Editorial Rant: Oh Yeah, It's Time Magazine

Sleater-Kinney make a loud noise, but Christopher John Farley can't hear it.

I

was killing time in line at the grocery store last night when I picked up a

copy of Time magazine and discovered a short article about

Sleater-Kinney by someone named Christopher John Farley, who apparently became

Time's rock writer some time after I last took a look at the news

weekly.

I've never met Mr. Farley, but he seems to fit the Time

magazine tradition of journalists who don't get it. Reading the Sleater-Kinney

story, I was reminded of the part of the Bob Dylan documentary, Don't Look

Back, where, in 1965, in England, Dylan is interviewed by a Time

magazine reporter. "If I want to find out anything, I'm not gonna read

Time magazine," Dylan sneers. "I'm not gonna readNewsweek. I'm

not gonna read any of these magazines, I mean, 'cause they just got too much to

lose by printing the truth, you know that."

In his Sleater-Kinney story,

Farley immediately establishes that he's writing about girls who can't really

play their instruments too well by telling us in the opening sentence that the

"most exciting thing about the rock trio Sleater-Kinney is that it sounds as if

its members are still learning how to be a rock band..." Which makes me wonder

what, exactly, a band that has learned "how to be a rock band" is supposed to

sound like? Aerosmith? Pink Floyd? Journey? Hootie?

Anyway, after

establishing that this band--a band that most readers of Time magazine

have probably never heard of--are still taking rock band classes, he dismisses

the Riot Grrrl movement (the "roots" of Sleater-Kinney) as "the general media

hype about feminist rockers," even as he writes off Sleater Kinney's two

previous albums as "slight, tinny affairs that got by mostly on motion and

emotion." Please tell that to Greil Marcus, who praised Call The Doctor

as one of '96's best, or the hundreds of Village Voice rock critic

voters who put it the #3 album of last year position. (Of course that info

isn't in Farley's article, otherwise it might have been harder for him to get

away with dismissing Call The Doctor as "slight" and "tinny.")

Next,

it's time for a bit of back-handed praise of the group's brilliant third album,

Dig Me Out (after all, by this time if I were a reader of Time

magazine who had never heard of Sleater-Kinney, I'd be wondering why this

Farley guy was wasting my time telling me about a band that, in his opinion,

hadn't quite learned how to play their instruments yet, and which made albums

that, again in his opinion, weren't very good), telling us that it's "an

improvement," but hastening to add that there are still lots of "lackluster

songs."

Farley does give the band credit for, on some songs, unleashing

"its formidable energy" and he likes the album's title track. Of course he

wants his readers to know that some Time magazine readers may--oh my

god!!--find the group's sound irritating. "[Singer/guitarist/writer Corin]

Tucker's wailing vibrato will annoy some listeners...," he writes.

And it

was at this point in the article, that I remembered that I was reading

Time magazine. I mean, rock 'n' roll that might annoy somebody?

As compared to rock 'n' roll that can serve as background music in a dentist's

office?

Rock 'n' roll is supposed to annoy some of the people who

read Time magazine. Rock 'n' roll is supposed to be loud and noisy and

in-your-face. Turn it up loud and it better annoy somebody. Sounds to me like

it annoys Christopher John Farley. Perhaps he'd be better off writing about

James Taylor (oh but Time magazine has another writer, a Sam Allis, who

a page earlier writes at length about James Taylor. Allis, like Farley, doesn't

really like his subject either..).

But this Farley guy clearly doesn't know

a whole lot about rock 'n' roll. he every listen to Little Richard, say, or the

Ramones. He picks at Sleater-Kinney's songs, complaining that "It's too bad the

band's laudably gritty feminist outlook isn't more creatively realized...Many

of the songs on Dig Me Out feature lyrics that are either too abstract

to have much impact or too obvious to have much poetic resonance."

Impact

on who? Morons who drool over the Spice Girls? Peter Cetera fans?

Farley

doesn't care for a Sleater-Kinney stand-out called "Heart Factory" because he

thinks the concept--it's "about--duh--a factory that makes hearts..."--is "a

yawner." He certainly should be applauded using two-thirds of a page to slash

away at a gutsy little band on a microscopic indie label (Kill Rock Stars),

when he could be using the space to tell us how brilliant and original and

"creatively realized" corporate slop like Celine Dion's "All By Myself" and

Toni Braxton's "Un-Break My Heart" is.

So if Farley thinks so little of

Sleater-Kinney, why has he written about them in Time magazine? Could it

be that the noise other writers (writers who don't work for Time

magazine) have been making about the band has been so loud that he just can't

ignore them? Is it that in order to try and appear "with it," he figures he

better write about a band that practically every other rock critic in the

country loves?

To conclude his article, Farley writes about a couple of

songs on the album that he likes. "These songs work on a primal rock - 'n' -

roll level: as you listen, you find yourself turning the volume higher and

higher."

Forget it Farley, the volume on your stereo stops at about

"3."