This is one of the flagship music/movies/culture rags out there. Despite some rather depressing lows hit in recent years, RS has begun to pick up steam again thanks to a concerted effort to chronicle every single mistake the Bush administration makes in detail in its political coverage led by reporter Matt Taibbi. In the midst of that, they’ve also improved their pop articles and spiffed up the layout a bit. The fact that they’re not monthly allows them to get stuff into print faster than other music/movie mags too.

This issue’s strong points:

  • Screw talking about the actual movie. Let’s just get Johnny Depp and Keith Richards together and just transcribe the loveliness. A simple, brilliant, and fun read.  
  • Great article on the GOP field for 2008. It stresses the undeniable truth that this party’s identity crisis – wherein traditional conservatives sold out to the Religious Right for power and now want their soul back – is going to be resolved sooner rather than later. I think a few years in the wilderness will do the Republicans some good. When they get their groove back, perhaps they could show the Democrats what it means to be an opposition party.
  • Good Arcade Fire article, though I think it’s mostly preaching to the converted at this point. I’m not sure if it’s their indie status or unwillingness to strike Christ poses and wear shades all of the time, but this is a band that should be playing stadiums, and not just at festivals, either.

This issue’s weak points:

  • Reviews, as always in RS, are perfunctory. If I want to know what the RS staff thinks about this month’s releases, I just have to read any other music mag out there as RS is identical. This needs a shake-up pretty badly.

Overall, a pretty good issue, but one that you’ll breeze through after the cover story.

Overall: 7.5 out of 10

2. WEEKLY #935

Sure, their film reviews are hated by geeks. Yes, they follow trends incessantly. And yes, music coverage is generally an afterthought. But it’s surely the most fun weekly read out there, and they have television on lock. Plus, they’ll surprise you every now and then with a great piece on overlooked entertainment industry plebs like personal assistants and bodyguards. When it’s on, it’s an incredible value. When it’s not…wait a week.

This issue’s strong points:

  • The music coverage here kicks the ass of most American music monthly rags out right now. You get a lengthy White Stripes article, a surprisingly frank Q&A with Kelly Clarkson where she doesn’t dance around the fact that her label hates her new record, and an Amy Winehouse feature, which she totally deserves. Meanwhile, Spin and Blender are featuring festivals and Avril Lavigne for their cover stories right now. There’s no contest.
  • Nice upfront feature keeping people updated on the onslaught of returning franchises and where they’re at with casting and development. Sure, we Chewers know this stuff already because we read the front page of this site, but for the mainstream folks, it’s nice to have a mag that echoes that.
  • Again, the reviews are solid from top to bottom.  

This issue’s weak points:

  • Not a one, really.

All-in-all, a great issue and a sad reminder that US music coverage is so weak these days that a pop culture general mag like this can outshine dedicated music mags with little to no effort. I think it’ll only get worse, tho, as the Internet slowly but surely kills off all but the mightiest and resourceful entertainment magazines out there.

Overall: 9.0 out of 10