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Style Counciling

Phoenix New Times, October 01, 1990

How to get musically postmodern without really trying

Double truck, no jumps

You say you don't know Love and Rockets from Loggins and Messina? Can't tell the Sugarcubes from Supertramp? Well, maybe in the early Eighties you could get away with feeling inadequate where alternative music was concerned. After all, back then, bands like R.E.M. and the Cure were little artsy so-and-so's you could spit on from the front row.

Now you have to pay twenty bucks to sit in an arena behind some Bic- flicking buckethead just to get a glimpse at them. Yes, beyond-hip sounds aren't elitist anymore. Even in Phoenix, it's a mere dial switch away on KUKQ-AM--any geek can blast the Pixies from his lime-green Pinto.

So now's the time to brush up on the finer points of musical postmodernism. And this handy alternative-music guide is just what you've been looking for. Chock full o' cutting-edge rock info, the manual is sure to increase your H.Q. (that's hipness quotient to you, man).

ALTERNATIVE ATTIRE Paint It Black: The right outfit can often separate the authentic clove- smoking mopester from just your run- of-the-mill manic-depressive. This means layer upon layer of black, from trench coat (on summer days it lends a particularly poignant look of suffering) to boxer shorts. And don't forget the accessories: a pasty complexion, a sticky-up Robert Smith hair style and a perpetually sullen stare. (Black mood ring optional.)

Combat Schlock: Looking like a cross between government-issue combat boots and Herman Munster wedgies, Doc Martens are the last word in skinhead chic. No self- respecting skinhead punk should be without a pair of Docs, which have become the favored footwear of the Aryan Brotherhood. Available in a variety of styles, you might opt for the snazzy steel-toed numbers on those evenings when you really want to make an impression in the slam-dance pit. Buffed to a spit-polish shine, nothing sets off a blond crew cut or swastika tattoo quite like 'em.

Dread Heads: There was a period there in the early Seventies when otherwise normal, well-adjusted, white Americans were stricken with extreme cases of Afro envy. Suddenly you had pasty-faced Sly Stone wanna-bes struttin' down the street in foot-tall 'fros and tangerine pimp suits. Well, the nightmare's back in Nineties style with fake dreads that must have Bob Marley skanking in his grave. Of course, these salon-perfect hair extensions aren't fooling anyone. Still, multitudes of hair hoppers are attempting to achieve the instant- Rasta look with natural-looking fashion dreads, nappy cigar dreads and--sin of sins--Day-Glo dreads. Please forgive them, Bob, they know not what they do.


In an exhaustive quest to get the inside scoop on alternative music, New Times has enlisted the help of singer Robin Wilson and guitarist Doug Hopkins of the Valley's very own soon-to-be-big-time band, the Gin Blossoms. We've polled the thoroughly postmodern Blossom boys on their peeves and faves, regarding everything from hobbies to hair styles. After all, if these guys don't know what hip is all about, who does?

New Times: How can you tell an alternative type from a metalhead?
Robin Wilson: Whether or not they play Nintendo.
Doug Hopkins: If you're an alternative rocker, you live east of 32nd Street. And if you're a metalhead, you live over by Rockers.

NT: What kind of stuff should an alternative rocker wear?
DH: The tee shirt. Jesus Christ, the tee shirt is all-important. It should be something like an Otter Pops tee shirt.

RW: Well, for me, the key is colored socks. A little bit of color coming out at the ankles seems to do wonders.

NT: How important are hair spray and black clothing in the life of an alternative rocker?

DH: Okay, there's, like, subgenres of alternative rockers. For what we do, which is the Dirt Bag School, hair spray is out and black clothes are out, too. I walked around looking like a mortician for four years. That shit's history.

NT: What bands should an alternative type listen to?
DH: The Blossoms.
RW: I think they should listen to the Shaggs. That would be the first thing that I would recommend. "My Pal Foot Foot" and "It's Halloween" and all their immortal hits. I think they add to any potential songwriting ability. Lately I've also been trying to listen to stuff like the Bay City Rollers, Mrs. Miller, and Mantovani Does Great Film Scores.

NT: What bands should an alternative type avoid?
RW: Icon. Also there's this band out there called Nitro. This guy has a guitar with four necks on it like an X; necks going in four directions. And they've got the biggest hair styles of any band I've ever seen and names like C.C. Rocker.

DH: The worst possible thing you could ever go to see is A Flock of Seagulls. They keep showing up at Anderson's Fifth Estate, like, once every four months. That would be the most unhip place you could possibly be is A Flock of Seagulls gig at Anderson's fuckin' Fifth Estate in Scottsdale, for Christ's sake.

NT: What does an alternative rocker do in his spare time? Any hobbies?
RW: They should draw little stoner pictures and write stoner poetry.
DH: Here's what you do when you're in a nostalgic mood. You put on a Sex Pistols record and turn it way the hell up. And then you turn on Oral Roberts or Jimmy Swaggart and turn the sound off. Sometimes the two sync up and it sounds like Jimmy Swaggart is singing "It's an ABOOOOORTION!" It's fuckin' great.

VIDEO GUIDE TO HAIR TOSSING If there's one faux pas many alternative types make, it's strangling those endless tresses o' hair in a ponytail. Be proud of your lengthy locks. Remove that rubber band now and find out how long hair can work for you from the two masters who've made the 'do flip an indispensible part of rock 'n' roll:

Ian Astbury of the Cult: There's an ugly rumor going around that Astbury suffers from male pattern baldness and has resorted to borrowing wigs from Cher that she wore during her half-breed phase. Don't believe it. The truth is Ian has hair, and he knows how to toss it. The Cult's video library serves as a simple how-to guide for the novice tosser. Many consider the flail of his mane during the "Fire Woman" video to be his finest moment, but for the quintessential Astbury hair toss, you're going to have to go all the way back to the Cult's clip for "Love Removal Machine." Swaggering across the stage in leather hip-huggers, Astbury flings back several sweaty, blue-black locks in a gesture graceful enough for a shampoo commercial. Can the Breck contract be far behind?

Bono of U2: This singer and Irish supergroup made their mark in the Eighties by taking personally every one of the world's problems and doing a benefit concert to help combat each. But what really made them cry were critics who griped that they were just too darned serious. So, as a protest, U2 made the funniest rock-comedy ever, a film called Rattle and Hum. And one of the more hysterical running gags in the movie is Bono repeatedly snapping his neck back to send an exceedingly lengthy coiffure out from in front of his face and back out of his way. Does he look a little affected? You bet he does. But keep in mind that Bono has a keen eye for satire. You see, by employing the technique so often, he's just poking fun at Astbury and all the other hippie- flippers on the rock block.

EXCLUSIVE MOPE-ROCK RATINGS A clip 'n' save guide for any alternative music fan who thinks it's all right to cry.

(5 frowners) = Suicide City, dude.
(4 frowners) = Sad City, dude.
(3 frowners) = Self-Pity City, dude.
(2 frowners) = Sniffle City, dude.
(1 frowner) = Sentimental City, dude.

(4 frowners) The Cure: One fan in San Francisco was so moved by the Cure's passionately pessimistic music that he jumped on stage in the middle of a gig and stabbed himself several times in the chest. Could a mope band be paid a higher compliment?

(2 frowners) Depeche Mode: The Moders win points for ultragloomy discs like Black Celebration. And don't forget songwriter Martin Gore's penchant for bondage gear.

(1 frowner) Jesus and Mary Chain: Lots of foreboding feedback on their records, but the J is penalized for being closet Beach Boys fans.

(5 frowners) Joy Division/New Order: Singer Ian Curtis all but ensured the Division's status as mope band nonpareil by hanging himself hours before his band's first American tour. As New Order, the remaining members plummeted from those dizzying heights of despair when they almost turned "Blue Monday" into a jingle for Sunkist orange juice.

(3 frowners) The Smiths: Hands-down winner of mopiest song title of all time: "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now."


Fast-track socialite and Andy Warhol-groupie Edie Sedgwick has become the muse of choice for many an alternative rocker lately. Dramarama plastered her on an album cover. The Cult and Edie Brickell and New Bohemians both have recorded odes to the dearly departed deb. You can even catch a glimpse of Sedgwick during the opening montage of MTV's ever-cutting-edge video show, 120 Minutes.

Considering this outbreak of Edie- mania, alternative types everywhere need to bone up on the life and times of "Little Miss S." The following quiz provides a crash course in Edie-ology for any neophytes out there, while also testing the knowledge of even the most ardent Edie experts.

1) Everybody knows Bob Dylan penned the compassionate "Just Like a Woman" in tribute to Sedgwick, but what other Dylan tune was inspired by Edie?

a. "Motorpsycho Nitemare"
b. "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat"
c. "Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands"
d. "Lay Lady Lay"

2) Edie once served as on-stage go-go girl for which Sixties rock sensation?

a. Rolling Stones
b. Velvet Underground
c. Ultimate Spinach
d. Archies

3) Just twelve years after Edie torched her room at New York's legendary Chelsea Hotel, what famous rock couple took a match to theirs?

a. Tiny Tim and Miss Vickie
b. Patti Smith and Fred Sonic Smith
c. Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungeon
d. Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli

4) Edie was famous for:
a. her modeling.
b. her acting.
c. like Zsa Zsa, just being famous.
d. a lot longer than those fifteen minutes her pal Andy was always talking about.
e. both c and d.

5) In rock-star fashion, Edie died of:
a. make-up poisoning.
b. asphyxiation, choking on a ham sandwich.
c. a drug overdose.
d. bullet wounds from being gunned down by a psychotic admirer.


1) b
2) b
3) c
4) e
5) c

HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE HIPSTERS Want to impress your friends with your knowledge of alternative music? When talking up the new releases, don't drop names like Hoodoo Gurus, Squeeze or any other band that comes straight from Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart. That's too easy. If you want to come off like a true cutting-edge connoisseur, then you've gotta rattle off some of the really weird shit.

But maybe you're not up on the beyond-alternative music scene. No problem. Just recite the following spiel the next time you're cornered by some smug hipster and you'll more than be able to hold your own: "Have you checked out Alice Donut's killer debut album, Bucketsfull of Sickness and Horror? It's almost as cool as the new single by Bongwater, `You Don't Love Me Yet.' Speaking of singles, you've got to get `Stainless Steel Providers' by the Revolting Cocks. It's their best record since You Goddamned Son of a Bitch!