Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Rock Radio Part II: Why the commercial rock product, it’s creators, and its consumers suck

There are a host of reasons why the Music on Clear Channel’s the Buzz sucks ass but I can generally point at some particular problems – a lack of history, Blackness, and ingenuity.

To begin Rock radio is so racially segregated that it doesn’t even know it’s own history. This is music made by people for people who think that the prime mover, the big bang of all music, was Kurt Cobain. Nothing happened before and certainly nothing Black ever occurred in rock music.

When I learned guitar, I worshipped Willie Dixon and Chuck Berry. Chicago Blues, for example, rolled out some of the greatest riffs ever and I sure as hell couldn’t ignore it even decades removed from the original recordings. Sure Led Zeppelin was stealing riffs from Dixon. Sure ZZ Top throws a knowing wink to John Lee Hooker. 70s Rockers may have had a lot of sins but at least they knew their history and openly acknowledged it enough to inspire their listeners to seek out the originals. Yet on The Buzz you have bands all seem to want to ignore anything Black. Listening to this station you’d think that Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Hazel and Sonny Sharrock never existed. How Rock became so white that James Hatfield was once quoted in Rolling Stone as saying something like “Black people can’t play metal” and nobody called him on it, I don’t know. The result is a music so disconnected from its history and so segregated that it has become the equivalent of a 10th generation copy made from a copy of a copy of a copy that was...well you get the idea.

But take away the history and there could at least be some innovation if only by dumb luck. Unfortunately Rock on commercial radio is a manufactured product with stock features – innovation is frowned upon. Do you think something that really is interesting is going to make it onto the radio? Hell no! The reason is that the radio stations are banking on lazy listeners who will stop if something sounds familiar. That’s why all these bands sound alike. The fit in the peg – play ‘em.

And the market for the Buzz is pretty clear. This is music made for white male teens in suburbs. Here is Rock that’s safe for consumption with a prepackaged rebellion that ends at “buy our product”. You want rebellion? Here is a guy with a loud guitar and tattoos. Woo! I can feel “The Man” shaking in his boots. It’s the same packaged rebellion that the Minutemen mocked when they first heard Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55”. What’s sad is that I play my 3 year old son a Pete Seeger children’s record and, in all honesty, it is much more rebellious, subversive and challenging than anything put out by these boy bands masquerading as rebellious rockers. Consider John Lennon’s “Imagine” or Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”. Those albums still hold up because their rebellion is based on ideas. On the Buzz, volume and attitude are confused for rebellion. Why? The music simply doesn’t have anything to say.

The problem for these bands is that Rock, like any art form, is something that is communicative. It must communicate not only with it’s own time but with the past and future. It must communicate not only with it’s own musical genre but with other musical genres. It must communicate not only with its place in the realm of art but in the realm of day-to-day life and the history that surrounds it. By pigeonholing Rock as this very particular thing to be consumed by a particular audience it becomes no longer art but simply a commodity - a commodity to be consumed, enjoyed, and then shit down the toilet and forgotten.

Me, I’m keeping it left of the dial where they still play music.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Rock Radio Part I: If you listen to The Buzz, I hate you!

Surviving a day of listening to Clear Channel Radio’s “Rock Alternative” is quite an experience. You begin by being annoyed and bitchy, then progress to outrage, and finally, once they hit you with Nickelback and you know that you’ve endured the worst they can throw at you, you arrive at a horrible state of insufferable boredom. But I believe at the end I have achieved immunity to this product and secondly have a theory as to why this product sucks outside of the issue of corporate radio itself sucking eggs.

The day began with some band Trapt; a band so plasticine that the most I was able to muster in my notes was to describe them as “Typical White Guy Rock” followed by “Sad that Nirvana and grunge led here”. This was the equivalent of a plain unsalted cracker. Here, I admit, this seemed an easy task no worse than listening to music on an elevator. But things turned ugly very quickly.

From my false sense of security I was then suddenly hit with the announcer. Yeah, that’s right, the announcer! Corporate Commercial Radio doesn’t have DJs! It’s sad but true. A DJ is someone with a love of music who shares their expertise, knowledge, and taste with the listener. From the second the monster-truck-announcer voice tore through my speakers, it was pretty clear what I was in for. Instead of DJs, they have people whose job it is to talk. They plug local events, they plug marketing promotions, get you your traffic, and they yammer about Jada Pinkett Smith. Pretty stunning until they follow this up with what was easily 20 minutes of commercials. People listen to this? I kept wondering where the music was on this station. On my notes I scrawled 5 minutes. Scratch that – 10 minutes. Nope! Scratch that! 15 minutes! Finally, I gave up after 20 minutes of keeping score.

Now, mind you, I had the station’s website running on Firefox for my reference. It was at this time, that I noticed they had a section called Babewatch. I shit you not! I mean what the fuck kind of lame stuff is this? It’s not even lame enough to be sexist but simply pathetic. I’m not sure which is worse the lame T&A glamour shots from modeling agencies or the local women who want to be those models in the local Buzzbabe section. Surely the guys who get off on this have all the women beat! Yes, Buzzfest losers, your station assumes that you are too stupid to get porn.

Now, in case you are a purveyor of Buzz’s babe section let help you out. Go to Are you following me? Ok click on where it says “images”. When you arrive at the next screen type “Pussy”! Wow look at that. Pussy! Pussy, Pussy, Pussy! Amazing! Now go jerk-off like a normal person! You can thank me later for this little known Internet insider tip and Larry Flint can de happy.

But I digress…after all this blog is really about music.

Now, after the aforementioned commercial break we did finally get some music. Houston’s New Music Alternative was playing the Red Hot Chili Peppers! Not bad but not what I would define as “new” unless new is something from over a decade ago! The Buzz obviously deals in geological time frames.

A rash of “New Alternative Music” then followed the Peppers. Linkin Park’s “Paper Cut” only proved the old mathematical proof true that White Guy, where n>0, multiplied by rapping over rock = bad. Maybe you just have to be a 13-year-old suburban jock to get it. I certainly didn’t. 3 Doors Down (of whom my notes simple state a pithy “Pussies!”) followed with a song called “Let Me Go” which was proof that the 80’s Big Hair Metal ballads have not left us.

Then around midday it happened. They hit me with Nickelback’s “Photograph”! This song was so bad, such an unlistenable ohh-baby-I-miss-you piece of shit that I was actually outraged! This is what people listen to? This is “Alternative”! This is a child begot by Punk?! FUCK ME! Utterly pathetic! I went on some rant to my coworkers about how guitars should be taken away from all white guys and how licenses should be issued before any person chasing fame gets a hold of one.

These 20 minutes of rage were followed by the realization that I had survived the worst and anything else was merely going to be more of the same product. Sure enough, from here on it was a steady stream of white guys with guitars emoting like Kurt Cobain. In fact it was so redundant that at one point when I left my desk, I really could not tell if the song that was playing when I left was the same song that was playing when I arrived? For all I knew this was another song entirely but it was so similar to the last that I couldn’t be sure. In fact when a Garbage song appeared on the station it suddenly hit me how male and xeroxed all the bands sounded. Later in the day when they played the Violent Femmes (yes from the 1st album) it also struck me how utterly same the instrumentation was for all these bands and, while awful, Korn’s Cover of Cameo’s “Word Up” at least acknowledged black music.

This steady stream of oldies and cookie cutter rock bands simple lead to my being bored out of my skull and painfully waiting for 6pm to hit so could listen to music. Worse for the wear I at least came to an understanding of this product and it’s creators.

Now, I could go on about how the mechanics of Corporate Commercial Radio suck ass (Clear Channel Radio in this case) but I think the more interesting question is who makes this music, who listens to it, and why.

Coming Up Next…

Part II Why the commercial rock product, it’s creators, and its consumers suck

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Transmission 12-01-2005 07:12 Hours

Discussion of my plan to partake in live performances by Pong and Blowfly this Friday at Rudyard's this Friday, has led to the comment that I listen to obscure music.

Large quantities of the “Modern Rock” Genre will cause serious neurological, psychological, and physiological damage to any human being.

Listen to “The Buzz” all day at work.

To listen to a corporate commercial rock station and live.

1.Arrive at work and manually dial up to the station that calls itself the Buzz.
2.Upon finding the frequency and a standard listening volume will be established,.
3.Once set, neither the radio nor the speaker volume can be adjusted.
4.The web browser will locate the station on-line to provide data as to what is being transmitted. This will be left on but minimization will be allowed.
5. Notes will be taken throughout the experiment to document the effects.
6. Once the chamber is entered there will no way out until the standard departure time.
7. Results will be published the following day.

Should I not survive, please note that my life was given in the name of science.