RAVE'S FAVES (on the air)
White Stripes, The Hives, Moby, Bad Religion, John Mayer, No Doubt ("Hella Good"), Jimmy Eat World, X-Press 2 (featuring David Byrne), Super Furry Animals, Phantom Planet, Box Car Racer, The Strokes (various)
Detroit's White Stripes and Sweden's Hives, along The Strokes are providing a much-needed energy infusion of garage rock spontaneity into mainstream alternative rock. Rock radio actually has an effective new category to tap! Moby's new song has an 80's/retro feel, so it's right up my alley. His last album will be very tough to top, but he's off to a great start. John Mayer has a hit with a perfect pop song. X-Press 2 just shot to the top of the U.K. charts with this cool, dancy, electronic tune. It hasn't been released in the U.S. yet, but it's getting exposure on stations such as KCRW. I understand Byrne is only on the one hit song, "Lazy." Super Furry Animals provide great pop from Wales -- they aren't getting exposed much, but KCRW is also on that one. Box Car Racer is a Blink 182 spin-off, with a slightly heavier sound.
MUSIC BUSINESS MALAISE
Lots has been said about the effect of the Internet and CD burning on the record industry. Without a doubt, there is an effect, but home duplication has always been an issue. The slumping economy also plays a role, of course. However, the main problem is the machine itself. The main engine for music sales continues to be the risk-aversive broadcasters, and most exposed music continues to be highly predictable. Record companies sign interesting bands that never see the light of day if the labels don't pull the trigger on the several hundred thousand dollars that it takes for airplay in this current environment. Radio stations have always feared tune-out, but they are now safer and more predictable than ever. Nothing motivates CD buyers like music that they are truly excited about. Until a way is found to get buyers enthused again, business will remain flat. Long-term artist development is a rarity, and I feel this short-term view has also been costly. Bands like The Strokes and White Stripes are a start, but only a small part of what's needed.
I mentioned last time that the Missing Persons reunion didn't work out. If you see that they are playing near you this summer, be advised that this version will be singer Dale Bozzio with her own group of back-up players. Speaking of Persons, former manager and producer Ken Scott is back in the U.K., working on George Harrison's catalogue material. The Rubber City Rebels have gotten together for some club dates in LA, San Diego, Cleveland, and (of course) Akron. You may remember them from their LA 80's radio hit "Young and Dumb." The club dates are going well. This is a pop/punk band that were ten years ahead of their time. They wrote great songs, but didn't fit a radio category. If the same CD were released when Cracker and Green Day were around in the 90's, I think the rubber would have definitely hit the road. Knack fans will be glad to know that their live DVD, a live CD, and reissued versions of their first four studio albums wil be in stores by mid-May. Some people forget that "Rocket of Love" from their "Serious Fun" CD was a #6 airplay hit in '91. The band will be headlining shows nationwide this summer.
I'm hearing that the still-unnamed Rage/Chris Cornell stuff is slightly less intense than Rage. The backing tracks still sound like Rage, but Cornell obviously provides a completely different dimension. A friend says that the best song on the album may actually be a ballad. Word is that the new Beck album will be acoustic-pop flavored, while Underworld are saying that their new fall release will be their "fastest" to date... Congrats to WSUM at the University of Wisconsin, Madison on their new broadcasting tower. When I was in student radio in Madison, we all dreamed of having a signal like the one they have now. I thank my college radio experience for my music business career.
I'll be back in June. Meanwhile, I hope you're hearing things that are getting you excited. Until next time,