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State of the Airwaves

Censorship, Sampling, and Silverchair

By Daniel J. Katz

I’m not sure what Eminem’s video for “Guilty Conscience” illustrates -- the overwhelming power of censors, or what musicians think they can get away with lyrically. About a third of the song’s lyrics are deleted, often two or three lines at a time.

It’s comforting to know that MTV has principles: they’ll take a video with subject matter they’re clearly opposed to and air it anyway, removing the half of the song that they don’t approve of. Similar pettiness is evident in Fuel’s video for “Jesus Or A Gun” (which airs as “Jesus Or A...”) and, going back a few months, Moby’s “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver.” In the last one, the title remained intact, but the offending line was replaced by “That’s when I realize it’s over.” If you’re going to decry an artist’s ideas, you might as well reject the video.

A more creative and more airable way of expressing important issues comes in Silverchair’s new single, “Ana’s Song.” The combination of strings and forceful electric guitars create a mood that’s both emotional and active, and the lyrics subtly and metaphorically address singer Daniel Johns’ battle against anorexia. The video is also powerful, showing a woman trying desperately to wash an ever increasing amount of blood off her hands. With “Ana’s Song,” Silverchair proves that you can write a song that purges your emotions but still stands on its own.

Moby and Oleander were both recently added to the extremely impressive Woodstock ’99 lineup, and both have good singles to back up that honor. Moby’s “Bodyrock” is his most impressive use to date of old-fashioned samples and modern dance beats. While “Honey” and “Run On” are both catchy, they get tiresome before they conclude, while the more bustling pace of “Bodyrock” makes it fresher and more fun to listen to repeatedly.

Oleander’s “Why I’m Here” has a raging chorus, but it’s a bit disjointed. The interesting part comes before each chorus, when a subtle drum line and cello appear among peaceful guitars, doubling the song’s pace. Both are good additions to the festival, but if the organizers were looking for electronic and hard rock acts, there are better alternatives, such as the Lo-Fidelity Allstars and Simon Says.

From the “I want to hear more” department comes Joydrop, whose current single “Beautiful” (not to be confused with the Dovetail Joint single of the same name) carries a icy mood comparable to Esthero’s “Heaven Sent.” The song trucks along quietly like the calm before a storm. Then the storm kicks in, as the voices become loud and distorted, and a strangely awkward guitar figure wanders in the background. This is quality rock music that doesn’t bow to convention.

From the “I don’t want to hear anymore” department comes Len’s “buzzworthy” (thank you, MTV, for expanding my vocabulary) tune, “Steal My Sunshine,” which has an infectious summer beat, but fails to do anything interesting with it. The only pleasant segment is the soothing female voice in the chorus that chimes, “You can steal my sunshine.”

And the remix of the week is a new version of Orgy’s “Stitches” I recently ran across. It takes one of the creepiest singles of the year, and makes it even creepier... by removing almost everything. As eerie as the droning guitar in the original version is, it’s no match for the echo of the bare melody with nothing but drums and bells behind it.

I’m outta here. Until next time, keep expanding those horizons.