Previously on Craven Hermit, there was a rant about sucky Canadian alternative bands that get overplayed on Hoserland radio. Since they all sound like various flavours of mainstream corporate radio rock (eg. edgy but hyper-polished), labeling them ‘alternative’ is pretty dubious. I’ll come back to that discussion in a future post. Hint: I think it’s almost pointless to label musical genres any more.
There are dozens of Canadian bands that I’d rather hear on the radio than the schlock that gets the lion’s share of exposure. This is such a passionately big deal to me that I’ve almost entirely tuned out terrestrial radio. Once in awhile one my favourites breaks through, such as Arcade Fire or the Sam Roberts Band, and good for them. But there are so many other bands that are more worthy of airplay than Simple Plan.
Take the New Pornographers for instance. They have been releasing albums for over a decade, and every one is an absolute gem. Each New Pornographers album features well-written songs, sharp melodies, and unusual rhythms. There is also a wonderful diversity to the songs, which speaks to the songwriting talents of the ensemble. For every riff-rocker there’s an intimate waltz-time lullaby. For every full-throttle A.C. Newman day-glo anthem there’s a twisted Dan Bejar psalm about life in the shadows. Instead of sounding dissonant, the flavours all work together like a sublime melting pot.
I wish I heard more New Pornographers songs on modern rock radio. It’s deplorable that a song like “The Bleeding Heart Show”, a track from their 2005 album Twin Cinema, doesn’t get any airplay. This song is such an aural kaleidoscope – jangling guitars, implacable drums, and a symphony of vocals all build to an astonishing climax. When the unmistakable voice of Neko Case comes over the top of the glorious chorus of sound with the pay-off line:
We have arrived too late to play the Bleeding Heart Show
I get goosebumps on my goosebumps. Every. Single. Time.
“The Bleeding Heart Show” brings the house down whenever the New Pornographers play it in concert. It has the unique power of making a room packed with jaded hipster misfits feel like brothers and sisters. Yet I never hear it on the radio. There’s dozens of songs on their records that resonate with me; I surely can’t be in the minority. I’m glad the band has such a loyal following and they seem to sell enough records and concert tickets to survive. I just wish they’d get some residual checks from radio from time to time to make things easier.
Or, if you buy into what Bob Lefsetz is selling over at his blog, maybe it doesn’t matter that the radio industry is in such a shambles. “The kids” these days don’t want to sit around the radio waiting for the music they want to hear, they would rather stream it, download it, or cue it up some other way. Immediate gratification. Assuming that someone can build a valid business model around streaming, maybe there’s hope yet for brilliant bands like the New Pornographers that connect so passionately with people through their music.