1. gutterdandy

    I don’t quite get some of your logic: the Police reunion was newsworthy, but Pink Floyd’s wasn’t? You really rate the Police higher than Pink Floyd in terms of artistic importance? Huh? I have enjoyed their focus on some elder statesmen of rock recently: their Merle Haggard and Lemmy pieces were very well done, and the kind of thing no one else is doing right now. On the other hand, they embarrass themselves by doing things like giving a coveted FIVE-STAR rating to U2’s last album, which was mediocre at best. So it’s a mixed bag. Really, it’s Matt Taibbi’s political writings that keep me reading the magazine: they had better pay him whatever he wants, because he’s keeping them relevant.

  2. Leor Galil

    I can understand your confusion: The way I wrote that section would make one assume Pink Floyd had reunited. They didn’t, and I’ve fixed that sentence to reflect my confusion as to why they were on the cover. The Police reuniting is newsworthy: Pink Floyd simply existing and their history – while interesting to some – is not. Same with the Guns N’ Roses “let’s remember that great album they did decades ago” just doesn’t cut it for me.

    Their coverage of the elder statesman of rock – good or not – is just what’s bringing them down. They’re supposed to cover what’s happening in pop culture today, not constantly herald the elder statesmen of rock. There are plenty of magazines that do that very thing, but it’s in their nature. The consistent recycling of cover images with, say, the members of the Rolling Stones on the cover makes anything seem stale.

    And ditto on the U2 five-star rating. That’s pandering to a nutshell: Is that album destined to be on of U2’s best or the “best of all time?” Doubtful. Even many fans weren’t head-over-heels in love with that record.

    I remember the last “best of” list of theirs I actually read: In 2006, they listed Bob Dylan No. 1 (which, granted got massive critical acclaim), Red Hot Chili Peppers No. 2 (really?), and at No. 4, they spent the entire space dedicated to TV On The Radio talking about David Bowie’s miniscule appearance on “Return to Cookie Mountain.” Talk about pandering!

  3. larryb33c

    My husband got a free subscription to RS with a Salon membership. He decided to continue to subscribe due to the political coverage and general interest type articles. We certainly don’t get it for the music articles. Frankly, I don’t like to read about actors or musicians anyway. It is really boring to hear them talk about their work, er, “craft”. In the rare case when I do, it has to be someone I really care about–and then I find myself somewhat disillusioned (I’m thinking of the Merle Haggard interview).
    Oh– that WSJ article last week about “the new face of corporate rock” (or however they described it). The take away point– Will.I.Am is incredibly vacuous and lacking in self awareness. Otherwise, he would be feeling deep shame reading his quotes. Right?

  4. gutterdandy

    OK, I thought you were talking about the brief Floyd Live 8 reunion there. No doubt RS is trying to be a bit MOJO, a bit Pitchfork, etc. etc. They want to be all things to all people, and that will never work entirely. I agree that I don’t need to read another cover story about the Stones, Springsteen, U2, etc. The Merle Haggard and Lemmy pieces worked for me because they are not really mainstream figures anymore, they are getting old and it’s interesting (for me, anyway) to see that they still live their lives less conservatively than a lot of younger bands seem to do. I’d rather read an in-depth profile of David Allan Coe than yet another one on Eric Clapton, let’s put it that way. As I said, I totally agree on the 5-star U2 rating: it looked to me like someone greased Jann Wenner’s palm for that one. I think RS are banking on Taibbi as being their new Hunter Thompson, and he’s certainly got the background: ran a crazy newspaper in Moscow while hooked on smack, returns to America to become Goldman-Sachs’ biggest nightmare. If they lost Taibbi, I would cancel my subscription pronto.

  5. larryb33c

    Oh yeah– Lemmy. That one was actually interesting. Well, it IS Lemmy.
    But you’re right– waaaay too much about the Stones, Eric Clapton, U2 (big yawn), Springsteen, etc. Really, don’t they get it? They never have to write about these artists again. Never.

  6. savio

    “Rolling Stone is the grandaddy of music magazines in the U.S….”

    That’s news to Etude, Billboard, Metronome, The Diapason, The Musician, etc.

    Rolling Stone’s main contribution to pop culture is the white savior myth that Elvis, against all available musicological evidence, invented rock and roll. They made this absurd stance official in 2004, you might recall, when they celebrated rock and roll’s 50th anniversary, giving Elvis at Sun as the starting point. Now, one expects a certain gap between actual musicology and journalism, but RS takes things a bit too far, imo.

    Don’t be surprised that RS has strayed from covering music, since they barely did that in the first place. I’ve yet to read a vintage RS music review and come away convinced that I’ve read anything related to music criticism. Covering music as a sociological phenomenon is not covering it as music, and never will be.

  7. Leor Galil

    I see where you’re coming from about actor and musician interviews. But, it doesn’t have to be all ego-feeding. Which is what I love about that WSJ article and many a music-related article one can find in newspapers and non-entertainment related magazines: It takes a different angle, it addresses the artists in a new light, it shows depth. While many music magazines strive to achieve such depth, it’s unfortunate to think that RS has sunk to a level where a subscribing reader such as yourself passes on the very focus of the magazine.

  8. Leor Galil

    By “grandaddy,” not only did I mean a magazine that’s been around a while, but one that’s still on the block, unlike a majority of the magazines you’ve listed. And I’ve edited it to serve your complaint to point out that it’s pop-related, again still the old one around. (And Billboard has always been a trade-focused music magazine to begin with.) The main point of that statement was to say they are seen as the “big guy” on the block in terms of pop music magazines. And yes, I’m aware NME has also been around for a long time, and I had originally written that into the piece, but really, it took away from the main focus of the piece.

    And if you think covering music from a sociological phenomenon is not covering music, I hate to be the one to have to tell you you’re the odd one out. As with our last back-and-forth, any informed-critique of music – not simply through its compositions – is a valid way to write about music. For many music magazines, those different angles and critiques of music define their voice. And it is still considered covering music. Perhaps not by your standards – and yes, everyone’s entitled to their opinion – but it seems that not much measures up to your standards.

  9. larryb33c

    Well, that’s the thing. It is not because it is ego feeding, it is just that, well, listening to people talking about creating music is not very interesting to me. So, it is not so strange that I pass on the music articles. It speaks more of me than Rolling Stone that I do so. I guess if they had an Exene Cervenka interview…
    Still, for the most part the articles about musicians that I like to read are ones that appeal to more prurient interests– think stuff about the excesses of Led Zeppelin (and no, not talking about the excesses of their lyrics).

  10. savio

    “Odd one out” doesn’t mean wrong if the status quo is corrupt. I realize that reducing music to a cultural phenomenon, and to heck with art and chords and notes, is the norm. But norms are often wrong. Popular music seems singled out in this respect, as I can’t think of another popular art form which isn’t considered, at least in part, as art. Re “pop-related,” so was Etude, to a significant extent (middle-brow, more so) and Variety and Metronome and Downbeat were hugely so. So were Song Hits, Hit Parader, all the other pop song mags of the pre-Boomer past.

    “Not simply through its compositions” is a little misleading since modern pop music journalism never considers aspects of composition as such–I doubt Greil Marcus knows a IV chord from a tonic triad. Or even what AABA form actually comes down to in terms of measures, cadences, and so on. So you’re referring to a nonexistent practice. If considering the structural aspects of music were a simple task, more people would be able to do it, I’d think.

    Re your definition of “granddaddy,” try using that label to describe a motion picture from the Sixties. Or a mystery novel from the 1930s. I guarantee you it wouldn’t go unchallenged.

  11. Leor Galil

    You’re right that status quos should be challenged. But you pretty much answered your own complaints with this:

    “If considering the structural aspects of music were a simple task, more people would be able to do it, I’d think.”

    But, as you surmise, they don’t.

    The purpose of journalism – music or otherwise – is to explain what is happening in our world to a mass/broad audience. So how would writing about a tonic triad help explain that to someone who doesn’t understand sheet music?

    I hate to flog a dead horse, but the kind of music journalism you seek would never work. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t have it’s place, and with the blogosphere, that element is certainly attainable. But in terms of music journalism, it would do more harm than good. As I said before, you don’t have to go through years of schooling to pick up an instrument and give it a whirl, so why bar people with an insatiable taste for music and writing from music journalism? All the “reasons” I see are purely elitist.

    And yes, I’m aware that those magazines covered pop. I’m also aware they’re no longer around. I’m sorry if my definition of “grandaddy” isn’t up to par with your standards, but it doesn’t seem like anything is anyway.

  12. Leor Galil

    No worries as coming across as being “fussy.” Like I’ve reiterated time and time again, I appreciate reader feedback: It allows me to re-asses my points, re-bolster my arguments and really see whether I’m “right” or “wrong” about something. So thank you for reading and commenting!

  13. petergower

    Taibbi is the only reason I even touch an RS website, let alone a magazine. He is a far more intelligent, angrier and self-aware writer than Wolfe or Hunter. Sure the latter two had their moments but not as powerfully challenging as the swarthiest man on TV – Matt ‘get a haircut’ Taibbi.

    Further, music as a culture barometer is dead.

  14. Leor Galil

    Riiiiigghttt… Except that music is a form of culture in and of itself. It may no longer be a breeding ground for icons of mass culture, but not much is these days.

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