They say rock ‘n’ roll is dead, but maybe—just maybe—it has come back to greet us one last time in the form of J.J. Kramer and Scott Crawford’s rockumentary, ‘Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll Magazine.’
Defending the current state of music, especially that of rock in the 21st century is decidedly a music journalism/millennial cliché. Even when something “new” comes along, we’ve probably seen it in some shape or form before. There are a lot of shimmering mirages these days: Drummer extraordinaire Anderson.Paak is one groove away from being a total Marvin-Gaye ripoff, and Weyes Blood croons like Joni Mitchell if she had access to Ableton. But I guess things haven’t changed much since Elvis, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles all ripped off Chuck Berry the way Chuck Berry’s record labels ripped off Chuck Berry (though he was kind of a dick!).
While the evolution of music has slowed, some aspects of music journalism are improving. The industry has certainly become more inclusive, only a good thing!—but the critic, once a trendsetter, is looking more like a dying wildebeest on the internet savannah. Have some harsh words about a Taylor Swift album? Prepare for a relentless onslaught of death threats in your DMs! Give a Taylor Swift album a high score? Prepare for more death threats and maybe a spattering of vicious ad hominem attacks. Writing a bad review is now an existential liability, but maybe the way to combat the stans is to—with the same detachment they show when barely reading our writing—is to not give a fuck as well.
And if you need a quick lesson in aloofness, then maybe you need to watch ‘Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll Magazine,’ a compelling portrait of a problematic band of writers that we can glean many lessons from in regard to what to do—and not to do—as a writer and human being. I had the pleasure of speaking with producer J.J. Kramer, the son of the magazine’s late publisher Barry Kramer, and director Scott Crawford about the deeply fulfilling, yet mind-numbing process of filmmaking, some funny stories that happened on set, and why this documentary speaks volumes about what is happening today politically and socially.