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State of the Airwaves

Guided, Guster, and Glycerine

By Dan Katz

staff writer

Happy Wednesday, kids, and welcome to yet another dead concert week. Only two shows are really worth my recommendation over the next seven days, and together they’re the Airwaves Show Of The Week: a two-night stand of old-school indie rock at the Middle East, brought to you Monday and Tuesday by Guided By Voices. Mainstays on college radio stations around the country, the Dayton-based band are known for playing long and energetic sets, and most veterans of their live shows attest that it’s an experience worth ... um ... experiencing. You see? The lack of live music this month has destroyed my vocabulary. At least there are shows from They Might Be Giants, Violent Femmes, and Guster in the near future.

I suppose we were about due this month for another punk-outing. Every now and then, a punk or ska band puts out a catchy single with a poppy harmonic chorus, all the radio stations start picking it up, and suddenly all the band’s old fans start labelling them sellouts for finally succeeding. It happened with Reel Big Fish, it happened with Blink-182. Your next victim is the Suicide Machines, whose new song, “Sometimes I Don’t Mind,” even has the requisite goofy video to go along with its appeal: the day of a life of a dog, artfully portrayed by a guy in a big, stupid-looking dog suit. Don’t be surprised if you hear a couple more songs from these guys, and then you hear a lot of people complaining about “how good they used to be back in the day.”

It’s “Glycerine II.” Bush’s newest single off The Science Of Things continues an admirable effort to abandon their grungy Nirvana-soundalike roots. “The Chemicals Between Us” took the band’s rock sound and added dissonance and a synthesizer edge. Now “Letting The Cables Sleep” reassesses the sadly romantic ballad territory the band breached with “Glycerine,” this time incorporating a more unique guitar tone, a more dynamic melody and strings section, and most importantly, more than four chords. To top it off, the lyrics in the chorus (“Silence is not the way, we need to talk about it, heaven is on the way, we’ll wrap the world around it”) are a lot more sophisticated than “Glycerine, Glycerine.” At this rate, by summer I may actually admit to liking this band.

There are a couple more nifty new releases off previously released albums: Joydrop decided make me happy by releasing my favorite song of their album, Metasexual, a terrifically catchy song called “Spiders” that highlights the band’s ability to meld terrific guitar lines with cool, atmospheric rhythms. Like their last single, “Beautiful,” this one threatens to stick in your head for hours. Also, Powerman 5000’s “Nobody’s Real” has been on the radio for a few weeks now, but it deserves a mention for two reasons. First, it manages to follow up one of the best singles of the year, “When Worlds Collide,” and not be a horrific disappointment, and second, its video manages to blatantly mimic the cut for “When Worlds Collide” in its science fiction theme, right up to having the band’s lead singer shoot laser beams out of his hand, and still look fresh. How does a band that should be lost in the shadow of its frontman’s brother (Rob Zombie) keep raising the bar like this?

So my column just barely made deadline last week. Apparently the Essential Vegetarian was ready to leap onto my dead body and brag about how she made print the first week of IAP and I didn’t. But I snuck in under the wire and foiled our carniphobic friend’s poorly planned attack; clearly she had no faith in the awesome and immortal power that is State of the Airwaves. (Perhaps the tofu has gone to her head.) Just another reason Katie Jeffreys is leading in one of the categories of the (drumroll) Airwaves Reader Awards! I’m still taking votes for the Best Single, Best Album, Best Live Act, Best Local Act, Best Music Video, and Most Annoying Personality of 1999. Remember, my readership is dismally small, so your vote could count even more than you think it does! Make your opinions known!

That should do it for this week. Yes, you can feel the withdrawal setting in already, can’t you? Seven days without State of the Airwaves ... But you can curb those symptoms by making your thoughts part of State of the Airwaves! Just send your picks, pans, raves, rants, corrections, contradictions, and sexual propositions to All my mail gets read (provided it’s in English) and your feedback matters to me. Until next week, get in on the mystery hunt this weekend and keep expanding your horizons.