There's a new(-ish) radio station in town here, WRXP - New York's Rock Experience, that has single-handedly renewed my interest in the art of radio programming. In fact, I've resisted more than once the urge just to post a set of 5 or 6 songs in a row they've played just to comment on how nicely done it was.
They do most of the things I like, such as not relying on big artists' crutch hits (they play a bunch of Zeppelin but I've yet to hear "Stairway to Heaven," tonight they played The Beatles' "Old Brown Shoe"), playing two songs in a row without even a dry sweeper in between (love that), and playing a palatable mix of good old stuff and decently cool new stuff. Forget that this is what every station says it does. RXP has actually been doing it. For example, they've been playing new My Morning Jacket and Rogue Wave, and they nearly made me crash my car the other night when they played Steve Forbert (mp3), who I haven't heard on the radio since...well since I programmed a station myself.
They've also invested in some talent, which I guess is ok. Matt Pinfield, despite an impressive and enviable CV, still feels the need to tell me during every one of his breaks that he'll be with me for about 42 minutes. This is the kind of shit that jocks do when they're brand new to the field (he's not) or when they're completely phoning it in (ahem). And his cheese-grater voice sounds totally forced. But really, it's fine.
What drives me fucking crazy, and honestly what I wouldn't have expected from a station that's otherwise programmed so brilliantly, is that just like every other station in the universe, I seem to hear a track from Licensed to Ill EVERY SINGLE TIME I listen for more than a few minutes. Who still wants to hear that so often?
Early Beastie Boys material must test extremely well, but on a well programmed station, it does nothing slap me right out of whatever groove a station has me in. It's just not cool anymore. It's like a throbbing growth on the face of rock radio that everyone politely ignores. Stop the madness.
If you're going to play the Beastie Boys (and really, I'd rather you just let them be), at least play "Sabotage."
Umm...yeah. Ticket link.
UPDATE - Very cool that these are no fee tickets, especially considering where you have to go to buy them. Could this be the beginning of an encouraging trend?
It's well-worn ground for a music writer (if I may so liberally self-apply the term) to wax rhapsodic about the way things used to be. Music might not have actually sounded better then, but it's hard to argue against the fact that music does not currently steer the zeitgeist in the same way that it did before cell phones, the Internet, and Uggs.
I'd like to think that high school kids still put on headphones and pore over lyrics inserts as they play through a new record by their favorite band for the first time, the way I know at least a few of us used to. I'd love to think that favorite records still earn the honor over time, as they continue to reveal themselves. And oh, how wonderful it would be to believe that if an artist as vital as Springsteen were to start playing in bars today, everyone would eventually know about it. But times have changed, and all those wistful thoughts and $5 will move you 40 miles down the highway, if you're lucky.
With the release of We Are Still At War, Endless Mike and the Beagle Club have sent their best material to date, recorded live and raw, out into the world to be judged. The band has never been bigger (or louder), and Mike's writing has never been better. A quick perusal of the lyrics reveals gems like this from "Back Into Eden" (which you can stream here):
a stop sign that died in the middle of the streetSongs like "Fifty-Six" and "Heavy Handed" continue to get better every time I play them (which is every Goddamn time I get in my car), and the former might be the pinnacle of Mike's writing to date. The 1-2-3 punch of "The Incline of Western Civilazation" --> "Spy vs. Spy" --> "Back Into Eden" is unmatched in any other song sequence I've come across this year.
was a hit and run victim of a patron of irony
lying there waiting for somebody else
to watch over the people who can't stop themselves
does that move you to move or call you to stall?
we all see what we want to in signs after all.
Still, I'm not sure I'd recommend this record as a starting point to someone that's never heard my favorite band before (that'd still have to be The Husky Tenor). The problem is, when a 19 member band gets a good head of steam behind it, it takes a lot to slow it down. Mike's vocals, which carry those poignant lyrics, can't always cut through the wall of sound.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that's seen The Beagle Club perform before that an album recorded live by all 19 members would be both beautiful and cacophonous, full of before-take chatter, misplayed notes, and the embodiment of Fun and the Punk Rock Ethos. Nor should it raise the eyebrows of anyone who's met the band that they co-wrote and performed it in an abandoned warehouse cum art space in a chaotic fury of creation and sweat. I would make the argument that it was the only way this album could have been made, and it's why it's my favorite offering from them thus far.
Though three of the most lovable things about this band -- Mike's writing, the double-digit collective that is The Beagle Club, and their DIY ethic -- at times clash in WASAW, the result isn't a dud of a record, it's just a higher barrier of entry than I think many people afford music these days. It really needs to be absorbed through headphones the first time through, with lyric sheet in hand. It really needs to be played over and over, as it continues to reveal itself with each spin. It's an anachronism, it's too good for this day and age.
If music -- nay, if rock and roll -- still means as much to you now as it did to you then, you owe it to yourself to let The Beagle Club remind you why you ever started liking it in the first place.
We Are Still At War is available for purchase at craftyrecords.net. Or you could just go to a show and buy it there. Songs from the record can be streamed here and here.
I've been listening to Ponytail's Ice Cream Spiritual for a few days now, and I'm still at a bit of a loss as to how it should be described.
Do you remember the kid you used to know in 3rd or 4th grade that would just constantly be making nonsense noises for his or her own entertainment at recess, instead of playing kickball? The one who would just walk around the playground shrieking and whooping to no one in particular*?
Well, imagine if that kid got himself a band. A really good, but equally not-from-this-planet band. And they would jam and shred and sound generally awesome and boss, and the kid would just hop on a microphone and make noise. That band might sound a lot like Ponytail.
Anyway, this record has sidled up nicely alongside The Go! Team and a few other artists in my collection that I can turn to when life feels too awesome for regular rock and roll. It's frenetic, exuberant, and because there are almost no lyrics that are actually words, it's whatever you want it to be.
I posted a track from this record previously here. Give a listen and see if you don't agree.
* What? You were that kid? And now you're an investment banker? No, that's cool, man. Seriously.