Saturday, February 27, 2010

Where the hell did my alternative music go?

"Let's go and throw
All the songs we know
Into the sea" - Robert Smith

So today I'm driving the wife to work, and we're listening to CD101 -- you know, Columbus' alternative station -- and the DJ says the following:

"Your 9am lounge tip is 'island'. That's 'island', I-S-L-A-N-D."

"Wow," says I to Liberty "so their target audience now can't spell." After dropping her off, I kept listening, and a "Tegan and Sara" song came on that contained the following lyrics:

"I just want back in your head
I'm not unfaithful but I'll stray
When I get a little scared"

I usually tend to avoid blaspheming, but... weeping Jesus on the cross, when the hell did alternative turn into mainstream pop for idiots and emo posers? CD101, in the 90s, had a reputation for playing unusual tunes that would never get air play anywhere else, and their target audience was me and my fresh-out-of-school snobby intellectual posse, who would jam to it and revel in our rejection of all things mainstream. We had the lovely Siouxsie Sioux, treating us to interesting gems such as:

When you think your toys have gone beserk
It's an illusion
You cannot shirk
You hear laughter
Cracking through the walls

...and (speaking of blasphemy) the talented Martin Gore of Depeche Mode fame telling us:

Summer's day
As she passed away
Birds were singing
In the summer sky
Then came the rain
And once again
A tear fell
From her mother's eye

Now that's dark. Tegan cheating on her boyfriend because they aren't close anymore: not dark. Not interesting.

My wife and I also recently won tickets from CD101 (using the aforementioned lounge tips) to see "Dr. Dog" at the Newport. What a damned travesty. The opening act included a lead singer who mumbled incoherently, a bongo player who sat on the ground and bobbed his head left and right as he played, and instrument work that a power-chord playing 80s hair band would scoff at. The main act came on and pronounced of their openers "Those guys are some solid motherfuckers...", I swear, I'm not making this up, "... they get pulled over all the time."

What? Anyway, then Dr. Dog began to play, slightly more crisp and interesting than their openers but still with an overall sound that had the stench of committee and manufacture all over it. After three songs, Liberty and I made for the hills. I will be forever grateful that I paid no money for that show.

While the current music selection of CD101 is poor, and their implication that the modern alternative audience can't spell is probably accurate, all is not lost. There are still gems out there to find; you just have to look harder.

Here's a gem I keep coming back to, the lovely and talented (and not afraid to get progressively more sloshed on Corona through her act) Serena Ryder, who I saw at the Newport in '09 opening for The Wallflowers. In fact, I think I was about 10 feet behind the girl filming this on her cellphone, and I'd lay even money that's me or someone in my party blurting out "I love her!" at the 2:43 mark. If she doesn't make it big, that'll be a damned crying shame, because she kicks it hard. We've even got the next generation lined up to like her: Scout asks to hear Serena in the car all the time, and sings along to "Baby Blue".

And here's another performer I'm hopeful for, Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears. Very crisp, very funny, kind of a Motown/Blood Sweat & Tears hybrid. Good stuff. Liberty and I, Zoe and Eric, Ashlie, and hopefully Karl and Michelle will be seeing them play Thursday night at the Newport, and I have high hopes for a good night.

There's still good music out there that could vaguely be called alternative, but I miss the 80s, man. I really miss 'em.


  1. you left Dr. Dog after 3 songs and talk smack because they thanked the opening band? You my friend, are a travesty for not sticking around a little bit longer to witness an amazing show!

  2. Well, thanks Andrea. I'll believe you if you say the show got better, and our fleeing the scene was equal parts trying to get to someplace warm (it was like 50 degrees in there) and disappointment at what we had seen up to that point. It's good to give kudos to your opening act, sure, but "solid motherfuckers" was not an accurate description, and... I don't know, it was a weird scene.

    I'm glad you had a good time, though, and take my crotchety demeanor with a grain of salt; I'm that way about pretty much everything. Come up and say hi to us if we're ever at the same show again. I'll be the freakishly tall guy with the morose "I miss the 80s" look on my face, the giant black coat, and the wife that's way too young for me.