Rock-Critically Correct: “Blender” Is Not So Complicated

Brian Raftery | June 8, 2007 3:00 am

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 Blender.

Two weeks ago, your Idolator curators reported a good old-fashioned cover-story war between Rolling Stone and Spin over Amy Winehouse. Brings back fond memories of the epic 1995 pissing match between the two over Alanis Morissette.

You’d think that Blender would be first in line to showcase a British singer with a tremendous pair of chesticles. Instead, the mag’s June 2007 issue features Avril Lavigne’s mosquito bites, themselves obscured by a banner proclaiming “Hell Yeah, I’m Hot!” (she claims that she was not really topless at the shoot). In a manner of speaking, she was a lot hotter five years ago: Seems like Blender should have had the terror of 2002 on the cover that year or the next, and Rolling Stone has out-Blender-ed Blender with their profile of the large-lunged, hard drinking Winehouse (not to mention that RS‘ cover beat Spin‘s by a month).

As for the Lavigne profile (itself strewn with mismatched “ransom note” display type associated with Never Mind the Bollocks…cuz y’know, she’s punk rock and shit), writer Michael Joseph Gross does yeoman’s work in presenting an encounter with a notoriously uncommunicative interview subject. His opening gambit suggests that Lavigne is not immediately forthcoming, but that she “metamorphoses into good company…(her) inflection is 1980s Valley Girl, the timing is 1930s wisecracking dame, and the combination will be platinum ore for the filmmaker who extracts it.” That’s some good scribing there! A shame, then, that nothing Lavigne says in the following 20-plus grafs reflects that she’s at all good company. She’s sullen, petulant and given to clichés like “I’m very motivated and driven…I’m the kind of person who doesn’t take no for an answer.” Yes, dear: we know this is true of you and of every other multimillion-selling pop star in the history of the world.

So the perfect antidote is an interview with a couple who couldn’t give bad quote under pain of death. Here are some choice selections from the Rock Star Double Date with Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne: “It’s cum”; “it looks like a dog’s dick” and “is that a testicle?” (Ozzy appraises the food at NYC’s London Bar); “his wife’s snatch has been rubbed on every pole in L.A.” (Sharon on Gene Simmons, who had besmirched her children while promoting his derivative reality show on A&E). It must have been torture for writer Rob Tannenbaum to edit this article down to a manageable length.

Your correspondent would like to salute writer Josh Eells for two revelations contained in “Second Life,” what YC hopes will be the last Linkin Park feature he is compelled to read in the next half-decade. Eells gets singer Chester Bennington to disclose a.) that he met his ex-wife at the Burger King he worked at 11 years ago and b.) that after meeting his current Playboy-model mate at a party, he went straight home and broke up with his wife. Wow! Despite the evidence of every moment of the guy’s recorded legacy so far, it seems that Bennington has balls ‘o’ brass.

Then, in an oddly protracted review section, the estimable Douglas Wolk swats his opening conceit out of the ballpark in a three 1/2 star review of Bjork’s Volta. He posits that “an invitation to play on a Bjork album is like getting a MacArthur Genius Grant,” since she regularly collaborates with kool avant musicians. This is fine with Wolk, but he goes on to opine that Bjork’s “vocals have long since become a repetitive array of tics and and habits” which have become wearying to him. In your correspondent’s view, what Wolk bemoans can also be termed “a style of singing shared by no one else on this planet.” Your correspondent also wonders if Wolk ever tired of the “tics and habits” of James Brown, of whom Wolk wrote a book and who was hardly a vocal polymath over forty years.

Elsewhere, your correspondent is delighted to see the byline “Jane Dark.” It’s a pen name employed by weirdo SF poet/record reviewer Joshua Clover. Your correspondent is well aware that he should tread lightly when commenting on writers using pseudonyms, but he merely notes that he has never figured out under which circumstances Clover uses either name, since his writing is obtuse in the worst old-school Village Voice way no matter what. However, under Blender‘s strict stylistic template, his three-star review of Gretchen Wilson’s One of the Boys seems dispirited, as if writing clearly is a bummer for Dark/Clover. We can all only sigh with regret that John Ashberry isn’t commonly viewed as an acceptable template for country-record reviewing.

Finally, in the “long lead time issues department,” your correspondent notes that the sole live review in “the Guide” is a rundown of South by Southwest. The festival took place in mid-March–almost three months ago. Anyone who could remotely be interested in how Deerhunter or Girl Talk set attendees upon their asses knew about all this a long, long time ago.