Sound Check

Sound Check: Still a Shill for K-TEL

WHILE BEING CITED by Corporate Report for having one of last year's most overpaid CEOs (Philip Kives), Twin Cities-based CD distribution and manufacturing empire K-TEL International lost up to $4.6 million in the nine months leading up to March 31, and in May was threatened with de-listing by Nasdaq--yeesh! So last month the K closed its German subsidiary and laid off more than 100 workers, 35 of them in its Minneapolis warehouse and headquarters. Among those dropped was Patrick Whalen, who had collaborated with various genre experts to concoct the company's most critically acclaimed series of direct-to-store compilations ever.

Known for revolutionizing TV marketing by selling all those Seventies "original hits by the original artists" collections, K-TEL (short for Kives Television) released this year's nonhit-filled Gimme Indie Rock--though that alone couldn't have drained the coffers, could it? The notably uncommercial compendium contains two discs of pre-alt rock, beginning with Hüsker Dü's "Pink Turns to Blue" and closing with the Vaselines' "Molly's Lips," with nary a bum note in between. Though I'd quibble over song choices with Whalen and his collaborator, Option Magazine founder and publisher Scott Becker, the thing represents one of the best corporate punk relics of the year. (It also makes you wonder why SST head Greg Ginn doesn't get off his assets and let Hüsker put out a box.)

Having helped hatch more than a dozen other such mix discs, including the recent After the Fair: 21st Century Women, Whalen has returned to the world of booking he never quite left. "I have no idea what [K-TEL] will do to keep going," he says. "Nobody seems to."

Walt Mink Lives

WITH HIS BAND Walt Mink on supposedly permanent hiatus, singer-guitarist John Kimbrough would seem an unlikely candidate to crash the MTV Music Awards anytime soon. Yet the former St. Paul alt-rock hero is indeed up for an Emmy, having been nominated in the category of "Outstanding Music and Lyrics" for his theme song on Nickelodeon's Nickellenniumshow. Penned by Kimbrough, with Juliana Hatfield on vocals, "Up to You" represented a minor Walt Mink reunion, bringing in old bandmates Candice Belanoff (bass) and Zach Danziger (drums) to form the rhythm section. It also might be their biggest "hit": The tune was broadcast every five minutes on the Viacom Super-Screen in Times Square on New Year's Day.

Since then, Kimbrough and Danziger have written all of the music for the show (more than 80 songs), including collaborations with Shudder to Think guitarist Nathan Larson and Cardigans singer Nina Persson, both fans of children's TV soundtracks. Tune into ABC on September 10, where Kimbrough faces the stiff competition of "We Only Live to Kiss Your Ass," from Fox's Family Guy series.

What's in a Name?

LOCAL BAND-CUM-ongoing theater production Jerungdu has changed its name to the purportedly more memorable Dr. Jerungdu, on the supposed advice of Gene Simmons. But I nearly missed plugging the "pre-" CD-release party by the Wonsers precisely because they've taken the opposite tack of substituting numbers for letters in their already none-too-memorable name (it read something like "7he w0n5er5" in their press mailing). To preview their fine forthcoming album, featuring guests Matt Wilson and John Munson, catch the band's performance (with same) on Wednesday, August 2 at the Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater; (612) 825-8949.

Self-advertising is everything, and along these lines, "Cedarfest" (or "Off Cedarfest" or "Mini-Cedarfest") is perfectly titled. With the festival proper canceled, the participating bars have decided to throw their own coordinated outdoor parties on August 13. More on that in next week's A List.

 
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