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State of the Airwaves

Danger, Doors, and Dar

By Dan Katz

Staff Writer

Welcome, welcome. For those of you who are just joining us on campus (freshmen) this is State of the Airwaves, my take on upcoming concerts, current radio singles, music trends, and virtually anything else associated with being a modern rock fan in the Cambridge area. Ninety-eight percent of the upperclassmen on campus read this column religiously, and if you don’t read it, they won’t think you are “cool” and you won’t get into the fraternity/sorority/dorm of your choice. So pay attention. (And for those of you who know I’m lying, just play along.)

What better way to celebrate your arrival on campus than with free shows? WBCN and WFNX are both fighting for your attention tonight, as WFNX brings 3 Doors Down to Axis (doors at 8 p.m.) and WBCN presents Fenix TX and Harvey Danger at the Hatch Shell (starts at 6:30). The FNX show requires you or your companion to have an FNX Card, while the BCN show merely requires you to show up. I know the best part of my orientation last year was ditching the President’s Dinner to go see Moby at the Hatch Shell. Ah, the memories. Also of note this week is a Union Underground gig at Axis on Tuesday night. Weezer and Pearl Jam are in the area as well, but they’re sold out, so it’s a bit late to get excited if you just found out.

Releases for the week: Elastica’s The Menace, which has been available for way too long and for way too much money as an import, will finally be released in the U.S. on Tuesday. Joining it are a rarities collection from Incubus, new folky discs from Jess Klein and Dar Williams, and self-titled albums from Vibrolush and American Pearl. Nothing fantastic this week; the good stuff’s coming in September and October.

About five years ago Sponge released one of my favorite songs, “Wax Ecstatic,” making a huge leap from the simplistic pop of “Molly” and “Plowed” to a heavier sound incorporating slide guitar licks and dissonant solos. Harvey Danger must have been taking notes, because they make a near-identical transition with “Sad Sweetheart Of The Rodeo,” the first cut off their new album. It doesn’t sound as instantly radio-friendly as “Flagpole Sitta,” but it comes off as more musically mature and still retains the band’s lyrical sense of humor (“The Marlboro Man died of cancer, and he wasn’t a rocket scientist when he was healthy”). I don’t know if this track will take off, especially with the odd name, but I’d like to see it get some airplay.

Also in the realm of major departures is Zebrahead’s latest cut, “Playmate of the Year.” The band’s last single, “Get Back,” landed smack in the middle of 311, Korn, and the Offspring, but didn’t have enough of a hook to be as popular as any of them. This time around the band has replaced the high-speed rapping that dominated “Get Back” (on “Playmate” it only shows up for half a verse) with a punk-style melody, placing the band’s sound closer to Blink-182 or SR-71. It’s not a huge change, and the rest of their new album is probably more of their traditional work, but it’s bound to get them noticed.

A warning to Radiohead fans: The good news is that, according to buzz on the Internet, the band’s new album will be as revolutionary as their last effort, OK Computer. The bad news is that it’s tricky to figure out what to believe. In the last two weeks a false press release popped up on many web sites, and fake mockups of every track on the album appeared on Napster. The band is ensuring that the album will not leak out early via specially designed pen-sized digital players. Many of the songs, however, have been played in concert and bootlegged. The best strategy to avoid the counterfeits is to only download songs that claim to be live (the most reliable tracks were recorded in Arles, France). In particular, listen to “Optimistic,” and then try to tell me you’re not excited about this album.

And finally, for a couple of people who have asked, I think Kurt Angle’s going to pull off an upset this weekend. It’s true, it’s true. Unfortunately, it also looks like the time has come for my heroes in life, Edge and Christian. The Hardy’s are long overdue to get the belts. It reeks heinously as far as I’m concerned.

I think I’ll sing us out today. “Now it’s time to say goodbye to all our company ... A-I-R ... (Aren’t you just dying to send feedback to Airwaves?) ... W-A ... (A good address to use would be <>) ... V-E-S! Until next week, have a good one and keep expanding your horizons.