Monday, June 17, 2013

The Latest Attempt at Alternative Rock Radio

I've blogged about this a lot over the years, so apologies if I'm regurgitating old content. But, this is basically how mainstream rock radio has progressed over the last 10-15 years:

Early 00s: "Alternative rock" eventually morphs into "modern rock", playing more Nickleback-type stuff, and less stuff that may lean more towards punk (e.g. Blink-182) or pop (e.g. Matchbox Twenty).

Late 00s: Everyone starts getting tired of "modern rock", so rock stations start transitioning to a more-encompassing rock format, playing classic rock alongside Nickelback, etc.

Early 10s: Now everyone is really tired of "modern rock", so 90s alternative rock is making a comeback. Maybe. Or, perhaps a more inclusive style of rock.

I noticed this on our Colorado trip. Pretty much every major city we went through had a station that specialized in 90s alternative. And I don't mean "modern rock", where every band sounds like Nickelback or Creed. I mean, real 90s alternative. In my opinion, if you're going to be a real 90s alternative station, you can't just play Nirvana, Green Day, and Pearl Jam, and call it a day; you also need to be willing to play The Cranberries. I think that's a good benchmark.

Raleigh has been without such a station for a long time...but no more! Some time this year, completely unnoticed until someone told me, a new radio station debuted in Raleigh on the frequency 95.3 FM, called "95X". (Of course it's called 95X. Probably at least half of all alternative rock stations that have ever existed have been called "(something)X".) And yes, they play the Cranberries. By the way...I thought "Zombie" was kind of annoying back in the day. I thought it was cool when stations started playing it again, but by the fourth or fifth time, it started getting annoying again.

And, that's the thing with 95X. I don't think their playlist is quite long enough for my taste. The alternative station we listened to in Memphis (don't remember the name or frequency) had a much longer playlist, to the point where they were playing songs that I may not have heard since the 90s. That's the kind of stuff I want to hear. Don't just keep playing the same songs that have managed to survive on mainstream radio all these years. Sure, you can play "Smells Like Teen Spirit" every now and then, but how about the stuff that didn't make it out of the 90s?

And, sure, you can play some new stuff too. And I don't just mean the latest hit from the Foo Fighters, because I think that's one problem with all those "modern rock" stations of the last decade. Nothing against the Foo Fighters specifically, but stations' catalogues of new rock were mostly just the latest songs from the same bands that we've been listening to for the last 10+ years, all the while failing to introduce us to new bands, or some variant takes on the rock genre, in order to keep our interest. Maybe this is why "modern rock" is trending out: the most popular rock of today - for example, Mumford & Sons, the most recent winners of the Grammy for Best Album - doesn't really sound right on a "modern rock" or "classic rock" station. But on an "alternative rock' station, it fits. As someone who liked 90s rock, but didn't appreciate the direction that the genre took over the last decade, I welcome this. A lot.

I haven't actually listened to 95X all that much or for that long, so I don't really know how good their playlist is. On any given day, if I want music, I'd rather listen to 88.1 (the NC State station, which mostly plays indie rock). But at least it's on my presets now. I'm comfortable saving my 90s alternative fix for road trips, where I usually can't find an 88.1-caliber indie rock station, and have to settle for something else. I really liked the Memphis alternative rock station; the Denver alternative rock station was okay, but I thought they played a little too much Red Hot Chili Peppers. Basically, if you want to keep my attention, variety is key.

1 comment:

bubba0077 said...

Try Radio 1045 out of Philly: http://www.iheart.com/live/Radio1045-3401/