The new Rolling Stone came yesterday, and by "new" I mean that it's apparently the first one under new managing editor Ed Needham, famously brought in from the land of "lad magazines" to keep the magazine from dying of ossification. In theory, this sounded like a radical but not unwelcome step. I had bought my most recent Rolling Stone subscription primarily because one of those pathetic "I'm working my way through college" dudes came to my door scraping for pennies and I was mildly impressed that he had dragged his ass out to the cornfield-laden country road I live on. Even as I threw the guy a bone I knew I wouldn't actually read much of what was inside the magazine. The magazine didn't much speak to me, anymore. This was bad for Rolling Stone, since as a 33-year-old music critic, you'd think I was a prime demographic. So any change is good — in theory.
In practice, however, I wasn't optimistic. The last time Rolling Stone made a big deal about changing with the times was in the early 90s. I remember that the first cover of that new regime, the one that would show that the editorial brain trust of the magazine was hip to the kids, featured the Spin Doctors, the Archies of stoner jam music. They disappeared under the waves faster than you could say "Edie Brickell." I don't recall the magazine making a big deal about their new editorial direction after that, especially since the kids went in the Nine Inch Nails direction shortly afterwards and never looked back.
Needham's Rolling Stone chooses the Vines to represent its new direction and the new new wave of rock music that also includes the Strokes, the Hives and the White Stripes. I'm enthusiastic about the new new wave, if only because it's about friggin' time all the Korn and Limp Bizkit wannabe miserable bastards are well and truly consigned to the dustbin of musical history, but it's also the case that this cover is about four months too late in terms of hipness and freshness. I chalk it up to being a mission statement, however, and as far as mission statements go, it's a better one than the Spin Doctors were. It establishes that someone at RS is actually trying to figure out where music is going rather than trying to push the music they can understand without pain.