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A Head Full Of Peach Salsa
with Moondog!

July / August 2005

RATING MUSIC AS CHIPS AND SALSA- a code key:
^^^^^ = Five chips Fresh crunchy chips for homemade peach salsa with the freshest ingredients. Mmm-MM!
^^^^ = Four chips Not quite as crunchy or fresh. But, then again, it's not microwaved burritos. So there's some nutritional value, yes?
^^^ = Three chips Oh, come on! So a few of the chips are a little limp and the salsa's been sitting in a bowl in the hot kitchen. It's still peach salsa, man!
^^ = Two chips
It physically resembles chips and salsa, but it ain't quite it. Don't feel bad if you miss hearing this.
^ = One chip It seems to resemble a foodstuff, but who knows what it is anymore? If you must, crane your neck briefly to take notice of this, as you would a car wreck on the highway.
No chips It's actually a microwaved beef and bean burrito with that nasty "green chile sauce" that actually seems to have been made from tree bark moistened in tomato juice. Eeww. You're not going to eat that, are you?   

  Welcome back to school you crazy podcasting, downloading nutty kids. It's us, WWUH! We're the ones with the neon sign in the rear of that building you passed on your way from the bookstore to the coffee shop. We're those old troglodytes who still utilize primitive land based technology to disseminate music and culture throughout the Hartford area. Yeah, I know. Pretty crazy, huh? And we still use turntables to play records. That's right, we just cue them up ad push play. No scratching, no wheels of steel…

So, why take an interest in radio in this day and age? What can we offer that you can't get online from some internet outlet?

I recently had to confront that question personally. From my PC at work, I was able to sign on "for free" (we'll get back to that assertion in a minute) to a personally programmed "internet radio station." The playlist for my station was determined, it seemed, from a small survey where they ask you to rate some thirty or sixty different music/ audio genres. From this instant assessment of my musical tastes, the playlist began.

It was pretty impressive. Right there on my PC, a mix emerged…Chick Corea… Bobby Valentino… Robert Cray… Elliott Smith… The Vines… Ravi Shankar… The Cranberries… Billy Holiday… Slim Harpo… a musically diverse playlist as varied as any I might program on any given Friday night. And, if a song came up I was not enchanted with, I could just skip to the next song on the playlist. Wow. Could there be a down side to this?

Well, where did you imagine I would be headed with this, hmm?

Let's start with the commercials. On this "free" service, the music mix was paid for by the website's advertisers. And was it enough that the web advertisers could throw annoying pop-up/ pop-under ads at my PC, planting cookies, which slow down my PC and make it harder to enjoy the wonderful programming?

Oh, no, then there were the radio ads that popped in every ten minutes or so. And remember that ability to "skip tracks"? Well, it doesn't work when the lizard starts trying to hawk car insurance, my friend. Oh, and then, of course, the stream of programming couldn't just keep coming. After a certain amount of time the website stopped the stream entirely, to remind me (not with a sound message, but with a pop up) that I could get the same service without commercials for $XXX per month. Sure. That takes away the audio ads, sure, but the pop-ups remain the same…

The only time the programming was interrupted was to sell me something. No information about what I just heard (unless I wanted to take the time to surf, and who has time to do that while blasting away at aliens?). Heck, they didn't even interrupt the "show" to let me know the weather or a news update, or to tell me how the upturn in duct tape sales is preventing the extremists from winning… Okay, so it's not all bad.

Two words for you: local perspective. On WWUH, that means the music is programmed by a live volunteer staff that loves this stuff (not by some algorithm designed to outline someone's tastes). The same staff lives and learns about the music. You can always call and share your ideas. There is a programmer available on the other end of a phone line, or by mail or email, to talk to about the music.

You see, you should not underestimate the opportunity a good local non-profit volunteer staffed radio station. I mean, with stations like that, are you getting choice or the illusion of choice? As media becomes more global, the infrastructure of it all is in more and more danger of falling under the control of fewer and much richer hands with more narrow minds. Sure, you can go to an appropriate website anytime you want to be exposed to bluegrass, or folk, or polka, or new rock. And they'll give you what you came looking for, no more, no less. No genuine points of view other than your own need ever inform your musical tastes. Is that communication?

WWUH is one of a number of college stations, which developed from a hobby for kids to a genuine community resource. Thirty-seven years from its' roots, UH Radio still keeps its' doors and its' ears open to the community. Our programming is not determined by one monolith that thinks it knows jazz, folk, rock, Indian music or the blues. This station is in the hands of people who love the music, and believe in their mission to share ideas and open ears.

Oh, sure, it's easy to find what you want as long as you never develop what you want. The challenge here is to become a more active listener, and a less passive consumer. The only reason the range of choices that now exist on the internet are there in the first place is because decades of non-commercial programming kept options open, making music more that just another product to be shifted, but, instead, a cultural artifact, a vital piece of art, a set of sounds with the power to evoke genuine experiences shared with your neighbors.

And, of course, your "neighbors" who listen to WWUH these days are from easily as global a community as any other website. Yes, we stream on the internet, too.

Only without the lizard salesmen, or interruptions every ten minutes to sell you something you couldn't possibly want or need.

We go from folk to jazz to Public Affairs to oldies to band music to blues to Celtic to polka to ambient electronic to film scores to metal to gospel to soul and r & b to Cajun and Zydeco to gay programming to hip-hop to country to avant garde to Indian to reggae to bluegrass to doo-wop to world programming in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Lithuanian (and more) to opera to classical. Oh yeah, and we rock plenty, too, prog and otherwise.

So you crazy wacky kids… okay, I mean you leaders of tomorrow… just keep downloading whatever you want… but keep one ear open on your community.

We'll be here when you're done playing DDR. At least, I think we'll be here. You've got quite a run going, don't you?

__________________________________________________________

Tracy Bonham's major stab at musical stardom was 1996's The Burdens of Being Upright, which yielded a memorable bit of Grrl Power Pop in its' hit single "Mother Mother." When Bonham arrived, she displayed a musical and vocal aesthetic similar to Liz Phair, though her ax of choice was the violin, which she has been playing since age 9.

Also like Phair, Bonham has done good work that has gone unnoticed once it fell off the video countdown radar screens of the early 21st century. It is a shame in both cases, and probably sadly proving how very necessary something like the Lilith Tours were to promote worthy woman artists who have something more to offer than Ashlee Simpson or Britney Spears.

Of course, it could be worse. She could have married Kevin Federline…

Instead, ending her association with Island after 2000's fine follow-up (but, alas, poorly charting) Down Here, she collaborated with many an artist (including bluegrass star Tony Trischka's Wayfaring Strangers, and fellow Bostonites Marc Copley and Aerosmith), she toured with Blue Man Group (following the Group's 2002 Complex, for which she guested on vocals). It was on that tour that she first sold her self-produced Bee EP, the profits from which enabled her to self-produce her latest full-length effort, Blink the Brightest (Zoe records, June, 2005, ^^^1/2).

If her previous albums displayed little mercy for the ways of romance (as on Down Here's "Behind Every Good Woman" (which, in the chorus, precedes the line, "lies a trail of men."), on the new album she seems positively fixated on it. Not that stops her from finding it funny and stupid. "It's hearts up heads down" she declares on the hopeful and lilting "Something Beautiful."

She muses on the strange mysteries of emotional dependency on "I Was Born Without You" with a pop-rock sound not terribly unlike Aimee Mann, or her significant other Michael Penn. She muses that "Love is a two-headed beast clumsy and stupid/ ready to crush everything" on "All Thumbs."

She acknowledges emotional vulnerability as a temporary, but unavoidable condition in "Naked" ("I'm naked pretty as a heartache waiting for my second skin to settle in").

Each tune on this album is a well-constructed piece of pop full of acoustic flavorings. Co-producer Greg Collins (one of two co-producers here with Bonham) has worked as an engineer with Babyface, Eels, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fiona Apple, Perry Farrell, and U2, arriving here with seven years of experience in studiocraft, and his bass guitar in hand. Joey Waronker is the other co-producer, a veteran drummer with John Doe, Beck, Richard Thompson, R.E.M., Elliott Smith and Johnny Cash, and contributes his sensitive percussion work to a number of tracks. Also present for the proceedings are such luminaries as Butch (drummer from Eels), bassist Davey Faragher (Cracker) and multi-instrumentalist (and legendary producer in his own right) Mitchell Froom.

Bonham herself is no slouch in the multi-instrument department, contributing violin, vocals, guitar and various keyboards (including a Hammond organ and a pump organ). And while she's not quite the lyricist that, say, Jill Sobule is, she has a great musical ear, and a worthy voice more than deserving a spin in your CD player…

…or is it a click on your MP3? Or your ITunes? Or… allright, I'm confused. Just buy this recording and enjoy, please? Hah?

__________________________________________________________

Meanwhile, I'll just ROCK!

And if you want to ROCK with capital letters this fall, you will finally get up off it (like I did) and listen to the latest from Olympia, Washington's own Sleater-Kinney. I've been an appreciator of this power trio for some years now. Corin Tucker's vocal is a wail at least as strong and assured as that of The B-52s' Kate Pierson, and their double guitar attack excitingly recalls that of late Husker Du.

Not sold yet? Jam on The Woods (Sub Pop, June, 2005, ^^^^) and you will be. The title of this album, and its' graphics, suggest "dark fairy tale," like David Lynch's Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks. Thematically, the lyrics deal with emotional adolescence; of what else is the best ROCK made? "Modern Girl" is among the notable highlights as the music glides from a breezy, easy going guitar melody (as Tucker sings "My baby loves me/ I'm so happy") and develops menacing undertones, piling on discordant harmonies as the song's main character becomes increasingly disenchanted with television, consumerism and, finally love ("My baby loves me/ I'm so angry").

The lyrics are also full of an honest had-it-up-to-here rage with shallow culture, likewise a hallmark of the best punk music. At least when delivered by Tucker, Carrie Brownstein (back-up vox and guitar) and Janet Weiss (drums) it escapes the vacuum of irony long enough to really ROCK!

Another thing occurs to me listening to The Woods…producer Dave Fridmann (who's done outstanding work with The Flaming Lips) has here developed the sound that Steve Albini should really have had on PJ Harvey's sophomore effort, Rid of Me (which I feel Albini truly butchered). You see, Steve? You can have both fantastically distorted wild guitar sounds and ferociously strong vocals.

And, you know, I think I can even find a little of Dave Thomas (of Pere Ubu, not Wendy's) in Corin Tucker's vocals, now that I listen some more. Sorry for the gushing, but… hey! No! I'm not sorry! You know why? Cause I'm ROCKIN'!!!

Listen to CALL IT THING on the Friday Gothic Blimp Works, Fridays from midnight to three on UH Radio! It's your weekly load of guff! Oh, and, uh, ROCK!

__________________________________________________________

CULTURE DOGS CORNER (Literally this time) THE POST SUMMER QUICKIE WRAP-UP (or STILL MORE Fear and Loathing at the Multiplex) by Kevin O'Toole

Following up on last issue, here are some quick thoughts on the summer that wasn't (and if you missed the July August issue, look it up at wwuh.org.

Well, as I write this there are two movies left that are possibly worth waiting for: Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm and the Russian horror fantasy NightWatch (which utterly failed to come out at the end of July as planned). Keep an eye peeled to culturedogs.org for updated review blurbs and much more. Other than that, I can report that Batman Begins was the best Batman film ever, and that comes from a big fan of the Tim Burton entries.

Speaking of Tim Burton, I loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory so much, that I willingly avoided even trying to compare it to the Gene Wilder version. They're different animals, I say.

Among the other great little films from this summer are also Howl's Moving Castle, Murderball, Mysterious Skin, Hustle & Flow and Wedding Crashers.

The summer that never was, however, never was because of declining ticket revenues.

And one last note: I'm so over Revenge of the Sith. Well, almost.

Make sure and listen to Sam Hatch and I on CULTURE DOGS every Sunday night at 8 pm, your weekly video and movie news and review program from eight to nine on UH Radio for the latest on how to survive your summer on home video and out at the movies! See you on the radio!

Copyright © WWUH: Program Guide, 2005

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