Warning: Wife-out-of-town, too-much-caffeine ramble commencing.
I’ve been thinking about music a lot lately. Music and radio, actually. When I was in junior high and early in high school, KJQ was Ogden’s own alternative rock station, back when alternative rock really was. Broadcasting from a tiny cinderblock building on Ogden’s west side, KJQ built a loyal following by playing the music nobody else was playing: Odd European imports, local bands, modern rock. They were genuinely quirky, too. Somewhere I still have old KJQ window stickers featuring the station’s logo—a cow named Bessie the Milk Beast. After a hostile buyout in which the station’s format was switched to Top 40 and then freaky Christian radio, most of the DJs left, eventually forming a new station that just couldn’t capture the scrappy feel of the original. The new station never played Doot-Doot again, that’s for sure—strangely, I’ve had Freur’s “Hey Ho Away We Go” playing in my head for days. Maybe that’s why music is on my mind this morning. I’m also somewhat inspired by Tom’s discussion of discovering some new music he enjoys. (And some he does not. While I can’t quite echo his disgust with Dream Theater—I still have a soft spot for exactly three songs on their album Awake—I certainly can sympathize.)
Making Experimental Thai Pasta Salad yesterday afternoon, I re-listened to a Dave Matthews Band CD from a few years ago: Before These Crowded Streets surprised me all over again with its textures. I enjoyed Dave Matthews early on in college, after hearing a tape of Remember Two Things. At the time, it was “Satellite” that really got to me, but later “Seek Up” became far more compelling. I dutifully bought and enjoyed the rest of the band’s work for a few more years, but sort of lost interest after the disappointing live album Listener Supported, which sounds overproduced and lacks the kind of enthusiasm I remember from seeing the band at a HORDE show (with Blues Traveler) back in 1996. (The same overproduction, in the form of distracting background vocals mars the otherwise enjoyable “Stay (Wasting Time)” from Before these Crowded Streets.)
Parenthetical comments aside, this didn’t start out as a DMB recollection (I have a whole rant about “jam bands” to spill here sometime), so I’ll correct course and get back to the simple point, about being surprised by music that was once very familiar. After a lot of listens, Before these Crowded Streets still has something to say to me, with its alternating light and dark (very dark) feels. It has a lot of layers to it and that seemed about right for yesterday afternoon.
On the way to the potluck, with Experimental Thai Pasta Salad tucked safely on the passenger side floor, I scanned through Tucson radio and came up with a couple of questions about contemporary rock. One: Why does half of the playlist on local rock stations sound just like Green Day did 10 years ago? Two: Why does everything else sound just like Tool did 10 years ago, but crappier?
On the way home I had the deep, deep misfortune of catching the new single from Lynrd Skynrd on the local “classic rock” (a truly unfortunate mislabeling) station. With one of the most tortured melodies in memory, the song combines all the spoilers of bad rock and roll with the following patriotic chorus (paraphrased, but you get the point):
My hair is getting white
My neck’s always been red
And my collar’s always been blue
So I guess you could say
I’ve always been
[ wait for it … guitar solo ]
Red white and blue
Seriously, it looks better in print than it sounds out loud. I’m pretty sure those lyrics violate all kinds of treaty obligations to ASCAP. And this is supposed to make me patriotic? It just makes me beat the steering wheel.
If point number one in this long ramble was about the simple pleasure of enjoying some familiar music, point number two is that music on the radio sucks. Point three is that I need a CD player in the car.
And that’s all. If you remember KJQ, or Freur, come over to my house sometime and we’ll talk about what it was like back in the day.