Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Ramble, ramble, bitch, bitch.

For a magazine with such a significant history (said history pertaining to its complete infatuation with all things Patti Smith, apparently), the Sept. 1978 issue of Creem impressed me less than I'd anticipated. I expect that much of the fact has to do with its penchant for rock 'n roll over punk, and its willingness to review albums by the likes of Jimmy Buffett and Bonnie Tyler (honestly, Robert Christgau, if you're going to go through the trouble of giving Bonnie Tyler a “C” rating, why bother at all?). But I was entertained by Billy Altman's declaring “The Cars” a “hot” band name, and a review of the Stranglers' Black and White in which Rick Johnson suggested fans “jump on [the band] now, coz the Stranglers will be gone when all the rest of us are still left over.” This a full twelve years before Hugh Cornwell would leave the band, never mind their eventual change in direction or that they'd still go at it without him. Har har har.

Anyhow, I found two readers' letters entertaining and worthy of mention. One was a highly promotional letter from a reader in Redondo Beach: “If you like the Stones, if you like the Who, if you like the Ramones, you'll have what amounts to a religious experience when you hear the Clash! The flip side of the new single, 'Jail Guitar Doors,' even sounds like Mott the Hoople. The Clash are classic rock 'n' roll, and they're coming to the States so GET READY!”

Does anyone get that excited about international acts anymore? I suppose the tabloid format of the current NME allows those of us in the US to get a thrill out of all those colorful pictures and exclaim, “The View are on fire!” and “Jamie T is coming!” or whatever we're supposed to exclaim when we get a peek at the other side of the world. Fuck if anyone's currently as talented as the Clash (regardless of what those pesky NME readers speak of My Chemical Romance), and never mind that the internet's removed anticipation, that ever-satisfying feeling, from the equation. The point is that I can't remember the last time a band was really anticipated and lived up to the hype, nor can I think about anyone recent that'll make my “all-time favorites” list even five or ten years down the line. The Hives certainly lived up to all their hype (self- and otherwise), but they're losing momentum after three years without an album, not to mention confusing some of us by touring with Maroon 5. The Libertines may be it, but even they couldn't last more than two years and wound up more famous for Pete Doherty's reputation than the band's albums. There's a legend in there somewhere. But even with them, nothing much happened until they'd already hit and left – there were no predictions that the brilliant band would become huge here, and somehow I get the feeling that they were never as big here as they probably were in England. Has any band from the last ten years been something to fall in love with?

On a more optimistic note, the second memorable letter came from a Mink DeVille fan in Houston, Texas, who wished to direct attention to a radio deejay (deemed by the reader a “total weenie [...] surpassed in total weenie-ness only by Linda McCartney.” Bless Linda's late vegetarian heart.). Apparently the deejay in question refused and insulted her radio request for Mink DeVille, so this reader wished to inform the deejay, via Creem, that “Mink DeVille is great – and you have the mentality of whoever wrote 'Crimson and Clover'!!!”

Not only is this letter hilarious for its choice of insult – rude phrases of years past are so harmless compared to the real nastiness that tends to pop up today – but the idea of fighting over Mink DeVille is completely representative of how simultaneously awesome and cheesy that band was. Take 1977's Cabretta, for instance, where standout track “Spanish Stroll” has been said to take on a cool Lou Reed tone (I get this but liken the song more to David Bowie's “Queen Bitch,” by the way). The track itself is nice and late '70s casual in a hokey, white blazer sort of way, but the rest of the album is a weird experiment in merging those white blazers with a classic rock star mentality and roughness. Sort of strange how it all worked together or didn't. Mink DeVille would never get signed today for so many reasons. I've got nothing else to say on the matter, so I'll suggest having a look at that “Spanish Stroll” video and questioning whether “Mink DeVille” is as hot a band name as “The Cars.” Erm...The End.


Anonymous said...

A "white blazer sort of way"? What's that mean?

China said...

My god, I completely forgot about this post. Hi.

The white blazer comparison refers to the casual but too intentionally cool style of it; personally, I associate white blazers with Miami Vice, Florida/LA circa the '80s, a corporate sort of guy trying to look casual cool. A certain pre-planned suaveness, I suppose. Does it make sense to apply that type of comparison to Mink DeVille? I occasionally have trouble conveying descriptions that don't throw people off!