd
- "What is the cause of this lady's blue nose?"
- "Why does this lady have such deformed hands?"
- "What is wrong with this man's tongue?"
- "Q: How would a social history help in the diagnosis? A: He is homosexual."
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Well, well, well.
Just look at you, walking into this dreary bar and lighting the place up like the noonday sun at midnight, twirling a lock of your long auburn hair pensively as you search the room—for what?
For a soul mate, perhaps?
(I know, I know—I hate that phrase, too. Maybe that will end up being one of those things we both hate.) Maybe a few weeks from now, lying in your bed on a Sunday morning, I’ll ask you, “What’s your least favorite word or phrase?,” and you’ll say, “ ‘Soul mate,’ ” and I’ll laugh till you say, “What? Tell me!,” and I’ll tell you how I knew that from the moment I first laid eyes on you, and then we’ll have sex again.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. You haven’t even noticed me yet. That’s O.K. I can wait.
Maybe when your gaze settles on me, and we lock eyes in that mutual Hitchcockian tunnel-vision effect where the camera is, like, pushing in at the same time it zooms out, or however they do that, you’ll come sit down next to me and we’ll—
Now you’ve spotted the friends you came to meet. They look like good friends.
Maybe they’ll be my friends, too.
Your eyes just came to life like emeralds lit by subterranean torches, and as you move across the room toward your friends you shriek at them, “What the fuck is up, yo?,” in a voice so piercing that the entire bar goes silent for a moment, and I have to check my glasses to make sure the lenses didn’t crack. You continue to bellow your every utterance (including the lines “Jägermeister is the bomb, dawg!” and “Just ’cause I’m a white girl don’t mean I don’t got some serious junk in the trunk!” and “Random! Random! Random!”), and the bartender leans in and whispers something to his bar back, and they look at you and laugh.
You must be a regular here.
(Duration of crush: seventeen seconds.)
Oh my. What have we here? A rainy night in the city has cleared the sidewalks of all but the most intrepid pedestrians, and those who didn’t brave the elements have no idea what they’re missing.
Because there you are, gliding along on your bicycle, just a few feet ahead of me.
You’re obviously not one of those tedious hard-core cycling enthusiasts—no skin-tight black spandex for you. No, just a simple white T-shirt (soaked through to the skin, clinging to the small of your back) and a long blond ponytail, whipping back and forth like the tail of a cartoon pony, as those long legs of yours pump the pedals and you raise your face to the sky, letting the raindrops freckle your cheeks with sweet diamonds of moisture.
Dare I try to catch up to you? I’m on foot, carrying a bunch of shopping bags, but you’ve paused at a red light, and—what the heck? I don’t know what I’ll say to you, but even the clumsiest of introductions on these glistening nighttime streets will give us a romantic how-we-met anecdote that we’ll love telling for years to come.
Caught you! Here I am!
And there you are. I see now that you’re a dude. My mistake. It was the ponytail that threw me off.
(Duration of crush: thirty-three seconds.)
Another restaurant dinner with my boring girlfriend, another lecture about how I never really listen to whatever she’s yammering on about.
But how can I listen—how could anyone?—when across the room, alone at a table, reading the newspaper and nursing a glass of white wine, is a silent confection like you?
You, with your jet-black hair (like a latter-day Veronica from “Archie”) and your skin so pale that the bubble-gummy pinkness of your pouty lips seems almost obscene, especially when you scrunch them up the way you do every time you lick your forefinger and turn the page.
And I know you see me, too. Your first glance betrayed a glimmer of recognition—as if you knew me but couldn’t remember from where—followed by puzzlement, your eyes entreating me to silently remind you, which I couldn’t do at the time because my current girlfriend was staring across the table at me, apparently waiting for my answer to some kind of relationship question that I thought was rhetorical.
And so it goes. For an eternity, it seems—through the entire meal, until I watch you ask for the check, and pay it, and get up to walk out of the restaurant, and my life, forever.
But what’s this? You’re crossing the room toward me? So brazen—just as I knew you’d be. Are you going to surreptitiously slip me your number, written on a sugar packet, perhaps dropping it in my pocket as you fake-jostle me, like a spy handing off microfilm?
My heart beats like underwater thunder in my ears, until you tap my girlfriend on the shoulder, and she sees you and says, “Hey!,” and you say, “I thought that was you!,” and I realize that you are one of my girlfriend’s college roommates.
After you leave, my girlfriend tells me a hilarious story about how one time in college some guy broke up with you, so you found some photos of him nude with the word “Patriarchy” written on his chest in Magic Marker which you took for an art class, and you sent them to his parents and then posted them on your blog, where you apparently like to write incredibly detailed confessionals about the asshole guys you always end up dating, and also, while you don’t use the guys’ real names, everyone knows that the guy you immortalized as Pencil Dick is actually a guy I used to work with.
(Duration of crush: forty-five minutes.)
So silly does my impatience now seem, stuck as I am in the Starbucks line during the morning rush. But that was before I noticed you in line ahead of me.
And now that I’ve seen you—with your gossamer hair still damp from the shower, with your well-moisturized ankles strapped and buckled into high heels that make you wobble and sway like a young colt just finding her stride, with your scent of lilacs and Dial, and, most of all, with your infectious sense of calmness and serenity, which makes me wish that the world itself would stop spinning, so that gravity would cease and we two could float into the sky and kiss in the clouds, giddy with love and vertigo—
Now you’re at the register, and the dreaded moment when we part without meeting rushes toward me like a slow-motion car crash in a dream.
You’ve been at the register without saying anything for, like, fifteen seconds now, still scanning the menu board with those almond-shaped eyes that would make Nefertiti herself weep with envy.
Seriously, you’ve been to a Starbucks before, right? I mean, it seems like there are a lot of choices, but most people find a drink they like and stick with it. And order it quickly.
But maybe I’ve caught you on a day when you’ve decided to make a fresh start. To make a fresh start, to try a new drink, to walk a different way to work, to finally dump that boyfriend who doesn’t appreciate you.
O.K., even if that were the case you could have picked out your new drink while you were waiting in line, right? I mean, come on.
Well, you’ve won me back, my future Mrs. Me—by turning to me and mouthing, “Sorry,” after you finally noticed me tapping my foot, looking at my watch, and exhaling loudly. Sensitivity like that can be neither learned nor taught, and it’s a rare thing indeed. The rarest of all possible—
Jesus Christ, you’ve ordered your drink and paid; do I really have to stand here for another forty-five seconds while you repack your purse, the contents of which you’ve spilled out on the counter like you’re setting up a fucking yard sale or something?
That’s right, the bills go in the billfold, the coins go in the little coin purse, the billfold and the coin purse go back in the pocketbook—no, in a side pocket of the pocketbook, which seems to have a clasp whose design incorporates some proprietary technology that you haven’t yet mastered.
I think I hate you now.(Duration of crush: five minutes.)
Friday, March 9, 2007
My friend Jonah and I have decided to create a podcast under the name Newport Players. This first one is basically a weird little radio show consisting of some banter and some songs we like. It features the songs "3 Kings (Ratatat Remix)" by Slim Thug, Bun B, and T.I., "Leyendecker" by Battles, "Mr. Me Too (z.a.k. Remix)" by The Clipse, "Wamp Wamp vs. Knife (Girl Talk Remix)" by Clipse and Grizzly Bear, respectively. You can download the .mp3 file below. Just click the link and then click the "Download file" button on the right.
Check it out
We hope you enjoy it. Let us know what you think.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
1. Joanna Newson "Ys"
-I discovered this album after hearing that Joanna Newsom was going to be playing a free show in Madison. I wasn't able to make it to the concert but I downloaded the album to hear for myself what all the fuss was about. As soon as I listened to it I was hooked. I couldn't stop listening to it. Her voice is incredibly unique and her melodies and hooks are amazing. Each of the five songs on the album is about 12 minutes long, but they have so many different parts and movements that they are broken up really well. The instrumentation on the album is amazing, too. Her harp is beautifully accompanied by the string arrangements of long time Brian Wilson collaborator Van Dyke Parks. After living with this album for a few weeks, I would definitely say that it is my second favorite album of the year.
2. Hot Chip "The Warning"
-I should have listened to this album a lot sooner than I did because my friend Jonah was really into it earlier in the year when it first came out. But for some reason I kept putting it off and once I heard it I was really sorry that I hadn't listened sooner. The songs "And I Was a Boy From School", "Over and Over", and "Look After Me" are definitely some of my favorite songs of the year and the rest of the album is almost just as good. It's British Electropop at its best, and if that means something to you, then you should definitely check it out. I don't really know where it would fall on my top 10 list, but it's for sure somewhere near the top.
3. Ray LaMontagne "Till the Sun Turns Black"
-I was debating back when I originally wrote my Top 10 list whether or not to put this on there. Obviously, I decided against it. But now, after having gotten more into it, I realize that it really should be on there. I really like his first album, "Trouble," and I thought that "Till the Sun Turns Black" just didn't compare. Recently, though, I have really grown to love it. It's darker and more complex than "Trouble," and it's just better, overall. It's also really epic at times. The title songs transitions into the final song, "Within You," and just grows and grows. The first song on the album, "Be Here Now," is also a great builder of a song.
That's all for my amendments. There were a few honorable mentions, but nothing else that really jumped out at me.
Friday, February 2, 2007
Here for your enjoyment are links to two standout tracks from "Neon Bible." Expect a full review here in the coming days.
Track #2 - Keep the Car Running
Track #11 - My Body is a Cage
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Let's start at the beginning.
Rolling Stone smells like perfume. Or maybe it's cologne. Who can tell the difference today anyway. "But Evan, lots of magazines have perfume ads and smell like that," you might say. Sure, but Rolling Stone? No. In my perfect world (which may have existed about 40 years ago) Rolling Stone would smell like newsprint and the city. The ink would smear on my fingers. I'd roll it up and stick it in my back pocket and take it out later to read on the train. It would not smell like perfume. Ever. I take that back; it might smell like perfume because I brought it over to a girl's house and left it in a pile of clothes next to her bed. That's the only way.
Now let's open the magazine. Holy shit! What is that! Why, it's an ad for "I'm From Rolling Stone," an MTV reality show ABOUT Rolling Stone. But we'll get to that piece of absurdity later. Look at the next ad. Ford Fusion. Kind of a sporty car. Flip a few pages.. Old Spice ad. "What doesn't kill you makes you better looking." Sad thing is, that's not even the source of the perfume smell. There are other perfume/cologne ads. Ok, now we're at the table of contents. What a nice place to address the second way Rolling Stone sucks (number one being its godawful smell).
Rolling Stone is like a heroin addict, except instead of heroin there's pure pop culture glucose running through its veins. Exhibit A: The table of contents is dominated by a spread about American Idol. For a second I almost thought this was OK. I thought to myself, "Maybe American Idol is so uncool, it's cool." But then I realized that only Vice Magazine could make American Idol remotely cool. No, Rolling Stone is just doing it because any number of a variety of surveys have declared that, well, a shitload of people watch American Idol. A shitload of 18-34 year olds probably.
Let's keep flipping. There's some cool stuff in here. Almost redeeming stuff, like stories about Deerhoof and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. A story about a London band called the Klaxons that I would read if the picture of the band didn't show three guys who looked like those annoying kids at the bar (probably theater or social policy majors) who dressed fashionably but didn't talk to anyone and thus defeated any coolness they may have built up by standing around being annoying. Oh shit, there's another "I'm From Rolling Stone" ad. Gotta skip that. Bringing me to the third problem.
Why does Rolling Stone have a section called "Style"? Here's a 10 second lesson in coolness for Rolling Stone. Whatever ends up in your Style section isn't cool anymore. Sure, people are probably wearing it. Hell, more girls might wear that skirt now that it's been in your magazine. But girls wore Ugg boots too. And guys wore pink polos. Neither were cool. They were probably cool the first time someone in L.A. or New York City tried them out. But the minute some douchebag copied them, it wasn't cool anymore. It's tough, but you need to leave fashion for the fashion magazines. And P.S., those pants there in the corner of the page cost $185? I understand excess is part of rock n' roll, but not for pants. For drugs and booze.
Bear with me, there are two more things. Real quick, let's address the tabloidism. There's a full page spread on pages 36 and 37 that is, essentially, something you'd find in the Inquirer, except slightly more focused on the music industry. Look! There's a picture of a guy from Good Charlotte in Mexico with Nicole Richie! Look! There's some guy named Pete Doherty kicking a paparazzi dude! Look! There's.... Steven Tyler wearing nothing but a thong? Hey, at least that Old Spice ad can catch my puke.
Since I'm probably running out of your attention, I'll cut to the final gripe. Unfortunately, that means skipping over the Panic! At the Disco cover story. I know some of you might be fans of theirs, but let me just say I would pay good money to see a video on YouTube of them getting their asses beat by some guys with pool cues.
Anyway... the record reviews. Let me preface this by giving you the Rolling Stone system. It's based on five stars. A five star record is a "classic" record. I've only seen them give five stars to the Beatles or the Stones or Led Zeppelin. And that's as it should be. Four stars is excellent, three is good, two is fair and one is poor. First of all, only ONE of those rankings is negative. Two out of five is still "good"! Does that make sense to you? It doesn't to me. They give five stars to the right people, but I can't even remember the last time they gave a one out. That means Nickelback can open their copy of Rolling Stone and see that their album got two stars and actually think they make "good" music. Now that is atrocious.
Almost every album in the edition I read got at least three stars. Two albums got two and a half stars, and one of those was "A Tribute to the Band by Various Artists." One album got only two stars, but that was Switchfoot. Such is Rolling Stones' method of record review.
Oh yeah, and the first (and only) review they gave to Ratatat was in 2004 when they wrote a story about their remixes. Maybe that's the real reason I hate Rolling Stone.
Anyway, I guess I haven't even gotten to how ridiculous it is that MTV is doing a show called "I'm From Rolling Stone." Or how there's an inset in the Letters section that basically pimps the magazine's executive editor Joe Levy. Select quote: "But here at Rolling Stone, he (Joe Levy) exudes the same suave cool, a voice of sanity in the crazier-than-Gnarls music world...Nobody can touch his fearsome, encyclopedic knowledge of music, movies and every other corner of pop culture - when you're in the mood to debate whether the Stones were better on Aftermath or Between the Buttons, or the right color suede shoes to wear with a midnight-blue suit, Joe is your guy." WHO WRITES THIS SHIT? Oh yeah, Rob Sheffield, an editor. Would I even want to be "from Rolling Stone"? Probably not, and that's too bad.