If you are not from around these parts, you might be surprised to learn that even though NYC is the media capitol of the universe, there has not been a single commercial radio station in town playing new and interesting rock music for many years. In fact, if you were asked to identify what city in New York State you were in by listening to its rock stations, you'd probably boldly state, "Buffalo or Rochester".
And yeah, there are some of the best non-commercial music stations in the country here, including the wonderfully all-over-the-place WFMU, the smart and adult WFUV, and the headbanging WSOU...but if you want to hear a rock track that you haven't already heard 200 times by accident in the last year on a commercial station with a great signal, you've been out of luck.
So my ears pricked up (figuratively and literally) last week, when longtime snooze-jazz radio station CD101.9 flipped formats to something their press release described as, "WXRP...a new Adult Rock station in the New York tri-state market which merges New Music, Classic Rock, Alternative & Local Rock into a new adult blend called 'The New York Rock Experience'."
I quickly flipped the new station on to see if the new format was indeed a new "experience", or just another robot-formatted junk merchant.
I was a bit disappointed in how unexciting my immediate impression was, and the fact that the first song I heard was "Rockstar" by Nickelback was a complete kick in the groin. I guess I was hoping for some Vampire Weekend or Earl Greyhound to welcome me to this new NYC-centric sound. I hung in for a bit, and eventually was treated to a track by White Rabbits, and despite the occasional stinker (see Nickelback above), I found that the playlist didn't really hurt my feelings that badly. It's not as blatantly nu-metal-crappy as K-Rock, not as old-fogeyish as Q-104, but something that you could probably play in the car without someone yelling "turn this junk off!".
For the sake of comparison, I kept track of their playlist for the time period of Noon to 1 pm yesterday (Saturday 2/9), and looked up the songs played for the same period on K-Rock and the closest other station with a similar "broad-based" rock format, North Jersey's WDHA. Here's how they stacked-up against each other:
WRXP 2/9/08 Noon-1pm
Paul McCartney & Wings - Live & Let Die
R.E.M. -Supernatural Superserious
Talking Heads -Once In A Lifetime
Jeff Beck -Freeway Jam
Spoon -The Underdog
Ramones -I Wanna Be Sedated
Derek and the Dominoes -Layla
Foo Fighters -The Pretender
Dave Matthews Band -Jimi Thing
Peter Gabriel -Sledgehammer
Santogold - L.E.S. Artistes
K-Rock (WXRK) 2/9/08 Noon-1pm
Linkin Park -Faint
Soundgarden -Fell On Black Days
Beastie Boys -Fight For Your Right
Jimi Hendrix -Fire
Rush -Fly By Night
Ozzy Osbourne -Flying High Again
Led Zeppelin -Fool In The Rain
AC/DC -For Those About To Rock
Metallica -For Whom The Bell Tolls
Jimi Hendrix -Foxy
Tom Petty -Free Fallin
Rush -Free Will
WDHA 2/9/08 Noon-1pm
Guns N Roses - Mister Brownstone
Nirvana - Heart Shaped Box
Breaking Benjamin - The Diary Of Jane
ZZ Top - Got Me Under Pressure
Sebastian Bach - Back In The Saddle
Pearl Jam - Black
AC/DC - Jail Break
Rolling Stones - Sympathy For The Devil
Kid Rock - Amen
Aerosmith - Dream On
Van Halen - Dreams
As you can see, WDHA is every bit as boring as any Midwestern classic rocker (with the exception being a spin of local rockstar/goofball Sebastian Bach). I'm not afraid to say that I have no idea who Breaking Benjamin are...and Van Halen's "Dreams"? Not only is that some weak Hagar-era stuff, it's the lamest VH hit ever.
And after I copied K-Rock's playlist, I realized all the song titles were in alphabetical order. So I listened in on the station for a minute to confirm my suspicion that they were in fact doing some sort of unoriginal "Giants Of Rock From A to Z" thing. Yikes. That kind of stuff leads to a listener having to hear Rush, Jimi, and Metallica twice in an hour, as you can see in the playlist above. My New Yorker's bloated sense of intellectual superiority over the rest of the country immediately makes me suspect that this kind of crappy programming may fly in Huntsville, or Spartansburg, or Fargo, but we want and deserve something a bit more challenging or diverse here, even if it's from a commerical rock station. And seriously...when was the last time you actually heard K-Rock being played somewhere or by someone? I can't remember any instance since Howard Stern left for Sirius.
As far as RXP's promise of local action, although the above is only an hour's sampling, I did hear Ramones, Talking Heads, and amazingly, Santogold! The jock played Santi's "L.E.S. Artistes", and though it looks out of place in the context of the playlist above nestled in along with Jeff Beck and DMB, it sounded great and fit in much like the way Thin Lizzy, Kylie, and Radiohead all sound great together on BBC One.
Since RXP claims they'll be programmed for the most part by the jocks themselves, I'm guessing they'll be interested in hearing how they're sounding to folks listening in the car on the way to work or on their Zune radios, so here's their studio line: 800-423-1019, incase you've got some constructive criticism or local music tips for them. Lets hope they open their eyes and ears to some of the other excellent rock coming out of this area that doesn't have a home on commercial airwaves.
Earl Greyhound - "S.O.S" mp3
Santogold - "L.E.S. Artistes" mp3
UPDATE: If you click here, you can see RXP's previous 4 hours of playlist. I just heard Tom Cochrane's "Life Is A Highway" and Marcy Playground's "Sex & Candy" in the same half hour. ..yeesh! That's an "experience" I can live without.