Normally, I do not write about pop culture. But since the last story I posted on the Fairview Project is titled “Rush” and concerns a high school student who played hooky to buy the Rush album Hold Your Fire the day it came out, I am compelled to comment on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of Rock’s Undisputed Guilty Pleasure Bands.
Their number one band: Rush.
So I do take offense. This Gen-Xer has never felt guilty about listening to Rush. They were the first rock band I saw live (Power Windows tour; it was awesome). Rush is not a guilty pleasure. Guilty pleasures are cheesy. Rush is not cheesy. There is something cheesy about most of the bands on the list like ABBA, Britney Spears, STYX, Chicago (who don’t even live in Chicago), and Air Supply. I freely admit that STYX and ABBA are guilty pleasures of mine.
As an old metal-head, I realize some people might ask me what the hell do I know about cheesiness. To which I say, as an old metal-head, I know all their is to know about cheesiness in rock music. Cheesy bands are often pompous and don’t know how ridiculous they seem, ala Spinal Tap. There is nothing cheesier than Poison or Dio or Metallica post-And Justice For All...(The documentary Some Kind of Monster shows that beautifully.) And actually, Dio is a guilty pleasure of mine, too. (I’m listening to Ronnie’s baritone intone “Holy Diver” on my iPod as I write this. Next up: “The Last in Line!”) But no self-respecting metal-head who owns Metallica’s Creeping Death EP on vinyl thinks Metallica has done anything since 1989 that could constitute something pleasurable.
But I’m getting way off track here. The guilty party in this is Rolling Stone magazine. I can’t remember the last time I read an issue. It is a dead magazine when it comes to musical authority. They gave that up years ago, way before they put Britney Spears on the cover. If I had to pin a date when they lost it for good (and it had been creaking for awhile), it had to be when they fired Jim DeRogatis because he wrote an honest review of a Hootie and the Blowfish album that was less than flattering. Which wouldn’t have been so bad except that it was supposed to appear in the same issue in which the band was on the cover. His review never ran. Hootie and the Blowfish were on the cover with a positive review (by another writer) of their album. Talk about a guilty pleasure. If Hootie and the Blowfish aren’t a “guilty pleasure,” then I don’t know what one is.
Rolling Stone is a magazine that rode the Baby Boomer’s counter-culture wave, giving talented people like Hunter S. Thompson and Annie Liebovitz a platform to remake journalism and photography, respectively. Once they tasted success, they softened everything about the magazine to make it more appealing to a wider range of people, jettisoning everything that was edgy, interesting, and original about it. They have become the music equivalent of their bland gossipy brother-publication US Weekly. In that respect they are typical of the Baby Boomer arc: fight the system then sell-out as soon as you get the chance (which is also what Metallica did). Now, they are lost, struggling to define themselves as a magazine, in complete denial that they are irrelevant and exceedingly un-hip, striking out in any old haphazard fashion to make it seem otherwise. (Don’t believe me? Check out their current cover with Rosario Dawson and Rose McGowan, and the headline Girl-on-Girl Action: Rose McGowan and Rosario Dawson fire up the “Grindhouse.” Gee, that’s clever…So we’ve got a porn reference and two half-naked airbrushed women in gun belts…How is that any different from dumb lad-mags like Stuff or Maxim? They also put Fall-Out Boy on the cover earlier this year, but they haven’t put the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the cover. Quick: who’s the more original and edgier of the two? Answer: it’s not the one with the lead singer from Wilmette, IL.)
So when Rolling Stone runs a list that puts Rush as the number one guilty pleasure rock band, it just shows how little that magazine has understood about rock music, and pop music in general, for a very long time.
All right, that’s my pop culture rant for the year. Back to literature and the bloody mess that is Michigan politics these days.
Oh, and the new Rush album comes out on May 1st. 😉
Update: The offending Derogatis review can be found here. Apparently, he was fired merely for the bad review. Not also for undercutting a cover interview with the band. My bad.