middle brow rex.
after 25 years of supporting wxrt. chicago's finest rock. i finally removed it from my presets yesterday. and, out of respect for our 25 year one-sided relationship, i don't think i'll ever call it again. it's over. ... it's been years since i heard a song on xrt that i really cared about. and even longer since i discovered something new there. (but, of course, long live the big beat!) i kept it on preset #2. (2, for peace, obv.) in every car i ever drove. since i was 16. ... the last 5 years or so, it was out of respect. and when you realize that the only thing keeping you steady is "respect", you know you're really disrespecting your pal. and yourself.
here's a few tunes that x r t made for me.
the b52s - rock lobster. shit. is there a band i hate more than the b52s? scratch that. is there a song i hate more than love shack? it's a song that makes you really pity a band. like gotye's somebody that i used to know. clearly the songwriters in both cases have a talent. some kind of talent. ... anyway, love shack is the kind of tune that reminds you of your friend's aunt at a wedding. doesn't matter anymore the merits of the song. you can't help but picture your friend's aunt. not her lame aunt. or her cool aunt. but her average aunt. the one who's name you can never remember. but whose socks are always bunching up near her ankles when she's not at weddings. funky little shack.
but i digress. rock lobster is about the goofiest song that any radio station ever could play. but have you ever really listened to it? or heard the extended version? "it wasn't a rock." listen here... careful. you might lose it when they start listing sea creatures. "there goes a narwahl."
wilco - california stars. remember this one?! it was your song! with your girl/boyfriend! in 9th grade! gag me. but wait. let me listen all the way through first...
suicide dream - baby dream. - my old man did some work as a contractor when i was young. i have many vivid memories of tagging along to his project homes and buildings on the weekends. or jumping in a paint van with my uncles to grab hot dogs for lunch. and most of that time was xrt time. one particularly vivid memory came to me about 10 years ago, a few bits after moving to chicago. while i was riding my bike past the morton salt shed. ... the memory's of driving around the elston corridor with phil when i was 10 years old or so. and him running into this supply shop and that. and me tagging along with him. short, and so close-as-f to the dirty, oily floor. drawn to the loud ass light that would pour in through the one or two windows in this warehouse or that mechanic shop. sometimes i'd sit in the car. and once, dream baby dream by suicide came on the radio. and he ran into a light supply shop. and i sat there listening to this terrifically redundant, beautifully ugly song. it was weird and unforgettable. like i hope some of our beers sometimes are. and i didn't know how to find it. and my dad jumped back in the car. and it was still on. but he didn't recognize it. and we turned onto I-94. toward the ryan. and i heard the word "suicide". but didn't know how to spell it. and didn't think to ask my old man. and a decade later, i stumbled upon it again. thank goddess.
talking heads - once in a lifetime. another high brow ditty. turned on to me by x r t. for this one. i was standing on my parents bed. while my ma folded clothes. and julia child was on pbs. and i had chlorine in my fucking nose. and the 80s were everywhere. in the 80s. my ma, the leading 80s lady. david byrne, her unlikely hero. to this day, she may not even know his name.
built to spill - strange. one night in 2001. as summer was ending. and we were learning about middle brow's future home, logan square. and i ventured back home from lula cafe. and we snuck into a bar. and i told stories about fancy farmy foods in my ambitiously blue collar town. about how my per plate price averaged $25 (whoa!!!!). and everyone pointed and laughed at me. and we wandered back to my parents' garage. to finish our underage drinking session. and listened to a taped episode of the big beat. and built to spill's "strange" came on. we all felt like we better start liking that super-cool, pavement-ready shit. lest we lose our edge.
st. vincent - marry me john. another big beat discovery, i believe. made while driving back to my hyde park apartment. this was around when i realized that the big beat was the only program worth listening to on the radio. and the only thing that kept xrt interesting. i went to her show at the empty bottle later that night. and locked eyes with her a few times. since i was one of twelve other people in the audience. and i ignored my gut-take on my favorite radio station of all time. for another ten years. tapping it the second i sat down in the driver's seat. or the second i jumped in the car at midway arrivals. only to tap away seconds later.
so long, pal. you were cool once. maybe in your next life, instead of just hearing neil young, you'll really listen to what he's saying. and burn out instead.