By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
As for hearing a song by any of the teeming gaggle of bands percolating just outside the alternative mainstream A Stereolab, Archers of Loaf, Bad Livers, Combustible Edison, Royal Trux A get real. When it comes to contemporary acts, SHE feels much more at home with 1) H.O.R.D.E. tour wanna-be's such as the Dave Matthews Band and Blind Melon; 2) the pleasant AAA-itude of Natalie Merchant and Aimee Mann; and 3) when the station feels especially dangerous -- look out! -- the faux-angst grunge of Pearl Jam, the mascara-pop of Peter Murphy, the hand-me-down New Waveisms of Elastica, and an occasional big-toe dip into the alt-rock deep end with proven winners such as Weezer and Smashing Pumpkins.
But SHE's principal priority lies in fashioning the new classic rock, dedicating approximately 65 percent of its music programming to "soft" tracks by late Seventies-early Eighties innovators (the Cure, the Smiths, the Clash, R.E.M., Elvis Costello, the Pretenders, U2) and inoffensive fogies (the Alarm, Tears for Fears, INXS, Howard Jones, Wang Chung, Big Country, the Fixx, and the new el supremo of classic rock, Peter Gabriel). Seldom does an hour pass without SHE playing at least one track by the tastefully dull Gabriel: "Sledgehammer," "Big Time," "Shock the Monkey, "Red Rain" (studio version), "Red Rain" (live version), and "Don't Give Up," Pete's treacly ballad with Kate Bush, the modern-rock equivalent of Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross's 1981 number one "Endless Love."
The station justifiably reasoned that fifteen years of spinning the Stones, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had burned out a significant portion of a generation of listeners, with fewer and fewer fortysomethings willing to abide AC/DC's Bon Scott rasping his way through "Highway to Hell" -- or Queen's Freddie Mercury overemoting on "We Are the Champions" -- one more time. And in truth, a considerable number of the top tier of the prized 25-to-54 market had tuned out, which reflected in decreased station ratings. It happened not only at SHE, but at stations nationwide.
Decreased ratings engendered change. A little more than a year ago, Denver's KXPK, a new station, signed on the air with an artful mix of 40 percent current bands (cranberries, Smashing Pumpkins, Hootie) and 60 percent Eighties bands (Police, Talking Heads, you know the drill), in the hopes of establishing a Vulcan mind meld with the spendthrift 25-to-40 age group. By mining the music of this market segment's formative years, the Peak created a whole new stratum of classic rock for tail-end Boomers and early-era Gen Xers. Ratings went thermonuclear. Advertisers affixed themselves to the Peak. And in the wake of that station's remarkable start, imitators, among them WSHE, have fallen into format lock step, sloughing off the old classic rock for the new classic rock: same great taste, less overwrought guitar solos!
Well, as NRBQ -- a band that has played alternative music for more than 25 years, never quite fitting into any popular station's world-view A sings, "The music goes 'round and 'round, and it comes out here." Listen closely to the new SHE, listen closely to that 35 percent of its format devoted to walking-talking contempo bands, and you'll hear the sound of the next wave of classic rock incubating A Live (the new Kansas), Counting Crows (the new Foreigner), Gin Blossoms (the new Tom Petty), Melissa Etheridge (the new Bruce Springsteen), the Dave Matthews Band (the new ZZ Top), Hootie and the Blowfish (the new Bachman-Turner Overdrive), Collective Soul (the new ELO). The kids are alright, all right, but no time like the present to start prepping them for future nostalgia, for that day in the year 2010 when SHE rolls out its new format, chock-a-block with those bands you loved back in 1995. Because, hey, all in all, it's just another brick in the wall.