Radio Killed the Radio Star
You know how you hear a new song on the radio, and you just love it cuz it’s fresh and new and catchy and you just can’t imagine ever being tired of it? And then, you know how, like, three months later, you hate that fucking song so much you wanna crash your car into a sign post when it comes on the radio, cuz you have heard it so many times you can almost see the exact expression on Carson Daily’s face when TRL is forced to retire the video from the countdown? Kinda like, you know, No Doubt’s “Just a Girl,” or Korn’s “Freak on a Leash,” or anything that Limp Bizkit has ever recorded? Commercial radio has a nasty way of taking great songs and turning them into the bane of any music listener’s existence, and “alternative” radio is no less guilty than the Celine Dion-sportin’ stations we all love to hate. For some reason, the think tank at Universal Music thought it would be a great idea to get together a bunch of these over-played songs and collect them on one disc, designed to either provide a soundtrack to the diet-alternative music of the last year or so, or to simply drive you right into a straight jacket. It’s enough to make you wonder just what the difference really is.
It’s not like there aren’t some great tracks on Shine!. I mean, any collection that can boast Moby’s “Bodyrock,” Monster Magnet’s “Space Lord,” and Garbage’s “Special” can’t be all bad. And there’s nothing wrong with Blur per se, but it’s hard to hear “Song 2,” the track responsible for the much-deserved proliferation of “Wooo Hooo” into the collective, transatlantic vocabulary of young music fans everywhere, without wanting to rip out your hair. And while Jimmie’s Chicken Shack may have seemed really interesting and unique and cool the first, say, 30 times MTV played “Do Right” in the first week of its release, it now sounds tired and trite, and there are other bands out there doing what they do, and doing it better. And we don’t even need to discuss Freestylers’ “Here We Go”—let’s just not go there.
Then there’s the list of wanna-be bands included here. One wonders what’s so “alternative” about Primer 55, for example, who clearly have They Might Be Giants-envy (and really, who can blame them), and Supergrass, who really are the Rolling Stones; the only thing missing is Mick Jagger’s rubber band body and a perpetually comatose Charlie Watts on drums. Leona Naess, one of the few artists on the collection who hasn’t been played into radio purgatory, is an amped-up version of The Primitives, Pound sounds like some accidental, bizarre lovechild of The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Hootie and the Blowfish, and Tracy Bonham’s pathologically-heterosexual anthem, “Behind Every Good Woman,” doesn’t even do a very good job trying to imitate the tracks on her own stellar first album, The Burdens of Being Upright; her new stuff is way too polished and clean, and just not nearly as clever as her debut material.
But the problems with this album are less about the individual songs themselves and more about the collection as a whole. Taken singly, there are certainly tracks here that deserve some attention: Underworld’s “Bruce Lee” is intoxicating and addictive, and “Ready to Go” is enough to make you wanna start a petition to Republica to get back together and release a new album. But do any of us really need to hear Sublime’s “Santaria” one more time on one more collection? And do any of us really need a sampling of some of the most annoyingly-overplayed songs of the last year? I can’t listen to Shine! without my brain running back, without my permission, to Ani DiFranco’s lament, “I keep hearing that same damn song everywhere I go!”
This album might be more successful if it was allowed to age a bit (after all, I can almost listen to “Just a Girl” again, after several years of deserved bed-rest) and if it didn’t presume to be “alternative”; when we have all heard most of these songs enough to have their lyrics and guitar riffs engraved on our collective brain, one has to ask, Alternative to what? Shine! is useful for people who don’t really listen to music; if you have the radio on as background noise but don’t really pay attention to what’s on, you’ll love it. And if, when somebody asks you what kind of music you listen to, you reply, “Oh, you know, I like everything—whatever’s on the radio,” then Shine! will be your saving grace. Otherwise, don’t bother. There’s nothing here you haven’t heard before…many, many times.