We don't have a new Bangs or Thompson yet because pop culture today is primarily a technology story. And we don't know how to write about technology.
I couldn't agree more, but I'd like to throw in my two cents about the topic.
I've never read Hunter S. Thompson and have only read snippets of Lester Bangs' work. I read the Bangs biography, Let It Blurt, by Jim DeRogatis and found the story of Bangs to be rather interesting. However, at several points in the book, I was asking myself "What the hell is going on here?" with a lot of Bangs' writings and interviews (especially the ones with Lou Reed). I felt like I was missing something or not in the loop of an inside joke. Plus, I would not be satisfied with a fan saying, "You either get it or you don't. No explanation needed." With reviews and interviews that sounded more like tangents than conversations, I was just clueless as to what was trying to be expressed.
Of course hard drug use is still around, but it's rare to find its influence on writing these days. You're more likely to read something that's fueled by Red Bull or Starbucks than pot. For us that grew up in the '80s, maybe the "Just Say No!" campaign really did work. Or maybe we find computers, iPods and the disposable nature of pop culture way more stimulating. For me, I've never been drawn to smoking, drug-taking or excessive drinking. They've never been something I've wanted to do and have never seen any long-term positive effects with doing them.
I like talking about my iPod shuffles from time to time, but I don't care about reposting the latest Snakes on a Plane trailer. Stuff like that and the stuff I see posted on Defamer is amusing, but that's not the stuff I live for. I like reading stuff like Dahlen's Pitchfork article and many of Chuck Klosterman's articles. That kind of stuff is well-written and clear -- not some drug-induced puzzle.
We live in this culture that likes to talk about the quickly disposable with a strong sense of the now, now, NOW!!! Forget yesterday and who the hell knows about tomorrow. The way so many people talk and write about this whipped cream of life is that it is stable, when they know it is not. That episode of such-and-such show is not really "the best episode ever" and that new movie is not really "the worst movie ever." Have we had our minds hacked and re-programmed? I doubt it, but since technology is such a major part of our lives, what else do people want to talk about? Plenty, but for so many people talking about this technological stuff, it is the beginnings and ends, not just the beginnings.