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MUSIC REVIEW

State of the Airwaves

Face To Face, Fiction, and a Flooded Market

By Dan Katz

Staff Writer

First week of classes and you’re having trouble coping? Put down the books and go to a concert, specifically Travis’s gig at the Avalon Saturday night. Not only are Travis one of the most charismatic live acts on the road right now, they’ll be joined by Remy Zero, who hold the impressive distinction of being one of Radiohead’s favorite bands. The pair should make for a rewarding evening of music. If instead you have a penchant for the Amazing Crowns, you’re in luck ... the swing-punk hybrid stops at Bill’s Bar on Friday and then opens for Face To Face and 6Gig on Sunday at the Palladium in Worcester. Finally, Zebrahead and Wheatus come to Karma Wednesday in an attempt to get some recognition for their catchy radio hits “Playmate of the Year” and “Teenage Dirtbag.”

Well, I told you the torrent was coming, and here it is. There are a ridiculous number of promising albums hitting stores this Tuesday. If guitar rock is your cup of tea, you’ll want to pick up the Marvelous 3’s Readysexgo and Harvey Danger’s sophomore effort, King James Audio. Those looking for a sense of humor are likely to find it in Barenaked Ladies’ Maroon, which should do well on the Billboard charts, as well as Volumizer by 2 Skinnee J’s and Freaked Out And Small by The Presidents (formerly known as The Presidents of the United States of America). There are hard rock discs from Cold and At The Drive In, synthesized offerings from Underworld (a live album) and Electronic, and a little of both on VAST’s Music For People. Finally, if you caught last year’s State of the Airwaves concert with Sarah Slean, you might remember an enigmatic opening guitarist named Kurt Swinghammer. His Vostok 6 album hits stores Tuesday as well.

On the topic of the Marvelous 3 (the 1999 State of the Airwaves Live Act of the Year), the good news is that the band is currently scheduled to play a show in Boston with SR-71 on September 27. The bad news is that they’re scheduled to play the Paradise Rock Club, which was closed months ago for liquor license violations. No changes have been made to the date on the band’s site or Pollstar, so I can only hope the show will move to a different venue (Axis?) rather than not happening at all.

I recently read a long article on an Internet news site complaining about how much Orgy’s “Fiction (Dreams In Digital)” resembles a Marilyn Manson song, and I’m going to have to vehemently disagree. While it’s never a good idea to release a cover as your first single (especially of a song as unique as New Order’s “Blue Monday”), Orgy have established their own voice with songs like “Stitches” and “Dissension,” and while Jay Gordon uses a similarly low and overdramatic voice, the band’s sound focuses less on angry power chords and more on weird dissonant countermelodies. “Fiction” isn’t exactly a new direction for Orgy, but their current direction is distinctive enough for me.

At the same time that the bands I like are pumping out tracks I dig, a couple of bands I don’t normally approve of have released surprisingly decent singles. Most notable in this group is Everclear’s newest song, “AM Radio.” The song’s based around samples from Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff,” which could easily come off as blasphemy. But Art Alexakis’s lyrics about his childhood (he’s actually not whining this time) and the well-crafted drum tracks make the song more of an homage than a sacrilege. The other temporary non-offender is Green Day, whose “Minority” has one of the most infectious choruses of the year, not to mention a much less repetitive reappearance of the melodic acoustic guitars from “Good Riddance.” Nice to hear a new songwriting path from them.

Finally, if you think you’ve heard a new Smash Mouth song about skateboarding recently, you’re wrong: it’s actually “Heaven Is A Halfpipe,” by a band called OPM that manages to sound exactly like Smash Mouth (maybe with a dash of Jimmie’s Chicken Shack). They also manage to recreate Smash Mouth’s shallow catchiness, making their upcoming tour with Eve 6 all the more appropriate.

I have once again come to the sad realization that I’m being far too positive in this column. There’s got to be some terrible songs out there, and the best way for me to find them is for you to point them out to me. If you surf MTV or the radio or anything similar, let me know what you think the best and worst tracks in current rotation are, and maybe I’ll give you a cookie. Send that and any other comments that strike your fancy to <airwaves@the-tech.mit.edu>. ’Til next time, enjoy your classes and keep expanding your horizons.