Style Counseling

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.

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