Taking stock in the relaunch of ‘America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine’
Like thousands of other music fans, I am awaiting the very first issue of the newly relaunched CREEM Magazine in my mailbox this September.
However, as both an avid reader of music magazines for 35 years and the editor of a competing publication, I’m not without my fair share of skepticism about how CREEM is going about its business under this new regime.
The good news is how the ownership of the mag was passed down from one generation to the next, as original publisher Barry Kramer’s son JJ Kramer currently runs the show. Longtime editor Jaan Uhelszki, who has been working as an editor-at-large for RELIX these last 20-odd years, is back in the mix as well. And don’t forget the beloved mascot Boy Howdy has come around again, too. So, all cool right?
Well, yea. That is, of course, if the new content I’ve been reading on their fancy new website didn’t feel so Vice-y. Naturally, when you take into consideration a number of key staffers are from Vice—namely editorial director Fred Pessaro, who comes from the defunct music site Noisey and former Vice publisher John Martin as CEO—there’s gonna be some bleed through. But based on what this team has been posting under the “Fresh CREEM” banner on their website, the content feels like Vice in full Lester Bangs cosplay.
Take, for instance, the recent album review section that they ran a couple weeks ago…it was literally a revamp of the old Vice Magazine records section, where the critic would just freestyle random thoughts instead of actually reviewing the title they were assigned to cover.
Then there’s Mr. Pessaro’s interview with failed presidential assassin John Hinckley Jr., the headline of which declares that “John Hinckley Jr. Wants Another Shot.” In the words of Joe Biden, “Come on, man!”
As one commenter so eloquently put it on CREEM’s Facebook page: “If this is the journalism you’ll offer, interviewing would-be assassins, what’s next? Serial killers who do good riffs???? Disgusting and no thanks. Unfollowing.”
I don’t blame him.
This new version of CREEM has also alienated music publicists—the very people who magazines and websites such as ours depend on to facilitate interviews with your favorite artists. I mean, there are definitely certain PR folks who are just garbage human beings, but the majority of these individuals are among the most ardent and dedicated essential workers who are so key in keeping the music industrial complex choogling along. To just talk shit about how you hate publicists in your ad campaign is a questionable look at best. Hey man, the only reason I’m even covering this is because of my deep respect for CREEM’s publicist. How’s that for a snafu?
Then there’s the ageism. What is the line? Oh yeah, something about this not being your old hesher uncle’s CREEM. No, it’s actually more like your annoying millennial cousin who worked at Vice in the early 00s. I won’t even get into the way this new regime is treating some of the very scribes who made CREEM what it was in the 70s, 80s and, yes, part of the 90s as well even though they erased that period from existence.
But lo, I remain hopeful that at least the print edition, despite a subscription costing $80, will deliver upon the hope that these new stewards of what was once “America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine” will somehow redeem themselves by din of CREEM’s archives. I can only hope whoever is working in the art department over there will do right by the legacy of this classic publication.
At press time, I remain cautious but eager to see what comes through the mail this fall. Looking forward to reading about Slash’s car, actually.
VIDEO: Boy Howdy! Rides Again