I’ve been listening to the radio for the first time in years. Specifically, I’ve been playing New York’s new rock station, 101.9 WRXP. It’s a reasonably interesting concept – a mixture of classic rock and indie rock/alternative. (Thankfully, the classic rock played so far hasn’t been that predictable.) Certainly, it’s the only station I’ve ever heard where the Hold Steady follows Billy Joel and Ra Ra Riot follows the Rolling Stones. It’s not a Jack-FM concept (radio as iPod) – it’s a simply a station that makes the claim that rock is a long continuum, one in which pre-punk and post-punk rock can live harmoniously with one another.
Unfortunately, it’s a continuum that excludes great soul and r&b. Following a decades old tradition, the number of black artists recurrently played on rock radio amounts to one – Jimi Hendrix. It’s too predictable to be dispiriting – but the station would sound a hell of a lot better with some James Brown, P-Funk, Marvin Gaye and Al Green.
That being said, I’ve been enjoying hearing the juxtaposition of newer artists next to the classic rockers. What jumps out at me when listening to the new stuff is that they don’t seem to be writing singles. Perhaps it is because for most of the indie bands (American ones more so than British ones), being on commercial radio is never even seen as a possibility. But while most of the new stuff sounds good and has a cool vibe, it doesn’t leap out of the speakers, make you stop what you’re doing and wonder, “Who IS that?”
There’s one exception: The Hold Steady’s “Sequestered In Memphis.” I’m still not quite sold like others are on their new album, but the vibrancy of the song jumps out of the radio and has me turn it up every time. In a never-ending era of detachment and cool, Craig Finn and company’s passion remind that there’s still a vociferous crew of people out there that still feel about music the way I do.
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