“Spin” Reunites With R.E.M.

Mar 20th, 2008 // 12 Comments

0318stipe.jpgAnd 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 writer who’s contributed to several of those titles–or maybe even all of them! After the click-through, he examines the most recent issue of Spin:

So there R.E.M. stands on the cover of the April 2008 Spin. The band and the publication enjoyed a mutually advantageous relationship for about a decade; the band’s mid-’80s rise more or less precipitated the “college rock” boom, and thus Spin‘s initial rationale.

After a decade or so of evincing little interest in the band (neither, frankly, did any of the big American rock mags during the time, although Mojo and Q could be counted on to do cartwheels upon each record’s release), Spin makes much of the increased “rock” quotient of R.E.M.’s new album, Accelerate. In his editor’s letter, Doug Brod more or less promotes the line that the band’s prior three records were sleepy and that this album is a stunning return to form.

Your Boy hasn’t fooled much with R.E.M. in the past two decades or so and only recalls hearing two songs from those evidently turgid three. He never thought that R.E.M.’s variety of “rocking,” if that term is to be understood as music marked by an aggressive rhythm, was up to much: the band’s early-Byrds jingle-jangle stylings never struck him as particularly ballsy; he was bemused that several commenters last month defended the band’s club-footed grunge/glam rock gambit Monster; and in any case he thinks that Bill Berry’s shit was weak (perhaps Bill Rieflin, a drummer who has worked with YB’s beloved King Crimson, has enlivened Accelerate, which YB has not yet heard).

The scribbler of “R.E.Born,” is Michael Azerrad, author of the benchmark chronicle of the college-rock era Our Band Could Be Your Life and a true believer in the holy trinity of SST, Homestead and Twin/Tone. He is a contemporary of the band, and thus Stipe, Buck and Mills seems to be pretty comfortable with him: a younger rock scribe might have been too intimidated to ask Michael Stipe about his sexual orientation. As of Tuesday, the fruit of that exchange was dutifully picked up by various media outlets, despite the fact that Stipe’s discussed this before. Otherwise, Azerrad and the band agree that the “guys playing together in a room” paradigm works better than the “insular” electronic model; the band is “rocking” again, and so now Spin can fully support R.E.M. Watch as the reconciled pair rides off into the sunset…

Easily the best piece in the issue is “Who Earns What,” a survey in which frequent contributor David Browne interviews 25 unnamed folks who make their living in what used to be known as the music business. We learn of each individual’s “perks” (a Florida-based Zep tribute band singer who once worked in construction is pleased with the alcohol and food provided by each venue) and “pains” (the worst a “Superstar Touring DJ” from NYC can cite is that it gets lonely traveling by him/herself and coked-out nincompoops sometimes mess with him/her in the DJ booth).

That DJ says he makes $400,000 a year, an income only surpassed on this list to an NYC Artist Manager and an Indie Rapper Entrepreneur’s respective $500,000. A Major-Label A&R Executive in Los Angeles says that he/she makes $92,000 at his/her current job; he/she made $250,000 at another label, which may have been Universal, since he/she cites soliciting talent-scouting advice from employees of mom-and-pop stores who recommended signing… 3 Doors Down!

We also learn that an NYC “Music Blogger” makes $35,000. That’s $10,000 less than a Toronto-based Indie Rock Musician’s $45,000, $5,000 less than the goddamn $40,000 earned by a Chicago Indie Label owner, and $5,000 more than an NYC Indie Rock Producer’s $25,000. Read that again: some of y’all involved in the blawg-o-sphere are approaching financial equity with truly creative people!

But YB’s favorite entry describes a Rock Radio DJ/Music Director from the Northeast who makes $65,000 and is especially proud of the free t-shirts he/she receives. This person acknowledges that “we have a playlist and we have to stick to it for business’ sake,” and apparently makes an additional $5,000-$10,000 from personal appearances. Now YB has a better idea how much Schmucky and Fuckface from “Assholes in the AM” on WSHT make when they show up to introduce Hinder at the local enormo-dome or preside over $2 draft night at Paddy O’Furniture’s!!!

Then there’s “Power Ballots,” in which one David Peisner, last month’s hardest-working fall guy for the stupid ways publications address problematic lead times, assesses the efficacy of entertainers participating in this year’s presidential race. The piece’s tone is suspicious: MoveOn.org’s 2004 Vote for Change tour, which involved Bruce Springsteen, the Dixie Chicks, Death Cab for Cutie, and this issue’s cover dudes, is described as a failure in light of President Bush’s reelection. Interviewed artists like Pete Wentz, David Crosby, and will.i.am are careful to not seem like dilettantes preaching to an alleged great unwashed. No artist quoted seems as penitent as Moby: “If for the last six years, all I’d done was sit in a strip club drinking beer, the world would be probably be in the same shape it is now… no one wants some smug nerd from New York telling them who they should vote for.”

Peisner notes that “John McCain arouses far less animosity among the creative class than the current president,” to which he could have added that one of McCain’s daughters is an experienced and well-liked publicist who has worked for V2 Records, among others. Peisner also includes the viewpoints of two Republican strategists, which is admirable considering that Rolling Stone would probably never dream of asking those horrible Republicans what they might think about various pop star’s advocacy.

Ultimately, the story’s implied thesis–”musicians often appear foolish or preachy when they loudly endorse a presidential candidate or a cause, and perhaps should focus on making the best music they can”–suits what may be Spin‘s posture, which is to distinguish itself from Rolling Stone‘s fervent limousine liberal proselytizing. YB wouldn’t be surprised if this were to be Spin‘s last word on the election.

Finally, a word to Spin‘s braintrust: Please discontinue the Front of Book “oh snap”-oriented “Spin 20″–which proclaims that it’s been “Ranking on Pop Culture Since 1998″–in which memes from a month prior to publication are dismissed with a curt one-liner. To wit: “Kanye West Launches Search Engine: Look for 50 Cent’s webmail app–coded in Javascript, beeyotch!–the very same day”; “Portishead Reunite: Not so fast, Sneaker Pimps.” This kind of editorial device may have made sense in the dawn of snark, but it seems clear to YB that “The Spin 20″ should be relegated to the same landfill to which Entertainment Weekly consigned the similarly bitchy “Jim Mullen’s Hot List.” The use of the colloquialism “beeyotch” tells YB more about the writer’s ideas of black culture than the writer likely intends.

  1. Nicolars

    Peter Buck looks like Anakin Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi! Wha’ happened?

  2. Anonymous

    Man, Moby made me laugh!

  3. NedRaggett

    @Nicolars: Getting rowdy and drunk on airplanes will do that to a man.

  4. Dead Air ummm Dead Air

    The guest article on the last page about how artist’s should quit after one great album so as not to “tarnish their legacy” is just about the worst thing I read, and everything that’s wrong with fandom.

  5. SuperUnison

    The whole thing that pisses me off about music and politics is the way that musicians misestimate their own millieu. Anyone who votes one way or the other cause fucking Moby told them to probably shouldn’t be in the process in the first place. The more salient thing would be to ask ostensibly apolitical musicians how politics informs the art that they make.

  6. Anonymous

    It’s pretty bad when US Weekly has the better Stipe article.

  7. Anonymous

    @Dead Air ummm Dead Air: I agree, but then again, we’d all be better off Nickelback followed that advice.

  8. SuperUnison

    @pantycrickets: I think trotting out Nickleback is the new invoking the nazis.

  9. Chris Molanphy

    Agreed on the “Spin 20,” but only because it’s overstayed its welcome. Seven or eight years ago, it was hands-down the funniest thing in the magazine; I used to flip directly to it the way I seek out the James Surowiecki page in the New Yorker.

    But yeah, it’s mad old now.

  10. Anonymous

    One of my favorite parts of this article is how full of spite the author is for this “Your Boy/YB” person. Geez- he hates him!

  11. Anonymous

    @pantycrickets: Wait, which Nickelback record was great?

  12. Anonymous

    Sorry, the dawn of snark? Sarcasm was only invented in 1998. Shit, that’s going to upset oscar wilde.

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