Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Swag Ahoy!


Babes in Toyland
Originally uploaded by bsglaser.
Artist: Babes in Toyland
Albums: The Peel Sessions; Live at the Academy
Source: Promos

Why do I have these albums? I don’t like Babes in Toyland, and it’s entirely possible that I’ve never listened to them all the way through (though the Peel Sessions disc is pretty short, so it stands to reason I’ve spun it to the end at least once).

The Beast is filled with artifacts like this: detritus of my years in college radio. Whenever I go to certain gigs – like, say, Paul Westerberg at the Bowery Ballroom a few years back – I joke that the bouncers should skip checking IDs and just ask everyone when their college-radio shows were. 80s and 90s college DJs are a recognizable type, as benchmarked by the music of their youth as the people who maintain that rock achieved perfection in 1974 (it’s a scientific fact). We’re musically and culturally open-minded, but only insofar as we know nothing will live up to the controlled chaos of the Replacements’ middle period, Robert Smith’s careful sadness or pretty much the entire SST catalogue.

Like many a Music Geek before me, I was a college radio DJ. JP and I had shows together nearly every semester (except for my 1st semester of freshman year, when I did “New Day Rising” from 6 – 8am on a weekday; and the 1st semester of my junior year, when I was about to leave for Scotland and JP was home getting chemotherapy) that tended to be the highlights of any given week. I also did a year as WHCL’s music director, which means I got a metric buttload of swag from the record companies and promoters, including these two discs.

In a way, it was even better than the Music Critic Years: we’d get free copies (sometimes more than one) of pretty much everything, and there was almost nothing I had to do in return – just a weekly report to the College Music Journal (CMJ) and periodic trips to restock the stacks at the station. Other than that, the music was mine to enjoy, and anything that didn’t need to go on the air went to feed the baby version of The Beast.

On the other hand, it meant there was almost no quality control. Babes in Toyland had a moment of post-Nirvana glory (split three ways with L7 and the Breeders), and I suppose they were OK. I was (and remain) rarely inspired to listen to them, never went to a gig, and couldn’t tell you what a single note on either of these discs sounds like. Well, except that the Babes are pretty loud and reasonably angry. But wasn’t everyone in the early 90s?

SISOSIG? Oh, sweet lordy, forgive me for taking up precious room in the apartment with these CDs. I own two versions of “Ripe” (and one of “Swamp Pussy”), for which there is no absolution. I shall sacrifice them on the riot grrrl altar and say 10 Courtney Loves and 40 Steve Albinis.

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