Three new collections have something for everyoneBy Joel M. Rosenberg
For the past seven years, MIT's radio station, WMBR, 88.1 FM, has been the venue for lots of different alternative bands. In the basement of Walker Memorial, somewhere in Studio A, groups have set up shop and broadcast their tunes to the community using all 720 watts the station has to offer. In case you've missed these shows, however, the station has put together a 2-CD set, Pipeline! Live Boston Rock on WMBR, that has songs from 40 different bands.
Any time you get that many different sounds together, there are bound to be some that you like and some that you don't. What's good about this collection is that it's basically a sampler of young, Boston-based alternative groups. You listen to it, and if anyone interests you, there's a good chance you'll catch them around here and maybe make it into their still early following. With that many bands, you've got to come up with at least a few you like.
Some of the bands are already doing well for themselves, including Morphine, who will be playing at H.O.R.D.E. this summer, and the Dirt Merchants, who have a new album, Scarified (Zero Hour, 1995), and who just headlined the Middle East last Friday. Granted, the liner notes themselves indicate that 11 of the bands no longer exist, but that's still a pretty good track record for seven years of recording. Maybe if this album came out seven years ago, those bands would have gotten enough support to stick around. Check it out; it's worth it.
Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks
"As your body grows bigger/ Your mind must flower/It's great to learn/ 'cause knowledge is power!" Straight from the seventies, the theme from Schoolhouse Rock brings back some pretty good memories of waking up early Saturday morning and parking in front of the TV set for six hours. While many of us haven't seen a Saturday morning cartoon in years, some of the songs can be heard again on a great new cover album called Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks.
I'm not a big fan of seventies retro stuff, but Schoolhouse Rock is different. It's part of what got a lot of us here - a love of teaching and learning. The new album has Blind Melon explaining abut how "Three Is a Magic Number," and Biz Markie singing "The Energy Blues." The album is a great idea, since lots of people will still get excited when hearing "I'm Just A Bill," performed by Deluxx Folk Implosion, and Conjunction Junction, redone by Better than Ezra.
It's fun listening to these songs, because they're written for elementary school kids. You keep expecting the lyrics to get more sophisticated and more complex, but some of them just keep repeating the same idea over and over, trying to teach the stuff to the kids. Maybe it's not all for kids, though: Some of us could probably benefit from the grammar songs. They've got all kinds of Schoolhouse Rock stuff now, including reissues of all of the original episodes on video, a book with all of the lyrics, and a forthcoming 4-CD box set with all of the original songs. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Children's Defense Fund, so if for nothing else, buy the album for a good cause. "It's Schoolhouse Rocky/ A chip off the block/ Of your favorite Schoolhouse/ Schoolhouse Rock!"
Something's Phishy. God Street Wine has been compared to Phish in the past, and the first song off their new album, Red, would certainly lend credence to that comparison. They've also been compared to Bob Dylan, which is what the second song sounds like. The Grateful Dead influence is apparent in track six, U2 in the fourth, and in concert they play what sounds just like a Pink Floyd song. They sound a little too much like too many other people.
While these guys from NYU and Manhattan School of Music do have some interesting points, like dual guitars which make them a bit more folk sounding (like the Allman Brothers), as well as a pretty cool rock pianist, they come up a little short of their own sound - even with two lead vocalists. Technically they're great musicians, and have a pretty wide arsenal of styles, which is why they can pull off all of these different comparisons. But there comes a time when others must start being compared to God Street Wine.
Their live show at the Paradise last month was kind of interesting. They didn't interact with the audience at all, and just segued from one song into the next, often changing genre but hardly exciting the crowd to where I had expected. They played a few cover tunes, including "A Day in the Life," as their encore. While a nice touch considering Anthology II had just come out, it didn't do much to distinguish the group after I already thought they weren't original enough. Given some more time, they might be able to merge all of these different influences together to get what they're looking for. Right now, though, they're a little too Phishy, Dylinish, Deadish, and so on.