What if FM contemporary radio programmers in the 100 largest cities in America were human beings and not actually "programs" themselves?
What if they decided that any music played on their stations would have to be at least 51% non-Pearl-Jam-derived?
What if no songs longer than three minutes would get airplay?
Remember when you could tune in your town's Top 40 station and hear The B-52s, Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry, Heart, and even DEVO? Sure, these artists had songs over three minutes, and the stations mixed in plenty of doggy do-do in between. But how great was it to hear "Back on the Chain Gang" coming from your (or your older brother's) car radio? Not every singer had to sound like Eddie Vedder (or the 1980 equivalent, say, Roger Waters). Really Pearl Jam's okay. But radio used to let guys like the The B-52s' Fred Schneider and DEVO's Gerald Casale do their schtick-- on Top 40!!
So who cares, right? Internet beat the dead radio star, previously killed by "video", presumably. But THe BAcksliders' music, begs another question: What happened to rock bands that sound so good that you want them to be, not only on your iPod, but in the ethers all around you? In the frequency-modulated radiation. It's not nostalgia here, it's physics. (continued above right)
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Maybe it makes me a crotchety old man that I would love to jump up and call someone's attention
to THe BAcksliders' "Things" playing on Y-100. The point is that THe BAcksliders, from Dallas, Texas, would be all over FM radio, all of the above "what ifs" having been answered. But it's fantasy, and the reality is that WHYI-FM should now be known as "Why-100" instead. Green Day. Green Day is as good as it gets on that station. And, hey, Green Day is pretty darned good. But, yeah... they're the titanium ceiling of quality modern music on commercial radio.
But let's stop picking on easy targets like Why-100 and bands like Creed, for example. "BTW", do you know how long Creed songs are? Ten of the thirteen songs on their ingeniously-titled album "Greatest Hits" are four and a half minutes or longer. "Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin clocks in at three minutes, fourteen seconds. You can listen to both "Whatever Happened To..." and "No Reply" by Buzzcocks in four and a half minutes. Does Creed just have so much more to say? Or do they simply play lonnnggg, shiiittty, sonnngggs? But we digress. Joyfully, but we digress.
The Details, for Doubters and Devils: Considering THe BAcksliders' stripped-down, guitar-bass-drums approach, they display a surprising variety of styles. "Last Call" and "Twisted" are satisfying blends of fine country-rock and punchy, New Wave-pop in the manner of Blondie and Pretenders. When they're in that heady domain, it's hard to imagine wanting to listen to anything else. "Bitter Days" revs up the blues, burning past 33,000 rpm, and making you want to be wherever they're playing tonight. Ultimately, what makes THe BAcksliders fully essential is the often velvety, always powerful voice of Kim Bonner and the songwriting. Bass player's great, drummer plays hard, confident, sometimes good-and-sloppy. The guitarist/ 2nd singer has the best of country blues and blues rock in his veins, and the dual lead vocals work great together and individually. Each BAckslider is a 100% perfect fit, and I'll give Kim Bonner 110% for her contribution. The sum is 500% rock-n-roll.
Oh, and all the songs on "Thank You" are under three minutes long, by the way. They all churn, and rock, kick, and jump. They add up to the best album of 2009. A little under twenty-three minutes of rock-n-roll done right. Downloadable for the price of... well... nothing. Have a fun autumn-- the weather's great and the album of the year is free for all. Get it while
the gettin's good. -- A.S.