Monday, August 17, 2009

I hate the radio

My problem today is an old one: that of the terrible feeling that the radio gives me. This is both an attack on corporate takeover and consolidation of the airwaves, and the frustration of loving music and being in the car a lot—a scenario which should provide a more-than-fortunate scenario to take advantage of unfortunate driving circumstances—and being forced into a delirious anger caused by constant playings of MGMT.

It should be noted that I am not the only person that hates the radio, and this is something that goes back to living in Cleveland, but out here, given my schedule of spending close to 90 minutes in my car each day and my Ipod being stolen, it has reached a terminal boiling point and now needs to be discussed.

So, without any further disclaimers or qualifiers I give you my beef with LA radio.

When I first moved out to LA, I was impressed with the quality of radio. For one, KROQ was one of the most influential, if not famous, radio stations in the country for the past twenty years. We also had Indie 103.1, a smaller but (so I thought) popular station free of the corporate routines and playlists that have driven me crazy in the past. My favorite thing about Indie wasn't the fact that I heard newer bands like SIlversun Pickups and Cold War Kids months before they hit national airwaves, but that they played older songs, from say the 1990s, and late 80s that I loved too. It wasn't about being obscure, elitist, or chic, it was about being rad. On top of these, we had (and have) KCRW, an NPR affiliate known for having incredible music collections and the uber-intellectual/influential Morning Becomes Eclectic known for breaking now-popular bands like the Shins.

To me, coming from the dull and repetitive Cleveland scene, this was nirvana. Then, in the past year, several things have happened.

For 1, 98.7 a contemporary music station changed formats to an edgier, younger format calling their listeners Rock-a-Holics and playing tired and repetitive playlists that I was sick of before they started.

2. KROQ, feeling the heat from 98.7's TERRIBLE sound, began to try to compete with the 16-22 year old brain-dead demo and started playing bands with "The" before their name, but no "s" at the end. (The Bravery, The Fray, The Airborne Toxic Event)

3. Maybe I'm wrong, but it feels as though KCRW has dipped into more obscure, trip-hoppy, anti-commercial elitism as opposed to just playing shit that SOUNDS good.

4. The coup-de-grace, Indie 103.1, citing poor ratings and beleaguered listeners closed their doors and turned mariachi.

These things all happened at a similar time which happened to co-incide with my IPod getting stolen, 97.1 FMTalk going off the air, and the midday crew on AM 570 KLAC's midday show getting an unneeded and disappointing makeover making my drive time a figurative funeral procession through the palm-tree lined streets that seem to directly contradict the shit being played on the radio.

Here's the thing: 98.7 is the devil. I mean that. They are the fucking devil. For 12 months, they played Kings of Leon's Sex on Fire every hour. I couldn't get into the car without hearing that song. Do you know what that does to me!?

Now, an album that I loved is trash to me because I associate it with screaming and pounding the steering wheel waiting for the 98.7 DJ's to stab themselves with a fictional turntable needle. It makes driving unbearable, and it makes the band super-popular with the high-school crowd that now ruins every KoL show by taking their parents money and buying tickets in front of me at the Nokia Theatre or the Forum when they should be playing the fucking Fonda. Then, when I do get to see KoL, they play al new songs, and only one song from their first album. Also, I am NOT, that guy, the guy that bitches about how he liked Snow Patrol back when they were still a real band, no, I'm the guy that called Only by the Night the best album of 2008.

Now I hear MGMT's Kids, a song that came out over two years ago, and by my cout, probably the 6th best song on an OK album 15 times a day. The latest Silversun Pickups CD, a CD I actually LIKE, and by a band that three years ago REPRESENTED the triumph of indie music, has been exploited and destroyed after 98.7 LITERALLY began playing Panic Room every other hour.

Just to play catch up, KROQ has followed suit.

The only bright spot in this mess has been the emergence of 100.3 The Sound who plays just about anything they want, as long as it's not the best song on a particular album. About 1 in 6 songs is actually really good, compared to about 1 in 15 on the other stations.

What are these stations doing. I ask only this of you, radio:


We are not as dumb and short-sighted as your market research may argue. We are not Midwest sheep that listen to what is played for us. We sell out three nights at the Wiltern for Wilco. We sell out the Greek for My Morning Jacket. We support the biggest record store in the country, and I can promise you, it's not with Killers CDs and Coldplay. We are BRIGHT people. That doesn't mean that you don't need to appeal to a larger audience by playing hits. I'm not asking for ELO album sides or playing unreleased Frank Zappa. That last Kings of Leon CD was dope, but there are eleven songs on it. Play them all, and not so much! Play stuff from the 90s and early 2000s that we haven't already heard 200 times. If we liked the first Strokes album, chances are we'll like to hear Someday just as much as Last Night. And I know I was young, but I could SWEAR the Smashing Pumpkins had more than four songs.

Please radio, I'm begging you. I don't want to buy a new IPod before I buy a new bike. We're better than this and you could be too.

Now, I will sign off and go see the Flaming Lips at the Greek – a band I've never heard on LA radio, yet somehow they sell 6000 tickets for 50 a pop on a Monday night. Must just be another cult phenomenon.


Matt Sepulveda said...

Matt. Great post.
Mostly agree with you. Do you remember Adam Carolla's rant his last day on the air. About how all of Los Angeles is, according to the radio stations, either stupid, Mexican, or both.

Do you ever listen to KLOS? Particularly Jim Ladd? I believe he is on 9pm-1am during the weeks ( not 100% on the hours) if you only can give him 1 hour, try out "Head Sets" Wednesday night/ thurs morning from midnight to 1 am. He may not help with your drive time troubles but will get you through the night!

Hope all is well aside from your musical woes


Matt Glassman said...

Yeah, Carolla's rant was amazing. AMAZING. I LIKE KLOS but they play the same shit over and over and over.

I went out yesterday and bought Sirius. Fuck radio.

Hope you're balling in Venezuela. Get at me when you get back and try not to fuck with the incas.