Time travel may be lonely…

…but John Vanderslice won’t be if you go to his concerts. There’s one in Seattle at the Crocodile Cafe on Saturday. Highly recommended. I’ve only heard one track off his newest, Life and Death of an American Fourtracker, and am looking forward to hearing more. (His last album, Time Travel is Lonely, was amazing–I still can’t get the title track out of my head.)

Straight back to 1989

I never cease to be amazed at how quickly a song can take you back. I loaded the changer this morning with a mix of new CDs and ones that had been in storage for two years. The first song to come up? REM’s “World Leader Pretend” from 1989’s Green. Instantly it’s fall in Newport News, September 1989. I’m a senior in high school, newly confident about my place in the world and arguing about REM with my friends Rob and Matt at Patrick Henry Mall.

Incidentally, it appears that Chris Heschong is World Leader Pretend, according to Google.

iRock or not iRock

Doc Searls sez that the iRock should let you select any channel on the FM band. I have one of those. It cost about $20 at Best Buy, and is called the SoundFeeder.

As always, though there’s a trade off between features and ease of use. This thing has a four position switch, to let you select between four ranges of FM frequencies, and a dial to let you tune precisely within that range. Or sort of precisely—it’s not really precision engineered or anything, and sometimes the signal drifts a little.

Driving on a long trip can be an exercise in patience. As you drive in and out of range of different stations, the frequency you chose on the SoundFeeder will inevitably get interference. Then you have to find an empty spot on your tuner and fiddle with the SoundFeeder again until the signal comes in—using the two controls without taking your eyes off the road is pretty tricky.

Star-making machinery

Doc Searls really nails what’s wrong with the entertainment industry, aka “the star-making machinery,” and why it’s pulling every string it can to ensure that the web doesn’t walk on its turf, even if it means killing the web:

The entertainment industry is fundamentally about making stars. It isn’t just about entertaining people, except as an effect of the star system, which serves to entertain mass quantities of people. It’s about packaging celebrity as a product, causing appetites for it, and delivering mass quantities of stuff made appealing by it, for as long as any variety of it might last. And doing it over and over and over again.

Nothing wrong with that, by the way. Just something wrong with nothing but that.

Which is why the CARP/LOC ruling is so awful and wrong. It’s about maintaining the incumbent star-making machinery that starts with the recording industry and works its way through commercial broadcasting, mass market advertising, arena performance events and cross-promotion through the whole mess of it.


Peaceful morning with Elvis

It’s a beautiful morning here in Boston. I’m lingering over the New York Times and other items in my Radio aggregator, drinking tea, making an omelet, listening to The Juliet Letters.

True confession: I loved this album when it came out. I couldn’t stop playing it. Today I know there’s something a little too arch about the performance, a little too forced in the compromise between pop songwriting and string quartet writing. But still I love the album: the somber wordless opening “Deliver Us,” the melancholic “For Other Eyes,” the gleefully wicked “I Almost Had a Weakness,” the wistful “Who Do You Think You Are?” Perfect early morning reflection music.

Clear Channel losing $ hand over tight fist

Washington Post: Mega Hurts: Clear Channel’s Big Radio Ways Are Getting a Lot of Static These Days (via Slashdot). Apparently Clear Channel’s relentless homogenization of US radio is causing some other people than me to turn off that station. Or maybe it’s just the hideous advertising slump.

In some cities, the company’s radio stations attract as much as half the audience and advertising dollars… If a pending deal to buy a competitor in Charlottesville is approved, Clear Channel would control more than 90 percent of that city’s radio market, according to analyst Mark Fratrik of BIAfn Inc.

But if Clear Channel is a colossus, it’s a colossus under the gun.

The company lost money every quarter last year, piling up an annual loss of $1.1 billion. Clear Channel also is shouldering $8 billion in debt — the legacy of its deal-a-minute expansion spree. With a long advertising slump afoot, the company’s stock is selling at about half its peak price of two years ago.

A retraction

While I’m on the subject, I have to apologize for saying that And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead’s “Relative Ways” “sounds a whole lot like really good Sonic Youth.” That’s not nearly specific enough. The intro and 4/4 / 3/4 guitar hook sounds pretty specifically exactly like the 5/4 middle section of “Wildflower Soul,” while the verse melody is highly derivative of “Teen Age Riot” (from Daydream Nation). Just wanted to clear that up.