Fanzines, sadly, are becoming increasingly quaint in their near-extinction -- kitschy, smeary photocopied-and-stapled relics of a bygone analog age, back when computers were strictly for brainiacs and all the kids still listened to rock & roll. Your tough luck, Luddites: Digital has taken over. For every band that commits its songs to tape in an honest-to-God studio, sends them off to a pressing plant and orders a few hundred 7-inch singles, hundreds more are recording, mastering, burning and dubbing CDs on their PCs, jammin' econo, 21st-century style. And for every wide-eyed music geek who rushes off to Kinko's to print up a fanzine, hundreds more are building Web sites and founding listservs. St. Louis has a scant handful of music magazines, and most of them seem to be gasping for air; cybercommunities and Web sites, on the other hand, are thriving. In fact, with so many miles of bandwidth devoted to local music, we wonder whether anyone could possibly keep up with them all, much less find the time to catch an actual show.
The oldest local-music site we know of is www.stlblues.net, which has been covering our city's rich blues scene for two years now. With links to all the area's clubs, concert listings, band bios, photos and more, Stlblues.net is a great forum for newcomers and veterans alike. Although it doesn't offer much in the way of critical commentary, it's the most comprehensive and up-to-date source for all things related to blues in St. Louis. The band page is especially useful, featuring photos and bios (many of them insightful and well written) of such underappreciated hometown legends as Oliver Sain, Bennie Smith and Henry Townsend, along with dozens of lesser-known acts. According to editor David Beardsley, the site is attracting viewers from all over the world -- Japan, the U.K., France, Spain, Belgium, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Argentina, Bermuda and even Slovakia. Those who'd like to see what's shaking in Soulard on a Saturday night are duly advised to bookmark this invaluable Web site. (Netscape users may not be able to access this site; if this happens, try using a different browser.)
Two new rock-oriented Webzines are aspiring to a similar position. www.subsonicsounds.com and www.nighttimes.com are both updated monthly, with loads of photos, reviews, interviews and concert listings. The September issue of Subsonicsounds features a gushy write-up on glammy area shock-rockers Neptune Crush and a column by former Solar Trance bassist/current talent director Mark Zschiegner. The style is conversational, occasionally clunky and deliberately off-the-cuff, but the enthusiasm seems real. We'd like a bit more criticism and a tad less rah-rah-rah, but, hey, it's not our baby. Besides, as countless Radar Station readers maintain, we're doing a fine job casting grim shadows on the local music scene all by our lonesome.
Nighttimes.com is the cyber-resurrection of Night Times magazine, a local freebie in wide circulation from 1995-98. According to Julia Gordon, who founded both versions of the publication, the Web site offers the same type of coverage as before but with additional space and lower overhead. "Music lovers are turning to the Internet, but they're also eating up movie soundtracks, friends' pass-along tapes and low-wattage and community radio, joining bulletin boards, that kind of thing," she explains. "I've always felt that a town needs a local magazine to drive an audience into live shows and give CD suggestions they can latch onto, because they're written from a personality and point of view they trust. We used to be that, and now we will be again." The August issue boasts an interesting Q&A with Guided by Voices' frontman Robert Pollard, a chatty editorial by Gordon, a review of Black Rebel Motorcycle's new CD and more. As with Subsonicsounds, the tone is relentlessly perky at times, at least in the jaundiced view of Radar Station, but Gordon and her cohorts definitely have their collective shit together. Both e-zines are welcome additions to the local music scene, and we urge everyone to log on posthaste.
Colony, which won a Slammy this year in the Best Hard Rock/Modern Rock Band category, now has a deal with West Coast entertainment heavies Beyond. Slated for release on Sept. 18, Colony's new CD, Who I Wanted to Be, is a driving collection of edgy, aggressive, radio-friendly power-pop anthems, replete with shiny hooks and snotty choruses. The sound is a little slick and stadiumish for our tastes -- the producers have worked with Korn, Citizen King and Candlebox, and it shows -- but the package is nothing if not professional, and frontman Ted Bruner's lyrics are less dumb than most. Nice hype booster: Colony's first single, "Happy," appeared on the soundtrack of the recent Paramount comedy Rat Race. We're glad that the hardworking local favorites have a shot at the big time, but we wish Beyond's PR people hadn't airbrushed all the character out of the quartet's faces in the press photo. (Wrinkles? Hell, they barely have noses anymore!) For a band that obviously wants to inject some credibility into its mainstream alt-rock forays, the teenybopper look is unnecessary and more than a little insulting. Plus, they're not that old, damn it; who cares that they've got a few more lines on their mugs than Justin Timberlake?