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We Will Never Lie To You

Posted: April 15, 2002

By Kevin Forest Moreau, Editor-in-Chief

Maybe I'm getting old.

Last month I turned the corner past my 35th birthday, and damned if I haven't started to feel ...different, somehow. As if I've suddenly moved from one advertising demographic -- the 18-34 age bracket -- into a new one; as if my tastes have suddenly changed, evolved, become sharper. That's silly, I know: I've always questioned the arbitrary nature of such divisions, always scoffed at the notion that a young man with discretionary income to spend is somehow going to spend less at age 37 than at age 33. But nonetheless, I've felt a change.

Mainly, I've been feeling my age when it comes to music, and -- just as importantly -- the music press. I've always been something of a discriminating bastard (my diehard fondness for early KISS and late-period Rush notwithstanding), always felt impatient with the music I was being offered, and with the institutions who've told me I should like it. So it's not as if I've suddenly become a grouchy old geezer railing about the way things used to be: I've pretty much always had a chip on my shoulder, musically speaking.

But lately, that chip has become larger, and my shoulder's starting to hurt.

And the more I think about it, it's not the mediocre, over-praised or just plain terrible acts out there, clogging up the charts and the airwaves, that have aroused my ire. They've always been there, will always be there. The music business is a business, and moving units, not sponsoring art, is the name of the game. That's fine, it's the price we pay for living in a market society, and carping about it is counter-productive, the province of brash, idealistic and stubborn romantics.

No, it's the self-appointed arbiters and reporters of what's good, what's cool and hip, that have got my goat. The Rolling Stones and Spins of the world. The ones who conspire to shove 31 different flavors of pap and crap down our throats, all the while knowing that they should know better.

Yes, Rolling Stone is a commercial enterprise, and despite its hidebound and slavish devotion to irrelevant and irksome Hall of Fame inductees (believe me, that's a rant for another day), it has to appeal to the teeny-boppers and the nu-metal skateboard set to stay afloat -- there are only so many Don Henley and Jackson Browne fans out there, after all. Again, I understand that, and I respect their need to put 'N Sync on the cover -- frequently. Same with Spin: As much as tries to play to the emo crowd, it's Incubus and Staind cover stories that pay the light bills. Fine. Whatever. These people need to eat. I can respect that.

But you'd think that the powers-that-be at these outposts of supposed critical music journalism could risk a little of their No Doubt capital by trying to shill for important artists. You'd think that, wouldn't you?

Well, it's not happening. At least I hope it's not. I hope that the artists that the staffs of these publications are pushing at us aren't really the ones they consider the most important artists around. I hope that the editorial board at Spin doesn't really consider the sullen, drawling thug Jay-Z the single most important artist working today, as his top spot in their recent feature on the Top 40 bands that matter would indicate. Similarly, I hope that the jaw-droppingly awful System of A Down isn't really Spin's idea of the vanguard of hard rock. (This is a vain hope, I know, since that band's aptly-titled Toxicity was chosen as Spin's album of the year for 2001.) I hope that the dissonant, atonal dreck of P.O.D. isn't their idea -- hell, anyone's idea -- of good music, let alone important music. Because if so, the future is a scary place indeed.

But at least for Spin I can hold onto some small kernel of misdirected hope. Rolling Stone, meanwhile, is hopeless, in impotent thrall to both its aging-boomer foundation and the Britney brigade. Every time the magazine issues one of its features on Top 10 Bands to Watch, or the 50 Coolest Albums of All Time, I feel a cold, hard and ugly monster grow within my breast. Starsailor a "band to watch"? Perish forbid. The Strokes' Is This It one of the "coolest" albums of all time? Can anyone really believe that?

Sadly, I can see Rolling Stone's reasoning: It's relatively new (chronologically speaking), and the band's members project an aura of packaged rebellion that splits the fan-base difference between aging Velvet Underground fans, trend-following college kids and teen girls who think the singer is cute. How could Rolling Stone not push this band shamelessly at every turn? The Strokes' extremely derivative (if likable) pastiche of Television and the Underground may not be the future of music, but it's certainly the future of Rolling Stone. (Is it too early to think about renaming the magazine? Is there already a porn mag called Strokes?)

But if I can understand RS's reasoning, I can also bemoan its decision to take the easy out. This is a distracted culture, one that doesn't like to do its own thinking, and many of its members, rightly or wrongly, look to publications like Spin and Rolling Stone to figure out what they should be liking. That's lamentable and sad, it's true, but the least the magazines could do about it is try to challenge these sheep just a little bit. Like I said earlier, a little pandering is understandable, even necessary. But if you're not going to try to shape some debate beyond the merits of Pink, or Sheryl Crow, or System of a fucking Down, you're just wasting everybody's time.

And before you start asking, "Well, what the hell are you guys doing about all of this?," let me be clear. I'm the first to admit that Shaking Through is a young animal, still finding its voice, and its legs, and still refining its mission to talk about things that are important. But we here at Shaking Through World Headquarters will never knowingly lead you astray, into the dangerous waters of No Doubt, P.O.D. or Nickelback. Yes, okay, so we have recently discussed Van Wilder and Alanis Morissette -- like I said, we're not perfect. And we may, and will, occasionally review things -- Creed, Lenny Kravitz -- that seem out of place next to Gomez or Bob Mould, especially if we have something to say beyond the obvious insults. Sometimes, looking at the status quo helps.

I'm not going to start carping about "sacrificing integrity" or "selling out to the man" and all of that, as other sites similar to our own have done. We're not a bunch of idealists who think that only the most obscure indie-rock has any merit, or that one form of obscure music is superior to others. But I will say this: For as long as this enterprise that is Shaking Through is a going concern, the parties involved in its production -- myself, Laurence Station, the Gentleman, and whatever other contributors we may one day attract -- will never waste our pulpit building up or defending artists we don't really believe in.

We'll try as hard as we can not to be all things to all people, nor to preach to an already-strong choir. We won't always cover the most important things (Showtime, anyone?), but we won't sell you a bill of goods either. We'll just try to talk about the things we honestly like, or are honestly interested in, or about which we honestly have something to say, be they important artists or fluff albums that offer some gleam of insight about something.

And we will never, ever lie to you, the way I believe the abovementioned concerns have done. That's my promise.

Okay, that's enough self-important ranting. Like the masthead says, we want to be humorous as well as (hopefully) insightful, and I've been serious too long. So let's have some fun out there.

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Archived Editorials
December 03, 2006: Happy Feet
November 22, 2006: Half Decade Anniversary
October 07, 2006: Jessica Simpson
September 30, 2006: New Orleans and SNL
June 2, 2006: Dixie Chicks
May 7, 2006: Are Yahu Serious?
February 16, 2006: Bill O'Reilly & Brokeback Mountain
February 12, 2006: Totally '80s (Grammys)
January 31, 2006: Freyed Oprah
November 27, 2005: To Be Continued... (Bringing back movie serials)
November 21, 2005: Fourth Birthday
November 05, 2005: TV Remakes
August 13, 2005: Ten Commandments of Rock
July 05, 2005: Live 8
May 05, 2005: Term Limits (for Rock Stars)
April 29, 2005: Pearl Jam Redux
January 26, 2005: Oscar Grouching
October 31, 2004: Three More Years!
September 27, 2004: Cleaning Out My Closet
August 25, 2004: Shaking Through Mailbag
June 23, 2004: Summer Reading List
June 11, 2004: World Without Heroes (Bill Murray and Garfield)
April 23, 2004: Sold Out (Bob Dylan, Victoria's Secret, & Iraq)
April 08, 2004: The Day the Music Died (Kurt Cobain)
Mar. 17, 2004: Copping Out
Feb. 27, 2004: The Passion of Howard Stern
Jan. 30, 2004: Sex and the City
Nov. 17, 2003: California Über Alles
Nov. 7, 2003: Not-So-Terrible Twos
Sept. 19, 2003: Magic & Loss (Johnny Cash and Warren Zevon)
Aug. 17, 2003: Those '70s Shows
May 27, 2003: Patriot Games (Darryl Worley)
May 24, 2003: American Idol
Mar. 23, 2003: Non-cents-ical (Dixie Chicks-50 Cent)
Feb. 8, 2003: Where's the Love? (Pearl Jam)
Jan. 1, 2003: High Resolutions
Dec. 16, 2002: All I Want for Christmas
Nov. 27, 2002: Things to be Thankful For
Nov. 8, 2002: Near Wild Heaven (Nirvana)
Oct. 21, 2002: Happy Birthday to Us
Sept. 11, 2002: The Little Things
Aug. 20, 2002: King for a Day
July 9, 2002: Bill of Rights
Apr. 18, 2002: Celebrity Skim
Apr. 15, 2002: We Will Never Lie To You
Jan. 6, 2002: Something to Believe In
Nov. 3, 2001: Who We Are