One cannot overstate the awesomeness that embodies a good alt-rock radio station. Here in Milwaukee, that station is 102.1…because it embodies all of the best things about radio with few of the bad parts.
A good alt rock station can not only make Generation X all wistful by recanting the best of the early 90s…but it can bring a new group of listeners to a genre that up until this year looked as forgone as the eight-track. On the flip side, it presents the best of new alternative (yes! It does exist!) for those of us who may have thought alt died with Kurt Cobain and the rise of Britney Spears. 102.1, for instance, plays the best of the “classics” from Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Green Day, etc. along with new hits by The Killers, Breaking Benjamin and Jimmy Eat World.
The best, of course, is to hear a song you didn’t realize you missed. On a drive the other day, 102.1 played Eve 6’s “Inside Out.” At the time of its release, it was a mere flash in the pan top 40 hit…but now, five years later, I realize it actually kinda rocked. “Wow,” I said aloud, “I actually know the words to this song.” Renditions of Better than Ezra’s “Good” and just about any Collective Soul song also stir similar sentiments.
It’s because of the few real alt rock stations out there that formerly “indie” bands could break out beyond the girls pants crowd (like Modest Mouse, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and bands thought long past their prime could get airplay for bold new albums (Green Day’s “American Idiot,” Cake’s “No Phone”).
We have alt rock radio to thank for the diminishing presence of bubblegum pop and soundalike poppunk in our schools. These days, you’re more likely to hear Switchfoot over NSYNC, Franz Ferdinand over Simple Plan and whatnot. It’s a beautiful thing.
So thank you, alternative rock radio, for bringing us all together in our shared love of excessive drums and soaring guitar. It’s because of you that my holiday shopping season got a whole lot better.
How does one find a good alt rock station? Just listen carefully. Just because they occasionally play a little Weezer or Pearl Jam doesn’t mean they’re for real. If the only Nirvana you hear is “Smells Like Teen Spirit” it isn’t all that. If they have a Metallica hour or, god forbid, a Metallica night, change it. If the Djs try sounding like they “know how to party,” talk very sarcastically all of the time or in any way use “NOT!” after a statement, they are not on a good station. Lastly, if the request line callers sound like drunks who paused from smacking their wives around long enough to request “Enter Sandman” for the 500th time, this is not the station for you.