'Round the Dial
Wednesday 09 July @ 12:19:39
by Tom Hallett
File the following under: DIDN’T REALLY PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT HE WAS READING, eh? Diggit, normally, I love receiving angry, irate letters from readers who actually allow my wacked-out, bibulous musings to get under their skin. I read them and file them away for a future letters to the Dial column. But this latest missive is so off-base, so blatantly ignorant of the facts, that I just hadda share it with the rest of Dial-land. Here’s the back story: Last week, I reviewed an album by a band called Kangaroo, and in trying to illustrate the amazing blandicity of the first half of the album, I used the following line: “The first track, ‘Any Day,’ sounded to me like the kinda cookie-cutter, assembly line bullshit you hear on KDWB or Cities 97, totally inoffensive, safe as milk.”
Reads the Mail
I then went on to say that the rest of the album was amazing, and gave it a decent review. As I wrapped up the column, I used the opposite line of reasoning (which was, in both cases, meant to turn commercial radio listeners, as well as college and public radio fans, on to the band Kangaroo, not to focus intensively on the radio stations I was using to illustrate my point), which apparently further confused my little letter-writer. Here’s the final bit of last week’s column: “All in all, a weird mix of a cheesy dance EP (the first four cuts) and an absolutely gorgeous pop/rock masterpiece (tracks 5-13) that deserves an attentive ear—preferably one that’s got a sense of humor on top of that ole indie rock, heartbreak beat inner self. I bet these cats are a real hoot live, and despite their blatant use of studio wizardry and what I’m assuming is top-of-the-line equipment, I think they’ve got more soul than a buttload of those pretentious, so-called DIY acts I hear on college and public radio...”
Before we go into the letter itself, let’s just reiterate the facts here. I said I thought that the first half of Kangaroo’s album was, “the kinda cookie-cutter, assembly line bullshit you hear on KDWB or Cities 97, totally inoffensive, safe as milk.” Then, to drive home my point that I’m not any happier about that crapola than I am with the other end of the musical spectrum (which is to say, I’m not impressed with bands or artists just because they’re “hip,” “in,” or “indie.” Some of that shit is just as ho-hum as the commercial pap), I used the line, “ I think they’ve got more soul than a buttload of those pretentious, so-called DIY acts I hear on college and public radio...”
As any person with rudimentary reading skills and a modicum of sense can see, I said you could hear cookie-cutter, assembly line bullshit that’s totally inoffensive and safe as milk on stations like KDWB and Cities 97—a statement I’ll stand by until I die—AND I said I hear pretentious, so-called DIY acts on college and public radio. Nobody gets off the hook here, man. I’m not out to get one or the other, but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna stroke either one. Everything has room for improvement. But here’s the letter, I’ll let the readers judge for themselves whether this fella makes any sense:
i feel fucking sorry for you..
everybody at pulse is a fucking music expert huh? Pretentious cities 97 music may not be “hip” to the pulse.. but to some people, it is great fucking music.. You piece of trendy shit.. Go put on your dames/faux jean album and lick your dogs brown star for me pal..
Ah, where to start with such a well-written, happy little grouping of words, eh? First of all, “J,” kickin’ off a letter with “dude” immediately brings to mind an image of Jeff Spiccoli from Fast Times At Ridgemont High, but obviously Jeff would be listening to cooler music and would probably only use the Pulse as a tray to roll fatties on, so you can’t be him. But no biggie, I’m glad you feel close enough to me to use such a great modern term of endearment as “dude.” Thanks, man. Do ya feel the love?
Then comes the bitter, angry accusation. “EVERYBODY at pulse is a fucking music expert huh?” Wow. I wouldn’t know, “J.” I’m a freelance writer who contributes a weekly column to this paper, and the only person I can speak with authority on is myself. And lemme tellya, anybody who calls themselves a “music expert” better at least have the credentials of Greil Marcus and the record collection of the Cosmic Slop guys from Radio K. And I don’t fall into either of those categories, “J.” What I’m doing here, is using this column (183 weeks in a row, pal, so I may not be an expert but I’m certainly a dedicated acolyte of rock ’n’ roll—how ’bout you?) to educate, inform and entertain not only myself but anybody who cares to read it.
You see, “J,” what you fail to understand, to grasp, to get through your commercialized little brain, is that not everybody is happy to just keep snuffling at the trough of Disney and Clear Channel-approved poo-poo to get their musical grooves on. Some people like to dig a little deeper—hell, some people (like me) can’t STOP digging! I’m not happy to just trip on, say, the 13th Floor Elevators, I gotta go back and get every fucking single album lead singer Roky Erickson made, so I can UNDERSTAND what the hell the whole trip was about. That’s the wonderful voyage/quest for knowledge that we all have the ability to embark upon. You can sit in your safe, orderly, clean little bubble for the rest of your life—nobody gives a damn, “dude.” But don’t go around gettin’ down on people who want to take that journey, ‘cuz it’s painfully apparent that your own fear and trepidation are what’s holding you back and what’s making you so angry and defensive. To quote a band that ole Cities 97’s been known to play, “Oh, what a cryin’ shame...”
Now here’s where ya get really cornfused, “J.” You say, “Pretentious cities 97 music may not be ‘hip’ to the pulse.. but to some people, it is great fucking music..” Mm-kay. First of all, I NEVER SAID CITIES 97 PLAYED PRETENTIOUS MUSIC. What I said was that I’ve heard some pretentious, fake-ass INDIE ROCK on college and public radio, and made it clear that it didn’t impress me. I’m not now, nor have I ever been (OK, so we won’t count joining the KISS army in 1976) a follower of trends, scenes or social movements. I love punk rock, but I don’t have a mohawk or safety pins in my nose. I love old country music, but I don’t have a horse or even spurs. I love the blues, but I don’t sit around in dark glasses, a fedor and a suit that’s two sizes too large for me. Do ya follow me, “J?”
I tell you whut, little buddy—if you’ve followed this column even peripherally over the past five years, you know that I am probably the most fucked-up, non-genre-specific music writer in this town. And I still haven’t written a single word (until now, thanks to you, my friend) about The Strokes, The Hives or The White Stripes. I might even like some of their songs, but who the hell needs to read about “trendy” bands in an “alterna tive” weekly? Shit, go out and pick up Rolling Stone or Spin if ya want to read that tripe. Naw, I’ve been busy writing about bands like Ol’ Yeller, Gone Out Gone, and Kruddler. You know, LOCAL bands who are so far from TRENDY that the word probably isn’t in any of their vocabularies.
So ya wanna get into the PRETENTIOUS thing, do ya, “J?” Well, just remember that I never said Cities 97 played pretentious music, that was you misreading my words. But since ya brought it up, let’s talk a little bit about pretentious music, and while we’re at it, trendy artists. I’ll be the first one to admit that I have Cities 97 punched into my radio memory on my stereo. Sometimes I’ll whip by there and find a great tune (The Jayhawks, Lucinda Williams, hell, I even get into a Big Head Todd And The Monsters tune now and then), but for the most part, I run across artists like DAVE MATTHEWS, DON HENLEY, and NATALIE MERCHANT. Are you going to tell me that isn’t snotty, pretentious, vapid, BORING music? Hey, I know it’s all a matter of personal taste, but I’d love to read an essay from you, “J,” on how DON HENLEY isn’t pretentious. And if you pull that off and convince me that he’s a down-to-earth, REAL guy like, say, Neil Young, I’d say you’re in line for Ari Fleischer’s job as Bush’s spin-doctor spokesman.
Why don’t you just get real, my poison-spewing lil’ spud, and admit that Cities 97, like ANY OTHER RADIO STATION, has room for improvement? Then your petty little statements and pointless arguments might have a bit more impact. See, by admitting in last week’s column that I found room for improvement in both indie and commercial radio, I proved that I have a level head and a balanced point of view on the subject. You, by misreading my statements and hastily jotting out a nasty e-mail, have only proved that you’re ignorant and sadly in need of both a musical and at least a 9th grade level education. I have, in this very column, praised Cities in the past for their local music shows and actually count at least one of their DJ’s as a musical compadre.
But unless they wanna pay me a nice salary for PR work, I’m not going to pretend that 90 percent of their playlist is anything but a completely useless diversion from what’s really happening in music right now. Sure, they pad their playlist with one or two decent artists an hour, but I challenge anyone to sit through a whole day of it and not hear a disheartening pattern of sameness and conformity. How could anyone call that decent radio? It’s not DOING anything for anybody, other than providing safe, easy-to-digest entertainment. And that’s all well and good, just don’t expect anybody to think of you as progressive and a vehicle for true art. And just to keep things fair, Cities is hardly the worst offender in this category, and I wouldn’t even be talkin’ about ‘em right now were it not for one of their misguided fans writing me a nasty letter. Word up.
Then comes the coup de grace—your absolutely terrifying use of the “T” word, “J”: “You piece of trendy shit.. Go put on your dames/faux jean album and lick your dogs brown star for me pal..” Wow. You KNOW about bands like The Dames and Faux Jean? What are you doing, following such TRENDY bands? I thought you only dug the Matthews/Jack Johnson/John Mayer school of yawns, man. And how could you possibly call local bands who probably have between a couple hundred and a couple thousand fans (compared to your monster-hit acts on Cities, who have MILLIONS of sycophantic, merchandise-addicted morons buying their albums all over the world) TRENDY? Frankly, the whole fucking world would be better off if stations like Cities played The Dames, Faux Jean, Ol’ Yeller, Spikedriver, The Centurions, D4, The Soviettes, and The Rakes TWENTY-FOUR HOURS A DAY, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK, and stuck those rotten, spoiled, commercially suck-sessful Blands you call “artists” into the sorry-ass, late-night, Sunday evening slots they hide great local and homegrown artists in. Guess what? THEY DON’T NEED ANY MORE EXPOSURE!!
Jesus, you know, we used to argue about disco vs. rock, rap vs. pop, etc., but now it’s all about A HUNDRED ARTISTS WHO ALL SOUND THE SAME!! Shit, I can’t tell the difference between Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, and John Mayer anymore, I just know it’s always comin’ outta mini-vans and fancy boats on the river. What does that tellya? Anyhoo, I digress. The “trendy” accusation doesn’t EVEN bother me, “J,” because I and all of my loyal readers know that I’m the last writer you’d ever wanna call TRENDY. P-tooey!! I spit on your trends! As for being a piece of shit, that’s a matter of personal opinion, and I’ve been called far worse.
The only thing that really bothers me is that I don’t have a dog. Do you have me confused with someone else? Ah, well, who cares? Frankly, if I did have a dog, I think I’d rather lick his “brown star” than spend even one tortuous moment alone with you and your predictable, snooze-heavy record (sorry, CD—you don’t strike me as the type who’s out chasing down old Crazy Horse albums on vinyl) collection. Ugh. My best advice to you, “J,” would be to start channeling some of that anger and frustration you’re feeling about music into learning, expanding your mind, opening your heart and soul to the grand One-ness that is the universal love of music, life and humanity, and hell, instead of writing a nasty note to some boozehound writer at a local rag, why don’t you sharpen up your pencil and start writing some convincing arguments for your favorite bands? If they’re so great, you shouldn’t have any trouble coming up with some damn good reasons why we should all be listening to them.
Just think about it, “J,” you can take this opportunity to change your whole attitude—you can start spending time learning, and sharing that knowledge, with other music fans, instead of tearing shit down. Making friends instead of enemies. Spreading good vibes throughout the universe instead of offering up your psyche to the black hole of negativity. Or you can just get even more pissed off and indignant and hate yourself into a whole lifetime of misery. But hey, either way, thanks for the letter, little buddy. It made for a mighty fun column this week, and I think I’ll take the money I make off of it (you) and go down to Root Cellar Records or Eclipse or the Fetus or Let It Be or some other cool local record shop and buy a whole stack of kickass, non-trendy local albums to review so I can help you in your ongoing quest for enlightenment. Tellya what—I’ll flip by Cities 97 on the ride and crank up Don Henley’s “The Boys Of Summer” just for you! Rock on! Until next time, make your own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/events that you’d like to see listed in this column, or you’d just like to have your own little hate letter dissected, destroyed and de-balled, send replies to: TMygunn777@aol.com.