Those of us who call music criticism a profession are used to the idiosyncrasies of the practice. It’s a weird one, and it’s a fun one, but it’s also really easy to poke fun at. Why? Because overall, this is an industry that is extremely self-serious, while also being borderline unnecessary, and it’s affiliated with a lot of weird, sometimes nitpicky things, like obsessing over genre, doing lots of drugs, and adhering earnestly to a lifestyle that isn’t at all practical. Enter the perfect person to critique us: A humor writer and a illustrator!
No, but seriously, Hallie Bateman has constructed a brilliant parody of a music magazine called Stumbling Stone, and it’s a necessary read for all the music industry-related people in your life. I don’t think I need to explain the fairly direct Rolling Stone reference as far as the magazine’s title goes, but I will point out a few other choice gems in the gorgeous little 20-page book and give some background.
Consider the glory of pages 5 & 6, which simultaneously skewer the long-heralded iconic music festival Woodstock, and the very conceit of music festivals themselves via dad humor.
Bateman, who is Brooklyn-based, and frequently contributes to prestigious outlets like the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, and the Awl, said she decided to create the magazine this October when she was home in California, sitting at the kitchen table with her brother while he was doing his homework.
“Many of the stories came out of little jokes made with my brother and my mom,” she says. “Then I came back to Brooklyn and drew it into the zine. The idea literally started when my brother said, ‘Pneumonia. That’s kind of a nice name.’ I drew the cover immediately and filled out some fake headlines, just because I thought it was funny. Then I decided to make it a real thing. I’m not sure if I’ll make more. Part of me wants to do more parody magazines— my own version of Sports Illustrated, or Cosmopolitan, in a similar style. But I do love writing, thinking, and joking about music. I’m most happy about just getting to work on something with my family and especially my brother, Nick. He’s the funniest person I know!”
“Pneumonia Sweeps The Nation.” Bateman’s play on the absurdity that’s leaked into modern band names–and truthfully existed all along–is made even better by the accompanying drawing of a woman belting her heart out while wearing a dress covered in a skulls and nuclear waste hazard symbols. Even the subtle conflation of those “dangerous” symbols with a female rockstar… it’s just too close to reality to not be hilarious.
The magazines are for sale here for the generous price of $6, and here is the index for a sneak peak of what else it contains:
Since Christmas is a couple days away, this could be a great last-minute gift. Or, you could just buy one because you love humor and supporting local artists, and it’s a truly beautiful little zine. I think Rolling Stone should post about it, and sink us all into the music writing ouroboros we truly deserve.