I have a lifetime subscription to Rolling Stone, and I still eagerly devour each issue the day it arrives, just as I did as a teenager. Half a life later, with a communications degree and a side gig as a musician, my opinions on the mag are a little less reverential than they once were.
Since E has expressed … let’s say, not the strongest interest in my ongoing journalism critique, I’ve decided to spare her a ninth year of such twice-monthly boredom and move my review online, where she can skip it more readily and without feigning deep spousal interest.
Cover/Feature: “Jimmy Fallon’s Big Adventure” by Brian Hiatt, cover by Robert Trachtenberg
The ice-skating cover is not exactly an iconic image, but it’s very Fallon, complete with svelte peacoat over a non-descript hoodie. The article goes through the typical Late Night Host feature motions, as if cribbing directly from the superior Conan article from just a few issues ago. It does a lot to explain Fallons’ constant mirth as the result of something other than a coke addiction, but otherwise is mostly a softball fawner about how much of a darn great guy he is.
Bruno Mars: “Mr. Showbiz” by Jonah Weiner
A solid profile that explains who the heck this Bruno kid is anyway and why/how he writes such explosive hits (see my review of his LP). Unfortunately, he comes off as a bit of an entitled prick in just about every statement he makes, even if it’s all carefully disclaimed as sarcasm. No good photos.
“Robert Plant’s Mystical Mountain Hop” – by Stephen Rodrick
A vivid article that helps to contextualize Plant’s new Band of Joy endeavor, an outgrowth (but not continuance) of his record with Alison Krauss. He takes a few veiled shots at other aging rockers trying to hang on their their glory and never comes off as surly or preening as Roger Waters in his recent cover story. I love the splash photo of him lunching on cassette tapes. Great shot, and Plant is at his kooky best as he contemplates his tangled lunch. I love it, as well as the absolutely gorgeous snap of him in white silk where he looks like the king of Rohan.
Matt Taibbi: “The Crying Shame of John Boehner”
Taibbi’s unfocused article harkens back to his salivating earlier pieces that were more in love with turns of phrase than making a point. After a mid-article recap of Boehner’s career there is no prevailing thesis or structure other than his unorganized laundry list of Boehner misdeeds, too often using the Tea Party as a straw man to represent the will of the country at large (seriously?)
- Reviews: TI leads with a three star review that seems even-handed. Surprising that Decemberists scored a four-star here. Both Pearl Jam’s Live on Ten Legs and Jay-Z’s The Hits Collection also net less-than-shocking fours. Reviews dip below three stars for Diddy (a safe target for mockery, since he doesn’t sell issues anymore, James Blunt, who has never been cool enough for RS, and Ciara (mostly a singles article). Also, note the lazy three-star non-review of Cake’s “Showroom of Compassion” – more making fun of the band than actual record opinion.
- Movies: An unusually chock-full issue for Travers – six substantial reviews in a single spread, plus a “10 Worst of 2010” sidebar.
- Ahh, the occasionally featured Tech section, i.e., “We don’t care enough to do something like Wired-or-Tired, but there’s a gadget we think you should buy.”
- The Aretha health blurb is the first time I’ve seen her struggle named as Pancreatic Cancer; RS is right to label it a swift killer.
- The Concert Biz Collapse lead news story is a re-run of the same drum they’ve been banging for the entire past year, though yields this interesting tidbit:
Rivers Cuomo decided he wanted to tour only on weekends. The unorthodox request led his managers to focus on festival dates and shows in big cities – and it paid off. …”[W]e weren’t having to go to a B-market where we weren’t popular.”
- In the studio with Bright Eyes? Blech. Oberst is one of the youngest emeritus artists RS covers no matter how boring or irrelevant the associated news is.
- Mellencamp whines about wanting to tour without playing any of his good songs (good luck with that).
- Profile: Duran Duran comes off cool in this brief piece – it contextualizes their teamup with superfan Mark Ronson, and makes the guys sound pretty down-to-earth. (Although, wasn’t RS all over the Timberlake/Timbaland effort? Here they’re eager to pan it.)
- Q&A: Another RS emeritus artists, Kid Rock, gets slavish questions about what it’s like to write such awesome, under-appreciated music and meet presidents. RS has been selling his transformation to legit songwriter-of-the-people pretty hard the past few years.
- Hot List Relevancy: 3/5. Lil Wayne and Bruce at one and two? Does RS have a freaking quota to fill on these two?
- Random Notes: All pretty lame but, look, there’s Lil Wayne again!
- Television: Sheffield nails it in “The New Gay Reality,” tracking the trend of reality TV finally getting comfortable with letting gays characters be as nasty and stupid as everyone else.
- Sports: Taibbi delivers a breathless piece on the Patriot’s Tom Brady that reads like a Playgirl featurette.
- Ask Dr. Ozzy’s Best Line: “With me, I’d end up taking [Vicodin] six every hour, then – if Sharon caught me – I’d blame it on my dyslexia.”
Final Verdict: 5/10 – Okay. Worth buying at the newsstand only for Fallon freaks or for the Plant article, which isn’t all that long.
The ice skating Fallon cover is meant to parody the iconic Rolling Stone cover featuring Bruce Springsteen in a similar position:
I know because the picture of Springsteen was taking on the reservoir outside of my grandmother’s house, and my parents had a framed copy on the wall for the past 20 years.
Please stop writing about and interviewing Robert Plant. Hasen’t he done enough damage to the memory of Rock, or shall we all become infantile in our drooling over the origins of dirt music? Please… find someone and something else to focus on. Like maybe musicians who actually work for a living and bring joy to humans instead of vibrations to monkeys.