My roommate just got a copy of the latest Rolling Stone in the mail. Luckily, he didn't pay for it; it was a free trial subscription. Why lucky? Because Rolling Stone sucks. Sucks in almost all of the various ways an ostensibly cool record review magazine can suck. Ah yes, but therein lies the rub. Rolling Stone isn't a record review magazine anymore. It's not even a so-called lad mag a la Maxim, although I'm sure it would love to be. Rolling Stone these days is a mishmash of the poppiest of pop culture, tabloidism and pure suck-up-itude.
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.