Thursday, May 30, 2002

Is there hope for Rock and Roll? (or at least commercial rock)

I was up at some ungodly hour (before 5am!) this morning because of the unbearable heat that has retaken the city of Chicago. I'm not complaining, we actually got a real spring, and it was cool at moments for which I am thankful for. But now steamy summer weather will be the norm until about late September, and I have yet to put in the AC units in the window.

Unable to return to dreamland I popped the TV on to see if there was anything worth watching. MTV2, which can be mildly entertaining, shares it's broadcast signal with some other cable access/infomercial/international programming station on channel 28. It starts MTV@ 11pm? and ends it at 6am.

I started to ponder how bad "alternative rock" could get. This thought was mainly ignited from watching a video by some band called Default, whose absolutely awful sound is just like that of Creed's, and that's pretty bad, when you sound like a knockoff of a knockoff. Before I could finish my thought the video for The Hives "Hate To Say I Told You So" came on, totally screwing up my train of thought.

We've had the EP from the Hives at the station for a while now, it was the teaser for "Veni Vidi Vicious". I thought it was great and played "Main Offender", as well as "Hate To Say..".

My first thought was that "The lead singer has the same haircut as the frontman for The Strokes, doesn't he", which was quickly interceded by the thought "Is Alternative Rock Radio actually getting better?"

Now mind you "alternative rock radio" still sucks immensely, even if they are playing The Hives or The Strokes. A couple of bands will not change my impression of how bad it is. But even a dead horse will bounce if you launch it off a 20 story building, so it's possible that it is slightly better than it was 3 months ago, mainly because it was so god awful and had nowhere to go but up.

So is this possible, that there are three bands on commercial alternative rock radio getting airplay that are not only tolerable, not only decent, but actually good? I never went gaga over The Strokes the way most of the critics did, or your average hipster still looking for salvation on commercial radio. I will confess however that they are pretty good, and I've caught myself humming a couple of their tunes.

But just a few weeks ago The White Stripes "Fell in Love with a Girl" (the third band) started getting regular airplay on Q101 (lousy alternative rock station in Chicago, their frequency occupies the last spot on my preset in my car). Add that to the other two aforementioned bands, that's gotta be the creme de la crap of what alternative rock radio has to offer.

I feel this might be a fluke, but you never know. Not that I'd spend any more significant time listening to commercial radio, but maybe it is getting better, or they're hiring the right people to judge what is worth putting in the rotation list. Maybe cooler people at record labels are getting more cash to promote the right bands. Maybe someone fucked up and alternative rock will go back to sucking ass again real soon. It's nice to know someone is noticing how bad commercial radio is (NPR, Salon, ABC News and other major news sources have all recently done features on the new payola problem that at least contributes to making commercial radio suck so bad) I don't know if it will make a bit of difference but who knows, weirder things have happened.... all this musical mastabatory talk leads up to -

Record of the Week

Fantomas - The Director's Cut

I hate lists but if I had to make one for best albums of 2001, Fantomas’s The Director’s Cut would be in the Top 3, if not #1. Fantomas are basically a supergroup, members being Mike Patton (Mr Bungle, Faith No More), King Buzzo (The Melvins), Trevor Dunn (Mr Bungle) and Dave Lombardo (ex-Slayer). The name apparently comes from a series of pre WWI French crime thriller novels, where the protagonist, Fantômas, commits really heinous crimes.

All the tunes on the album are covers of movie music, and the whole thing is amazing start to finish. It blows me away to hear metal drum demigod Dave Lombardo play Henry Mancini's "Experiment in Terror" with a gentle touch and feel of a jazz master. The album can be hysterically funny, strangely experimental, utterly gorgeous and down right creepy, sometimes all at the same time. It can be way creepier than anything any black metal band from Northern Europe can ever hope to be. One of the last tracks is amazing, Slayer fans will be satiated to listen to Fantomas blitz thru a cover of "The Omen (Ave Satan)". You must hear this album.

Point three coming tomorrow, stay tuned.....


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