I know Philip Matthews of the Christchurch Press is a capable journalist because I’ve read some good stories by him. So why does he write silly, admiring pieces about rock musicians’ drug habits?
In his latest effort, about a documentary film on the New Zealand band Head Like A Hole, Matthews seems enthralled by the fact that two of the band members were heroin users.
It’s not the first time Matthews has displayed this vicarious fascination with drug use. He did it several years ago in a review of the book Gutter Black, in which he wrote with undisguised awe about the role drugs played in the Auckland band Hello Sailor.
We know drugs are part of rock culture. We also know about the huge damage they’ve done and the talented lives that have been prematurely curtailed or derailed by them. Matthews himself writes that drugs were a “soul destroying” factor in the breakup of Head Like A Hole and left casualties, as they invariably do.
Acknowledging that drugs were part of the band's story is one thing. Being thrilled by the destructive junkie lifestyle, as Matthews seems to be, is quite another. Whether intentionally or not, it has the effect of romanticising and glamorising something that's neither romantic nor glamorous. Isn't it time he grew out of this adolescent phase?