A year after his death, we celebrate the man and his words.
It’s the winter of ’08 and heat-seeking music scribe Steven Wells is thrilled to learn that a band he loves (in theory) is coming to Philly. They’re called the Muslims, and he loves their name. His glee is short-lived, however, as he learns they’ll be changing their name to the much less shit-stirring “the Soft Pack.”
“The Soft Pack? Why not just call your band ‘Beige.’ Jesus Christ, how FUCKING BORING,” Steven yells to no one in particular.
An opportunity to interview the Soft Pack arises. Steven hops on it. His first question: “WHY THE FUCK DID YOU CHANGE YOUR NAME???” The man on the other end of the line, presumably, begins an explanation Steven finds unsatisfactory, something about how, in a post-9/11 climate, the band name took away focus from the music they were making.
“Who cares about your music?” Steven asks, befuddled.
The young man is aghast. “Have you ever even heard any of our songs?” he asks, incredulously.
“No,” Steven replies bluntly, before ramping up his own incredulity. “Have you ever read any of my articles??”
From anyone else, the question might have been absurd. But Steven Wells was a force of nature: a blustery fire-brand who pinged around our office with boundless energy. He was opinionated. Fearless. Combative. Prolific. Unyielding.
Last year, on June 24, the ground shook underneath PW when we lost our friend and colleague to cancer. We still think about him often, and not just because awards for the last few stories he penned for us keep pouring in.
He was a giant. Here, we’ve collected some bits he wrote for us and other outlets. Before you start feeling too sad about the people on the other side of Steven’s rifle scope, remember the words of one of Steven’s favorite targets, Gareth Campesinos, of Los Campesinos!: “There have been a few things that have stood out above others in Los Campesinos! short history that have made me think ‘shit, we’re really doing this,’ and one of them was the first time I read Steven Wells ranting against us. That we were on his radar, and that he deemed us worthy of his bile, was an honor.”
On Los Campesinos!
“Twee is a frequently reoccurring herpes virus under the foreskin of the popcock and Los Campesinos are the weeping sore. I myself will be breaking into the homes of all eight members while they are away on tour and urinating in their empty beds.”
On rock stars living longer
“The Police, Genesis and Yes reunions were all made possible by airbags, seatbelts, Viagra and rehab. Death has been robbed of an entire generation of rockers who’ve refused to do the decent thing and die while they’re still vaguely attractive. With catastrophic results for the wider culture. Like Paul McCartney’s last album.”
On Belle & Sebastian
“No-talents celebrating their own inadequacy with music so white it’s translucent.”
“You’re much better off with Slade, who were basically Zep with decent tunes and cool gear. Or AC/DC, who were Zep without the dreadful sludgy bits. And a bonus crazy schoolboy.”
“I write this in the middle of a sensory storm of alternating devilish pain and angelic fluffy euphoria. On my left shoulder sits the mother of all urinary tract infections. On the right is an awesome and probably illegal cocktail of all the painkillers I’ve got lying around. Now you might expect the cosy, warm, super-nice drugs to be whispering, ‘Oh Coldplay are alright really.’ And you might expect the urinary tract infection to be screaming die die die! atop hordes of Coldplay fans being crushed under a huge, pink, lank-barreled I HATE COLDPLAY tank driven by my aching uretha. But you’d be wrong. Both drugs and cock are agreed that Coldplay are the arthritic and rickets-rotted knees of the world’s shittest bee. Me? I say a pox on both their houses. For while it’s true that Coldplay are an abomination, stating this in print is like dropping atom bombs into a bucket of already dead fish.”
Search PW's archives for "Steven Wells" and you'll turn up nearly 400 articles, videos and other items bearing his name -- a few about him, most by him, for he was stunningly prolific. He taunted rightwingers and indie rockers -- sometimes in the same breath -- with his online column "In Extremis." But he was also a keen reporter and commenter -- often outrageously so -- on the odder corners of Philadelphia's many subcultures. A few selections, then, from his greatest hits.
PW's Music Issue 2014