I decided to step back for a bit from my exploration of LIFE‘s post-WW2 digital archive, as my research had begun to venture into self-destructive territory. There are only so many ads for TV dinners that one can stumble across before one starts feeling an unnatural hunger for rubbery “fried” chicken, unevenly cooked mixed veg, and grave purchased in bulk from an industrial solvents distillery.
The last time I surrendered to this dark impulse, I spent week-long residency upon my abode’s porcelain throne. It was an experience I have no desire to repeat anytime soon, and so I redirected my quest for periodical-based knowledge towards the run of Creem spanning (roughly) 1977 to 1982.
Creem was the mainstream music magazine of choice during my snide and snotty punk rawk period, and I spent a good deal of time and effort tracking down the back issues which corresponded to the era where the bulk of my listening habits lay. Revisiting that material has been…difficult.
The qualities — namely irreverence, unabashed rockism, the bipolar dance between jaded apathy and raging fandom — which attracted my younger self to the magazine are utterly repulsive to my present day incarnation. It all seems so forced, both the writers and the readers going through the motions to prove some received notion of authenticity, transcendence and rebellion.
“Woo, man! Fuck Abba and disco, let’s get stoned and stick it to the man by celebrating Iggy Pop’s latest release on the sublabel of a massive corporation! ROCK ON!”
The occasional attempts at “serious” criticism aren’t much better, swapping out the nebulous celebration of pre-fab rebellion for a lot of psuedo-academic platitudes. The worst of the worst, though, were the efforts to combine affected badassitude with sophomoric theorizing into insufferable nonsense as shallow as a lint-caked bellybutton yet wide enough to devour any faith in a sane universe. “Let’s consult with Derrida and find out how many angels can gangbang on the head of a pin! I LIKE TO DRINK BOOZE AND FUCK LADIES! YEAH!”
As I made my way through the pile, I was struck by an odd sensation of deja vu that went beyond the fact that I’d read this stuff twenty years ago.
Laughable critical jargon, lazy list-formatted pieces, insincere contrarian stances, editorial attempts to distance themselves from the vulgar masses they so willfully provoke for profit, enlightened rhetoric riddled with sexist and homophobic overtones…
It all seemed so familiar, and as well it should have. Whether intentional or not, Creem’s model served asthe basis for what currently passes as geek journalism…
…right down to the comments sections.
Recommended listening: AND DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION WILL SAVE COMICS, TOO.