Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The State of FM radio. All Praise the Sounds of Mediocrity

The radio DJ used act as a portal for the listener to discover new music. The DJ was somebody who was passionate about music and willingly to take risks with the kind of sounds that they would play. Listeners would gravitate to the show because it was a way to become informed about what was happening out there in the musical landscape. Radio would provide a listener with both the surprise of hearing the familiar (I love this song) and something new. DJ’s had a great knowledge of music and felt a responsibility to share that knowledge with the listener. The DJ I believe that most exemplified this attitude was the late John Peel. Mr. Peel had possibly one of the most receptive attitudes towards new sounds in the music industry. His ear was constantly to the underground. He played Kraut rock and dub reggae in the early seventies, when no one was familiar with those styles. He embraced the punk movement right from the beginning. He was even open to playing the early grind core bands such as Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror and Doom. He would never dismiss a band because of the genre they were associated with. Mr. Peel loved music that was passionate. I also personally have a great love for Mr. Peel because he championed my favorite band of all time: The Fall.

Outside of College radio, every time I listen to the FM dial, I hear the same formulaic sounds. The latest “alternative” band who sounds like the same batch of Pearl Jam clones or Green Day clones or Smashing Pumpkins clones that have permeated the airwaves for the last fifteen years. I’m not quite sure what aspect of this music makes it “alternative”. I think the majority of it sounds so similar that it all seems to blur together like the hum of a radiator. I find it depressing that Nickleback is the soundtrack for the current generation. Then there are the classic rock stations. Don’t get me wrong. Floyd, Zeppelin, Sabbath and Hendrix are my gods, but I hear the same songs day in and day out. And they wouldn’t dare play groundbreaking artists from that era like Can, The Stooges, Captain Beefheart, Rocky Erikson or The Silver Apples. You can’t even hear any Frank Zappa. And god help me if I ever start listening to adult contemporary. Pass me the Celine Dion and the Prozac. And unfortunately, we don’t hear many political messages from the world of hip-hop anymore (at least on contemporary radio). No Public Enemy or KRS-1. Just lyrics about making money, treating women badly and the glorification of Gangsta culture.

Thank god for internet radio! Finally there are options out there for the true music fan! Due to sites like TUN3R, I can listen to a whole variety of music genres. I can flip back and forth between Techno, bluegrass, death metal, free jazz, Goth, punk and
numerous other sounds. And I’m rarely interrupted by ads or mainstream DJ’s with their patronizing marketing voices. I can just listen to the music. I always have believed that radio should be this way. I never could accept the mediocre and passionless sounds that fill the mainstream charts were what the masses really wanted. I also like the fact that many of the stations don’t confine themselves to one genre of music. I have never met anybody who ever just liked one form of music. But if you want to hear something really specific (such as sixties garage rock), you can find it with TUN3R.

It is for all the above reasons that people who are passionate about music should support Internet radio. Internet radio represents a challenge to the main stream music providers and that’s why they’re so scared. It’s time music fans started to subvert the system.

Here are some of my current favorite stations:

1. Sky Fm Modern Jazz- For the free/experimental jazz lover in you
2. Radio Hidebound- A must for any hardcore punk fan
3. Technicolor web of sound- A place to hear rare psychedelic and garage sounds from the sixties.
4. Flux 4- a great eccentric station.
5. Aural Moon- Prog rock geek heaven.
6. Doom; Dark music for tortured souls- the same says it all
7. Radio Bira/R1A- The heaviest of metal sounds
8. Dandelion radio- A great station that named John Peel’s own record label. The station plays a great range of music and keeps with the philosophy of the late DJ.

-James Wallace (jwcwallace@yahoo.com)

4 comments:

radio gnome said...

hi - thanks for the props for radio hidebound!

although "a must for any hardcore punk fan" seems a bit of a stretch to us, since I don't think we play any hardcore. Mission of Burma is probably as close as we get.

Still, thanks so much for the notice.

cheers.gnome

James Wallace said...

Hi gnome,
Your station plays a great variety of music. You are not really a hardcore punk station. I got you guys confused with PHC radio, which I have right next to you guys in my itunes player. And Mission of Burma are one of the great underground bands of the eighties. Could you play "Dumbells" for me?
Take care
James Wallace

radio gnome said...

no worries James, and like I said, the notice of radio hidebound is far more important than any other details.

I'll check and see if I have "Dumbells" and add it to the library. In the meantime, remember you can always request a song (or two every hour) from radio hidebound

Thanks again for listening!

cheers.gnome

Deathlok said...

Of course, Radiohidebound should be #1 on the list.

The only radio station that I know that still plays a plethora of sounds in WXPN 88.5, based on the University of Pennsylvania campus. (I mean actual radio, not internet, run by a gnome radio). If I listen to the radio at all (it's usually MP3 player or Hidebound), it is WXPN.