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Archive for the ‘WRXP 101.9 FM–New York’ Category

frip1SOUNDTRACK: WRFF 104.5  FM & WRXP 101.9 FM.

1045The CD player in my car died.  I have been listening to the radio these last few days.  At first I was a little rxpexcited at the thought of listening to these stations that I so recently discovered.  But let me say, when working outside in the yard, you don’t mind what the stations are playing as much as you do when confined in a car.

Everyone hates commercials.  True.  But I never really noticed how all stations play commercials at the exact same time.  So you can’t even switch back and forth between the two stations without someone yelling at you to buy something.

But the real problem comes with the music.  Now, these are stations that I like and the bulk of the music they play is very good.  However, after being stuck in the car for more than three hour with these two, I’m ready to strangle them.  WRFF based in Philadelphia seems to have copped its set list from the venerable Boston radio station WFNX circa 1995.  I loved the Toadies back then and was thrilled to hear them again.  But I don’t need to hear them every other day, now.  And, WRFF loves the Police, almost obsessively.  Now, I like the Police quite a lot, but for RFF, The Police seem to be their go-to band.  Hey, we’ve got a slot to fill, let’s throw on “Message in a Bottle.”  Again.  I like the Police, but come on!  And, of course, there’s Airborne Toxic Event.  I think every time I turn on that station I hear “Some Time Around Midnight.”

And WRXP is just a little too fixated on the classic rock.  When I first started listening I was pretty excited at the mix of classic rock and alternative stuff.  But at this point, I’ve grown tired of the classic rock, especially since it seems to be all second-tier classic rock.  You know, I don’t really need to hear “Money for Nothing” anymore.

And so, I am left scanning the dials.  And, I am ashamed to say that it took me a few days to search to the left of the dial, where I know good music normally resides.  In my defense, where I used to live didn’t have much access to those stations.  But now that I live within shouting distance of Rutgers, there is much to be joyous about.

[READ: May 5, 2009] The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip

frip2I had read this short book about six months ago, but decided to read it again before posting on it.  The second time through was a much more satisfying read for some reason.

This story is about a small town called Frip.  Frip is on the edge of a cliff above the sea.  Lurking in the sea are a multitude of gappers.  Gappers are small orange urchin-like creatures.  Gappers love goats.  Not to eat or to do anything evil to, they just love them.  Goats make them happy.  Conveniently for the gappers, the three families who live closest to the edge of the cliff all keep goats.  Unfortunately for the families and the goats, hundreds of gappers climb on the goats and shriek with delight whenever they cling.  This is rather disconcerting for the goats, who stop eating and stop producing milk.

The three families are:  our heroine Capable and her dad, her neighbor Mrs Romo and her two boys (who spend their non-gapper moments practicing singing), and Mr & Mrs P and their two girls (who practice looking pretty for boys).  The children are employed to go out to the goats eight times a day, scrape the gappers off the goats and throw them back into the sea.

One day, the gappers realize they can go to just one house, instead of all three.  So, they choose Capable’s house (which is closest).  Now her neighbors have no gappers, but Capable is overwhelmed by them.  Capable asks for help but the neighbors tell her that the gappers are her problem now. (more…)

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harpersaprilSOUNDTRACK: BILLY IDOL

spikeBilly Idol plagues my existence.  Ever since he popped up on the scene (my first exposure was “White Wedding”) I thought he was kind of goofy. He has some kind of claim to cred and fame from being in Generation X, and yet I have never heard a song by Generation X and I never hear them mentioned anywhere except as being the band that spawned Billy Idol.

And yet, through the 80s he proliferated with a series of increasingly stupid singles: “White Wedding” (Everyone mocked the lip thing.  And that scream at the end–come on!).  Then came “Dancing with Myself” (This guy is a punk legend? And that “sweat sweat sweat sweat” chant–come on!).  Then we get “Eyes Without a Face,” (A ballad that is apparently be profound, but really?  “Eyes without a face got no human grace”–come on!).

So, basically I can’t stand Billy Idol.  Which would be fine.  I don’t have to hear him right?  I mean it’s been 27 years since these songs came out.  But no!  I was working in the garden, which means listening to the radio.  Between 101.9 WRXP (my new favorite station) and Radio 104.5 WRFF (my even newer favorite station) I heard TWO Billy Idol songs in three hours.  And this was in the midst of an otherwise awesome collection of tunes.  And then, just to add insult to injury, TiVo had recorded a VH1 morning music block, and as I was fast forwarding through it “Eyes Without a Face” came on.

Three Billy Idols in the span of a day.  Good grief.

I can only hope that by writing this, I can purge my Idol dismay and break the curse.  And I had to include a picture of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer just to take away the stigma of a Billy Idol photo on one of my posts.

[READ: March 25, 2009] “The Quarrel in the Strong-Box”

I’m surprised at how much Mark Twain has been coming up lately. This piece is a fable, (written in 1897), about two pages long, and is very Twain-ian.

The basic gist is that all of the money in a strongbox is vying for most important coin or bill. It begins with a simple argument between a nickle and a penny. The nickle argues (in a not-so-subtly racist manner) that the copper coin is second class, since the nickle is worth so much more. Then various denominations chime in, all arguing that they are more valuable.

It is taken to a court, where the penny argues that all coins are created equal. The judge determines that all of the coins get the same amount of interest (at the time 5%) regardless of their actual value. And in that regard they are all created equal. What happens after that is up to them to determine.

A good and pertinent fable, even if it is 112 years old.

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SOUNDTRACK: WEEZER-Weezer (Red Album) (2008).

So hooked was I by the video for “Buddy Holly” that there was little chance of me ever disliking Weezer.  When Pinkerton came out, it quickly became one of my favorite records.  “Pink Triangle” is such a great song about unrequited love for a lesbian.  And of course, “El Scorcho” is a wonderfully off-kilter single.  Since then, Weezer have put out a bunch of albums, some with titles and some without.  This is their 3rd record called Weezer, but it’s the Red Album because its cover is red (duh).

I know that many people can’t stand Weezer (or at least couldn’t back the last time I bothered to check what the pop culture world was thinking…although I think they may be cool now).  They have an uncanny sense of pop melody even when their songs are weird or funny or even seemingly out of tune.  I think that’s why I like them so much, because their songs sometimes start out of tune and the ultimately wind up being super catchy.  I also like them because Rivers Cuomo went back to Harvard to get his degree in English (one wonders of course, why he chooses to write such pedestrian rhymes, but that’s another story altogether), and because he’s a geek in general.

No doubt you’ve heard at least one Weezer song, and you’d be living under a rock if you haven’t heard their new, ubiquitous single “Pork and Beans.”  And “Pork and Beans” is as good a place to start as any.  It’s got fairly heavy guitars, it’s catchy as all get out, it’s rather anti-authority, and parts of it don’t make any sense…that’s Weezer for you.

This record is pretty strong overall.  The first 5 songs are pretty standard Weezer.  There’s a really heavy start song, a sentimental song “Heart Songs” which name checks some of Rivers’ favorite songs growing up, and what has become my favorite song on the record: “The Greatest Man that Ever Lived.”  This is a long song (for Weezer) at nearly six minutes.  What’s cool about it is that every verse is done in a different style of music: there’s a metal verse, a choral verse, a spoken word verse etc.  And the chorus is simple and wonderful.  It could go on for twenty minutes and would still be great.

“Everybody Get Dangerous” is a weird song to me.  It doesn’t quite sound right. It’s still catchy, but I think maybe saying the word dangerous makes a chorus sound weird.  (How’s that for subjective?).  Or, which is more likely, the verses are the catchy part and the chorus is the off-kilter section.

The second half of the record strikes a few firsts, in that the other members of the band sing lead vocals on a few tracks.  Even though the songs are good (and when I heard “Automatic” on the radio the other day on WRXP, it sounded great by itself) there’s something off about them being on a Weezer record.  I think maybe I associate Rivers’ voice with their style so much that any other voice just makes things seems askew.  That said, the songs are good, they’re just not “Weezer.”

I have to get back to the lyrics though.  Rivers is more about harmony and melody, I know, but sometimes those lyrics are so simple as to be almost a joke in themselves.  Maybe that’s the point.  (And as an English major myself, I secretly believe it is the point).  After a few listens I stop cringing about the lyrics and I just start enjoying them.

The last song gives me some problems because it runs nearly seven minutes long.  Obviously not a problem in itself, but the last two or two and a half minutes are just the song fading out, which…come on.

[DIGRESSION] I think I’m probably the only person who gets bothered by songs that fade out too long or songs that I think should be a minute shorter than they are.  And I realized it’s because I have a limited time where I can listen to music carefully.  And so when I do, I don’t want it wasted with silence or fade outs or final choruses that repeat sixteen times. On the other hand, if I just have music on in the background (which is how most people listen to music) you will hardly notice those extra 45 seconds.  But when you’re in the car, and you know you’ll be at work in exactly 3 minutes, you don’t want 2 minutes of fade!

[READ: August 14, 2008] One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

My first real awareness of Solzhenitsyn actually comes from the Moxy Fruvous song “Johnny Saucep’n”:

Well he was just some Johnny Saucep’n when he walked into that kitchen.
And the chef picked up the order and put down his Solzhenitsyn (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WRXP, 101.9 FM, New York City (45 days later).

The past two weeks I have been listening to this station more because I have been doing work in the garage (building a chicken coop).  Without going into my neurotic music listening, I’ll just say that I listen to the radio rather than CDs when I do noisy work.  And so, WRXP.

I haven’t listened that much since my last post, but the most dramatic difference to me is that they seem to have real commercials now.  Wal-Mart seemed to be advertised a lot, and there were one or two other name brand items (with effective ads obviously).  They still have all of those weird ads for services rather than products (in fact if you need full term life insurance, just listen in for 20 minutes and you’ll hear that one).  But I guess they must be doing well if the real companies are showing up.

They still play way too many commercials.  But heck, that’s commercial radio for you.

They also seem to rely a lot on a few bands that surprise me: Dave Matthews in particular.  I’m not a big fan of his, so I’m surprised to hear him so much; however, overall I think their selection is quite good.  They seem to be off Pink Floyd and on to Zeppelin now, which, frankly would be a neat idea for this station: pick a classic rock artist that you will overplay for a week, and then move on.   What a cool thing: you could do all kinds of back catalog stuff, and less popular songs and then, just as people got sick of them, switch to someone else, and repeat.  Genius!

Anyhow, the other thing I wanted to mention is that the only person with any credibility to ever be on MTV, Matt Pinfield, is a morning DJ on the station.  He and his co-jock do a bit too much DJ banter for my liking, but mostly he’s just a dude who loves music and will tell you more or less fascinating stories about whoever he’s going to play, and then play good stuff.  I heard a fun interview with Supergrass the other morning, which was good.  Pinfield also knows his music enough to ask good questions and still be fun.

Hilariously, he also committed the hilarious gaffe that I used to commit in high school: pronouncing the Police album: “Outlandos DE Amoor” rather than the more accurate Outlandos Damoor (surely he must know that by NOW).  (Like pronouncing the Plasmatics album COOP DE AY-TAT, rather then Coo DAY TAH (I’m guilty of that too).  And, I found out that he grew up in East Brunswick, NJ, merely a few miles from where I now work.  So, Matt, if you ever used the North Brunswick Library, well, you should come back and see how nice we look now.

[READ: August 13, 2008] “The Real Work”

This piece was recommended by two people who commented on my post about Alex Stone in Harper‘s Magazine. They both said that this was a far better, far more appreciative article about magic.  And they were right.  I won’t really compare it to Stone’s except to say that Stone’s piece (whatever his credibility may be) was designed as a suspenseful tale following the events and the winner of “The Magic Olympics.” He also gave away some secrets to some of the tricks he did and saw there.

Gopnik’s piece is more of a loving appreciation for magicians and their work. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKWRXP, 101.9, New York City

Since I’ve been talking about Sirius radio, I also wanted to mention this excellent station that was just added to our local lineup. WXRP 101.9 used to be smooth jazz. Then when they realized that people like rock, they went to this new format. It is something of a mix of classic rock and alternative (not heavy alternative, but 80s and 90s style alternative music). It is the only place (aside from my CD changer) where you could hear The Stone Roses, Live, and Pink Floyd back to back. I had the radio on the other day while I was working in the garage, and I couldn’t get over how much I enjoyed this station. It was actually a better collection of music than anything on Sirius (whose stations are actually too narrow to do this mix).

Of course, there were commercials…a lot of commercials. We’ve been living commercial free basically since we got TiVo and we listen to NPR radio stations (even 88.5 WXPN Philadelphia, a fantastic radio station in its own right is commercial free). So, it’s always a shock to hear radio commercials (they are just so terrible). What was especially weird about WRXP’s commercials is that there weren’t for the radio staples: cars and beer. All of the commercials seemed to be about debt consolidation, online dating, and free laptops:services rather than products. How weird. So, in a nutshell: great great great radio station guys. I guess I’ll put up with the commercials. (more…)

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