Sunday, May 09, 2010

Discovering music

Spin is celebrating it's 25th anniversary -- and they said it would never last. Should! They said it should never last. The May issue serves up "100 Moments That Rocked Our World" which reminds us of the history of punk article Spin offered early in its print life. In other words, since day one, the magazine's being compiling lists.

The anniversary issue largely exists to remind you how lousy the magazine's gotten. For example, in their eighties section, they spotlight the release of Pretty in Pink. In real time, any mention of that or any other John Hughes' film was to deride it. Spin's audience was never the Pretty In Pink crowd.


They also don't have their facts correct. They claim Bono (U2) was seen by 400 million people while performing at Live Aid (1985) when the band performed and he jumped into the audience during the July 13th concert. Wrong. The 400 million figure was worldwide and requires ABC's three hours of prime time on Saturday. Bono did not perform at night, U2 performed early in the day when MTV -- not carried by a large number of cable companies -- and some small UHF stations carried the concert.

As Prince once sang, "Baby, don't waste your time." Move over to Hip Hop Weekly which fills the need for Tiger Beat readers who like Hip-Hop. That's not really an insult. The reading level appears to be third grade (and lots of pictures!) so depth shouldn't be looked for. In terms of covering music on that easy-to-read level, they do a strong job. We were surprised at how much information they packed into a single issue. Prepare for headlines like "BOUNTY KILLER GETS KNOCKED FOR DOMESTIC ABUSE!" and "NAS ORDERED TO SHOW EX-WIFE KELIS THE MONEY!! RAPPER TO SEEK OVER $299K IN SUPPORT!"

Q features The Ego That Killed Rock on the cover, Bono wearing rose colored glasses, fronting the 100 Greatest Frontmen issue. They're not total sexists, please note. They find seven women to be great "frontmen." No women make the top thirty but maybe that's just as well on a list Liam Gallagher tops? Hey, we actually like Oasis (and C.I. and Elaine know the Gallagher brothers) but Liam is really the all time best "frontman" the world has seen? Really? Seems like the real story is the one Q didn't publish, the one about all the drugs they ingested while compiling the list.

MoJo features Janis Joplin on the cover -- remember that in death a woman can be a legend. If she's lucky. (Talented is never enough.) Of course, you have to fit a stereotype if you're a legendary women and Janis is "pathetic loser." Mark Paytress uses eight pages to paint Janis as "Woman Is Losers" and it's nothing worth reading. It's as if the 90s recasting of Janis (a restoration actually) never took place. Search in vain for the cover story on Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix or any other man who smack-ed out, drugged out or died much to early being a "victim" of the life they actively courted and enjoyed. (Paytress will disagree with that take but it does sum up the article and whenever Bobby Neuwirth is your 'source' women will come off poorly.)


Like Hip Hop Weekly, Under The Radar breaks from the pack to feature a living woman: Joanna Newsom on the cover. Chris Tinkham profiles Newsom in an 8-page article entitled "Persistence of Vision." In addition to that article (Newsom declares "my best friends would definitely describe me as morbidly shy"), the magazine offers some strong album reviews (not reviewed is Newsom's album, for a review refer to Kat's February review) that will get you excited about various releases. As do various articles and brief write ups. We'd recommend you check out Club 8 (via their MySpace page which features multiple tracks you can stream by the Swedish band) and Plants and Animals (ibid, they're from Canada), Tanlines, The Love Language (especially make a point to listen to "Heart To Tell") and Cults.


In fact, at their website currently, you can download Cults "7 which features three tracks: "Go Outside," "Most Wanted" and "The Curse." Or, we're sorry: You can download the three tracks (and cover) for FREE. Repeating, for FREE. It's a detail not in Under The Radar -- which only notes that the group doesn't have a MySpace page.

Cults is Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion and Follin tells Under The Radar's Kyle Lemmon, "Institutions like cults get immediately frowned upon, but in reality you can find parallels to cult-like activity in any popular subculture. It's about questioning authority and finding your own sense of meaning, whatever that may be. That's the kind of attitude that we're really trying to attack with both the name and the music."
Under The Radar is the clear winner ($4.99 for the Spring 2010 issue) and we'd list Hip Hop Weekly as a close second. The rest? Well maybe you'd like to clip a few photos from them but not worth reading. But if you want a sense of discovery, a sense of life, the two to check out are Under The Radar and Hip Hop Weekly, they set the standards for others to aspire to. (We eliminated Rolling Stone -- featuring 'rocker' Robert Downey Jr. on the latest cover -- because . . . well, the rag's been a joke for years.)
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