RATING MUSIC AS CHIPS AND
SALSA- a code key:
^^^^^ = Five chips Fresh
crunchy chips for homemade peach salsa with the freshest ingredients.
^^^^ = Four chips Not quite
as crunchy or fresh. But, then again, it's not microwaved burritos.
So there's some nutritional value, yes?
^^^ = Three chips Oh, come on! So a few of the chips are
a little limp and the salsa's been sitting in a bowl in the hot
kitchen. It's still peach salsa, man!
^^ = Two chips It physically resembles chips and salsa, but
it ain't quite it. Don't feel bad if you miss hearing this.
^ = One chip It seems to resemble a foodstuff, but who knows
what it is anymore? If you must, crane your neck briefly to take
notice of this, as you would a car wreck on the highway.
No chips It's actually a microwaved beef and bean burrito
with that nasty "green chile sauce" that actually seems to have
been made from tree bark moistened in tomato juice. Eeww. You're
not going to eat that, are you?
Welcome back to school you crazy podcasting,
downloading nutty kids. It's us, WWUH! We're the ones with the neon
sign in the rear of that building you passed on your way from the
bookstore to the coffee shop. We're those old troglodytes who still
utilize primitive land based technology to disseminate music and
culture throughout the Hartford area. Yeah, I know. Pretty crazy,
huh? And we still use turntables to play records. That's right,
we just cue them up ad push play. No scratching, no wheels of steel…
So, why take an interest in radio in this day and
age? What can we offer that you can't get online from some internet
I recently had to confront that question personally.
From my PC at work, I was able to sign on "for free" (we'll get
back to that assertion in a minute) to a personally programmed "internet
radio station." The playlist for my station was determined, it seemed,
from a small survey where they ask you to rate some thirty or sixty
different music/ audio genres. From this instant assessment of my
musical tastes, the playlist began.
It was pretty impressive. Right there on my PC,
a mix emerged…Chick Corea… Bobby Valentino… Robert Cray… Elliott
Smith… The Vines… Ravi Shankar… The Cranberries… Billy Holiday…
Slim Harpo… a musically diverse playlist as varied as any I might
program on any given Friday night. And, if a song came up I was
not enchanted with, I could just skip to the next song on the playlist.
Wow. Could there be a down side to this?
Well, where did you imagine I would be headed with
Let's start with the commercials. On this "free"
service, the music mix was paid for by the website's advertisers.
And was it enough that the web advertisers could throw annoying
pop-up/ pop-under ads at my PC, planting cookies, which slow down
my PC and make it harder to enjoy the wonderful programming?
Oh, no, then there were the radio ads that popped
in every ten minutes or so. And remember that ability to "skip tracks"?
Well, it doesn't work when the lizard starts trying to hawk car
insurance, my friend. Oh, and then, of course, the stream of programming
couldn't just keep coming. After a certain amount of time the website
stopped the stream entirely, to remind me (not with a sound message,
but with a pop up) that I could get the same service without commercials
for $XXX per month. Sure. That takes away the audio ads, sure, but
the pop-ups remain the same…
The only time the programming was interrupted was
to sell me something. No information about what I just heard (unless
I wanted to take the time to surf, and who has time to do that while
blasting away at aliens?). Heck, they didn't even interrupt the
"show" to let me know the weather or a news update, or to tell me
how the upturn in duct tape sales is preventing the extremists from
winning… Okay, so it's not all bad.
Two words for you: local perspective. On WWUH,
that means the music is programmed by a live volunteer staff that
loves this stuff (not by some algorithm designed to outline someone's
tastes). The same staff lives and learns about the music. You can
always call and share your ideas. There is a programmer available
on the other end of a phone line, or by mail or email, to talk to
about the music.
You see, you should not underestimate the opportunity
a good local non-profit volunteer staffed radio station. I mean,
with stations like that, are you getting choice or the illusion
of choice? As media becomes more global, the infrastructure of it
all is in more and more danger of falling under the control of fewer
and much richer hands with more narrow minds. Sure, you can go to
an appropriate website anytime you want to be exposed to bluegrass,
or folk, or polka, or new rock. And they'll give you what you came
looking for, no more, no less. No genuine points of view other than
your own need ever inform your musical tastes. Is that communication?
WWUH is one of a number of college stations, which
developed from a hobby for kids to a genuine community resource.
Thirty-seven years from its' roots, UH Radio still keeps its' doors
and its' ears open to the community. Our programming is not determined
by one monolith that thinks it knows jazz, folk, rock, Indian music
or the blues. This station is in the hands of people who love the
music, and believe in their mission to share ideas and open ears.
Oh, sure, it's easy to find what you want as long
as you never develop what you want. The challenge here is to become
a more active listener, and a less passive consumer. The only reason
the range of choices that now exist on the internet are there in
the first place is because decades of non-commercial programming
kept options open, making music more that just another product to
be shifted, but, instead, a cultural artifact, a vital piece of
art, a set of sounds with the power to evoke genuine experiences
shared with your neighbors.
And, of course, your "neighbors" who listen to
WWUH these days are from easily as global a community as any other
website. Yes, we stream on the internet, too.
Only without the lizard salesmen, or interruptions
every ten minutes to sell you something you couldn't possibly want
We go from folk to jazz to Public Affairs to oldies
to band music to blues to Celtic to polka to ambient electronic
to film scores to metal to gospel to soul and r & b to Cajun and
Zydeco to gay programming to hip-hop to country to avant garde to
Indian to reggae to bluegrass to doo-wop to world programming in
Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Lithuanian (and more) to opera to
classical. Oh yeah, and we rock plenty, too, prog and otherwise.
So you crazy wacky kids… okay, I mean you leaders
of tomorrow… just keep downloading whatever you want… but keep one
ear open on your community.
We'll be here when you're done playing DDR. At least,
I think we'll be here. You've got quite a run going, don't you?
Tracy Bonham's major stab at musical stardom
was 1996's The Burdens of Being Upright, which yielded a memorable
bit of Grrl Power Pop in its' hit single "Mother Mother." When Bonham
arrived, she displayed a musical and vocal aesthetic similar to
Liz Phair, though her ax of choice was the violin, which she has
been playing since age 9.
Also like Phair, Bonham has done good work that
has gone unnoticed once it fell off the video countdown radar screens
of the early 21st century. It is a shame in both cases, and probably
sadly proving how very necessary something like the Lilith Tours
were to promote worthy woman artists who have something more to
offer than Ashlee Simpson or Britney Spears.
Of course, it could be worse. She could have married
Instead, ending her association with Island after
2000's fine follow-up (but, alas, poorly charting) Down Here, she
collaborated with many an artist (including bluegrass star Tony
Trischka's Wayfaring Strangers, and fellow Bostonites Marc Copley
and Aerosmith), she toured with Blue Man Group (following the Group's
2002 Complex, for which she guested on vocals). It was on that tour
that she first sold her self-produced Bee EP, the profits from which
enabled her to self-produce her latest full-length effort, Blink
the Brightest (Zoe records, June, 2005, ^^^1/2).
If her previous albums displayed little mercy for
the ways of romance (as on Down Here's "Behind Every Good Woman"
(which, in the chorus, precedes the line, "lies a trail of men."),
on the new album she seems positively fixated on it. Not that stops
her from finding it funny and stupid. "It's hearts up heads down"
she declares on the hopeful and lilting "Something Beautiful."
She muses on the strange mysteries of emotional
dependency on "I Was Born Without You" with a pop-rock sound not
terribly unlike Aimee Mann, or her significant other Michael Penn.
She muses that "Love is a two-headed beast clumsy and stupid/ ready
to crush everything" on "All Thumbs."
She acknowledges emotional vulnerability as a temporary,
but unavoidable condition in "Naked" ("I'm naked pretty as a heartache
waiting for my second skin to settle in").
Each tune on this album is a well-constructed piece
of pop full of acoustic flavorings. Co-producer Greg Collins (one
of two co-producers here with Bonham) has worked as an engineer
with Babyface, Eels, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fiona Apple, Perry Farrell,
and U2, arriving here with seven years of experience in studiocraft,
and his bass guitar in hand. Joey Waronker is the other co-producer,
a veteran drummer with John Doe, Beck, Richard Thompson, R.E.M.,
Elliott Smith and Johnny Cash, and contributes his sensitive percussion
work to a number of tracks. Also present for the proceedings are
such luminaries as Butch (drummer from Eels), bassist Davey Faragher
(Cracker) and multi-instrumentalist (and legendary producer in his
own right) Mitchell Froom.
Bonham herself is no slouch in the multi-instrument
department, contributing violin, vocals, guitar and various keyboards
(including a Hammond organ and a pump organ). And while she's not
quite the lyricist that, say, Jill Sobule is, she has a great musical
ear, and a worthy voice more than deserving a spin in your CD player…
…or is it a click on your MP3? Or your ITunes?
Or… allright, I'm confused. Just buy this recording and enjoy, please?
Meanwhile, I'll just ROCK!
And if you want to ROCK with capital letters this
fall, you will finally get up off it (like I did) and listen to
the latest from Olympia, Washington's own Sleater-Kinney.
I've been an appreciator of this power trio for some years now.
Corin Tucker's vocal is a wail at least as strong and assured as
that of The B-52s' Kate Pierson, and their double guitar attack
excitingly recalls that of late Husker Du.
Not sold yet? Jam on The Woods (Sub Pop,
June, 2005, ^^^^) and you will be. The title of this album, and
its' graphics, suggest "dark fairy tale," like David Lynch's Blue
Velvet or Twin Peaks. Thematically, the lyrics deal with emotional
adolescence; of what else is the best ROCK made? "Modern Girl" is
among the notable highlights as the music glides from a breezy,
easy going guitar melody (as Tucker sings "My baby loves me/ I'm
so happy") and develops menacing undertones, piling on discordant
harmonies as the song's main character becomes increasingly disenchanted
with television, consumerism and, finally love ("My baby loves me/
I'm so angry").
The lyrics are also full of an honest had-it-up-to-here
rage with shallow culture, likewise a hallmark of the best punk
music. At least when delivered by Tucker, Carrie Brownstein (back-up
vox and guitar) and Janet Weiss (drums) it escapes the vacuum of
irony long enough to really ROCK!
Another thing occurs to me listening to The Woods…producer
Dave Fridmann (who's done outstanding work with The Flaming Lips)
has here developed the sound that Steve Albini should really have
had on PJ Harvey's sophomore effort, Rid of Me (which I feel Albini
truly butchered). You see, Steve? You can have both fantastically
distorted wild guitar sounds and ferociously strong vocals.
And, you know, I think I can even find a little
of Dave Thomas (of Pere Ubu, not Wendy's) in Corin Tucker's vocals,
now that I listen some more. Sorry for the gushing, but… hey! No!
I'm not sorry! You know why? Cause I'm ROCKIN'!!!
Listen to CALL IT THING on the Friday Gothic Blimp
Works, Fridays from midnight to three on UH Radio! It's your weekly
load of guff! Oh, and, uh, ROCK!
CULTURE DOGS CORNER (Literally this time)
THE POST SUMMER QUICKIE WRAP-UP (or STILL MORE Fear and Loathing
at the Multiplex) by Kevin O'Toole
Following up on last issue, here are some quick
thoughts on the summer that wasn't (and if you missed the July August
issue, look it up at wwuh.org.
Well, as I write this there are two movies left
that are possibly worth waiting for: Terry Gilliam's The Brothers
Grimm and the Russian horror fantasy NightWatch (which utterly failed
to come out at the end of July as planned). Keep an eye peeled to
culturedogs.org for updated review blurbs and much more. Other than
that, I can report that Batman Begins was the best Batman film ever,
and that comes from a big fan of the Tim Burton entries.
Speaking of Tim Burton, I loved Charlie and the
Chocolate Factory so much, that I willingly avoided even trying
to compare it to the Gene Wilder version. They're different animals,
Among the other great little films from this summer
are also Howl's Moving Castle, Murderball, Mysterious Skin, Hustle
& Flow and Wedding Crashers.
The summer that never was, however, never was because
of declining ticket revenues.
And one last note: I'm so over Revenge of the Sith.
Make sure and listen to Sam Hatch and I on CULTURE
DOGS every Sunday night at 8 pm, your weekly video and movie news
and review program from eight to nine on UH Radio for the latest
on how to survive your summer on home video and out at the movies!
See you on the radio!
Copyright © WWUH: Program Guide, 2005