IN AN ANNOUNCEMENT that may have more to say about the atrophying music scene in the Pacific Northwest than the business of magazine publishing, The Rocket has said it is folding. Although the Seattle-based music magazine has not officially closed its doors, insiders believe this is the end of a 20-year ride.

"I have my future mapped out," quipped John Chandler, the editor of the Portland edition of The Rocket. "I'll be selling oranges down by the river."

Over the past several months, The Rocket has been struggling to woo a new owner. Hopes were buoyed early this summer after Willamette Week offered to purchase the paper in an effort to court younger readers. But The Rocket was left standing at the altar whenWW backed out of the deal.

Only two weeks ago, David Roberts, publisher of Chicago-based Illinois Entertainer, purchased The Rocket. The purchase seemed to breathe new life into the publication, but any promise for continued publication collapsed after further assessments of bills, costs, and current distribution.

Not at all coincidentally, The Rocket hit its peak about the same time Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and grunge music were cresting. During that time, the magazine forged what will probably be its most notable legacy--its bold layouts and graphics. During its heyday, The Rocket was a showcase for the gritty aesthetic of its former art director, Art Chantry. The photocopied, low-rent style established in its pages had a strong influence on the so-called "Seattle Style" school of poster art and album covers. Former Rocket editor Bob Neuman went on to infuse the same style in the Village Voice and, more recently, Details.

In October 1993, during the waning months of grunge's popularity, The Rocket attempted to step up its presence in the Pacific Northwest, moving from a monthly publication into its most recent biweekly schedule and ultimately expanding into Portland. Two years later, the magazine was purchased by Bay Area Music (BAM).

Mirroring the waning music scene in Seattle over the past several years, The Rocket steadily declined in readership and advertising revenue. Although the Portland branch of The Rocket was holding steady, current editor Chandler lamented that the magazine's lifeblood, live music, has slowed over the past few years.

"It's not a real good time for music," said Chandler, pointing out that longtime punk venue EJ's is closing and that popular venues like Satyricon are turning to DJ formats.