Since WBEZ pretty much eliminated all needle-drop programming (i.e. simply playing a song and letting us get our own experience from it), the new shape of music on the station has been emerging slowly. The daily news magazine Eight Forty-Eight recently introduced a new feature that draws attention to local musicians, airing every Thursday morning. But instead of the acts getting to highlight their own work, the feature finds them covering a tune “outside their genre.” Judging from the list of performers and tunes planned for the first two months this is kind of a nebulous characterization. I mean, the Zincs are a rock band, and last I checked so is the band they cover on February 8, Echo & the Bunnymen.
Now, I know a lot of readers love to see me as a very negative person. I must say that I’m glad that WBEZ is putting a little spotlight on some local bands and is encouraging them to do some different stuff. But, on the other hand, I find it nearly impossible not to see the station simply exploiting the novelty factor of this project. “Hey, let’s have a garage band (Detholz!) cover a pop-reggae tune (Eddie Grant ’s”Electric Avenue”). That’ll be crazy!” The program’s Web site doesn’t mention who comes up with these ideas, but either way there’s an implicit judgment that focusing on the original music of these artists is less interesting than hearing them play goofy covers. Plus, most of the first eight acts are essentially rock acts, and having them cover soul and country songs isn’t much of a stretch. Stay-tuned for more on the WBEZ Watch!