Rock-Critically Correct: “Spin” Parties Like A Rock Star

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And now it’s time for another installment of Rock-Critically Correct, in which the most recent issues of Rolling Stone, Blender, Vibe and Spin are given a once-over by an anonymous music-mag writer who’s contributed to several of those titles–or maybe even all of them! Once again, he/she turns his/her attentions to Spin:

So, now that the requisite summer-festival issue is out of the way, what did Spin go with in its June issue? Glad you asked!

Spin presents a meditation on rock stardom in three acts. First comes “Rock Star !/ Rock Star?,” in which the current crop of Clear Channel/active rock bands is bemoaned for not living up to the Dionysian standard of Tommy Lee. Then the mag’s cover subject, Marilyn Manson, is profiled as “The Last Rock Star.” Finally, we get a glimpse of a band that wants nothing more than to be Velvet Revolver.

In the first story, former Entertainment Weekly chief rock critic David Browne opines that the likes of Chris Daughtry, Nickelback and Three Days Grace–all heirs to the unapologetically mainstream rock tradition–aren’t particularly charismatic and don’t do decadent things. His principal interviewee is Butch Walker, an extremely well-connected renaissance bro who hangs out with old-school Sunset Strip dudes and writes and produces Fall Out Boy and Avril Lavigne. Poison’s Bret Michaels is also interviewed regarding faceless rockers, and your correspondent can’t help but remember that the late ’80s/early ’90s Spin considered Michaels and his ilk as less of an august avatar of “the way rockers should be” and more of a scourge upon music itself.

But the article posits that it’s a grave injustice that guys in mainstream guitar bands these days don’t carry on in public the way Browne is nostalgic for. He, Michaels and Walker seem to proceed under the assumption that because “they don’t make ’em like they used to,” that there are no rock stars anymore. The assumption is undercut by Browne’s own citation, deep in the piece, that “hip-hop happily rose to the occasion”– i.e. rappers live large in the Tommy Lee manner. Seeing as your correspondent considers hip-hop to pretty much be rock and roll, he believes that no article need be written wistfully as to the absence of rock-piggishness as long as the likes of Young Jeezy (who is also interviewed in the issue) walks the Earth.

Browne also assumes that people younger than he do not recognize current rock musicians (cough cough, Pete Wentz cough, Gerard Way) and that current rock musicians do not behave loutishly. Your correspondent doubts this very, very much. Could it be that these dudes behave badly, but discreetly? The article’s subtext seems to be “these artists do not appeal to me and my peer group, so they must also be faceless to everyone else.” Dollars to donuts: In 15 years there will be an article in whatever iteration of Spin exists complaining that some artists of 2022 aren’t enough like Nickelback.

As for Manson: your correspondent wonders what kind of horse-trading took place that resulted in his mug befouling any national music magazine barring Metal Edge or Alternative Press. In any case, memoirist Jonathan Ames gets fucked up on absinthe with Manson, and the two discuss how Manson’s breakup with Dita Von Teese and courtship of his barely legal concubine Evan Rachel Wood influenced his new album. Ames also notes that Manson’s nose is running at their first meeting, and later admits to going to the john at a club with Manson in order to do something that many people are known to do in such settings. It would surely warm the heart of Wood’s parents to read this particular passage.

Manson has always seemed like an articulate chap, one that most people under forty will recognize. But YC suspects that teenagers will take one look at the cover and wonder why, precisely, they should abandon Facebook to trifle with an article about this guy their older cousin used to be obsessed with. But he’s a rock star, goddammit, and you kids should realize that! Now get off this issue’s lawn!

Now, on to “Art of the Hustle,” It’s the best article your correspondent has read in Spin in a great long while. Written by music editor Charles Aaron, It concerns Uncrowned, a nakedly careerist Atlanta band of the sort that Browne dismisses. The quartet sounds, dresses and behaves in ways completely at odds with what Spin (and the audience the magazine covets) stands for: in fact, Uncrowned’s disinterest in the mores of indie rock is almost quaint.

And yet, since Spin and its competitors generally ignore bands like Uncrowned, Three Days Grace and Nickelback, this examination of the perils of courting Clear Channel is far, far more interesting than any story that blog-o-lemmings would approve of. Anyone who has spent any time in a rehearsal facility anywhere in America will recognize these kind of guys, the species of musician that plays “battle of the bands” sponsored by local rock radio and that wants to sign with a major label RIGHT NOW, and that thinks that “‘Asthmatic Kitty’ sounds like it’s for “pussies, man”.

As every journalism professor tells the class on day one, everybody has a story. Aaron, a writer not known for his fondness for lumpen RAWK, has pulled one out of these hapless, if somewhat endearing, dudes, and he does so with considerable empathy. Read it.