Revolutions Per Minute

The Waves Come up from Davy Jones's Locker

WHEN DOES MUSIC officially become art? When you can buy it, of course. That's the great thing about consumer capitalism--it trims away all those troublesome question marks from our aesthetic concerns. Case in point: Would I be writing about the Waves if you couldn't purchase their new disc or head down to the Entry to see them this Thursday? Of course not.

Don't get me wrong--you should (purchase their new disc and head down to the Entry, that is). And I should (write about them, that is). The Waves, let me explain, are Jeff Kearns of dreamy Minneapolitan pop combo the Hang Ups and his pal Phil Parhamovich, along with a gaggle of friends and well-wishers. The pair have collected a dozen songs they've accumulated over the better half of a decade for Flame a Little Brighter, a collection now released on Grimsey Records, celebrated in print right here even as you read, and in person on September 21 at the Entry. After a self-released cassette and a long-ago seven-inch single, the band is finally making it official.

And the results are wonderful. The opening track, "Free Entertainment," makes good on the wispy promise of Marc Bolan, even while its propulsive bottom provides strong evidence for my long-standing argument with terminal Anglophiles that T Rex did so need a better drummer. Both the plucked arpeggios of the Waves' "Hey Boo" and the adorable fantasia "Roller Rink" are playful without coming off as overcomplicated or twee. And the bouncy "Shrug it Off" has been on reserve in my mental jukebox since it surfaced on a mix tape in 1994.

But knowing that this music has been sitting unreleased on tapes for so long just aggravates the illness of this music obsessive. Even though there is more music out there (more good music, even) than anyone could listen to, I wonder, how much more are we missing? To find out, come early and check out the Owls--newlyweds Brian Tighe of the Hang Ups and Allison LeBonne of the Jim Ruiz Group, playing Allison's unreleased songs. There's a kind of urban-folk music out there, a democracy of four-tracked musings dubbed into circulation, songs floating as snippets of melody and lyric that we pass on to each other, traded between friends. Maybe there's even the potential for, well, "Free Entertainment."

Then again, that is the kind of thinking that unleashed the voluminous fragments, work tapes, and B-sides of Guided by Voices upon the world.

 

The Waves perform with the Numbers, DJ Rock Bottom, and the Owls, September 21, at the 7th Street Entry; (612) 338-8388.

The Airwaves

HERE'S AN EVEN crazier idea: What if radio airwaves were placed in the public trust? Oops, forgot--they already are. Not that you would know by listening to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), who are still angered over the FCC's decision this January to allow a limited number of low-power FM (LPFM) stations to begin operation. (Which is not to praise the FCC: The proliferation of "pirate" radio services had begun to threaten the agency's legitimacy.) Low-wattage stations, complains the NAB, would create signal interference with pre-existent commercial stations, thereby limiting the public's inalienable right to hear Sprite commercials and side two of Aqualung on six different stations at once.

Nonsense, claims the FCC, which has largely discounted the possibility of interference. Most of the stations in question will broadcast at less than ten watts, and the Twin Cities spectrum is currently about as crowded as North Dakota is overpopulated. In addition, the FCC has begun to address the few legitimate concerns the NAB has raised, including the problem of translator stations, which boost the signals of public radio so that they can reach outlying regions.

Now, Sen. Rod Grams is getting in on the action, sponsoring the "Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act of 2000," which he hopes to smuggle through the Senate as part of an appropriations package. (An identical bill passed the House of Representatives in April.) The bill Grams proposes lowers the number of allowable limited-watt stations by hamstringing the FCC's licensing procedure. As a result, rural areas with signal space might find themselves better served, but urban markets will most likely continue to be monopolized by large-watt commercial conglomerates.

The Act goes on to imply that the FCC is neither competent nor objective enough to assess the problem of interference. It insists on the need to find an independent body to reexamine the issue. This independent commission will make its recommendations to Congress, who, it need hardly be said, have good reason to be kind to deep-pocketed broadcasters owned by billion-dollar media empires.

The NAB and its supporters, of course, are touting this move as a reasonable compromise. "We're happy with what we got, but [the Low Power FM Legislation] was already compromised," says Michael Bracy of the Low Power Radio Coalition in Washington, D.C. "The original FCC proposal went out of its way to please the NAB." Apparently, it did not go far enough. The biggest problem with LPFM, as far as the NAB is concerned, is that it will create competition, which the commercial radio market has done its damnedest to lobby and legislate out of existence over the past decade. Remember this come November: Rod Grams--friend to Aqualung.

 
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