Hands down, the best thing about Pointessential 7 -- the most recent installment of the local-band CD series compiled and marketed by modern-rock-radio heavies The Point (KPNT, 105.7 FM)-- is that it's got only nineteen songs on it. Yeah, nineteen tracks is still too many for any album not made by Stephin Merritt, but it sure beats Pointessential 6's whopping 39. And although there are a few off-the-wall choices here and there, Pointessential 7 is also more consistent with the station's format than previous incarnations have been. Fans of The Point will probably like this CD just fine, which makes it a successful marketing tool. It should also be noted, however, that only a couple of bands on the CD have enjoyed any significant airplay on The Point outside The Local Show ghetto (11 p.m.-midnight Sunday).
Overall, the CD's representative of The Point's sound: It's Ritalin-generation testostorock, a rebellion-lite lifestyle accessory for bored suburban kids. Loosely categorized as modern rock or alternative rock, the genre sometimes overlaps with emo, rap-metal, nü-metal, pop-punk and postgrunge sugar-metal, all of which are well represented on Pointessential 7. If you enjoy listening to The Point, you'll be pleased to learn that scores of local bands are more or less indistinguishable from the likes of Papa Roach, Saliva, Audioslave, Puddle of Mudd and Good Charlotte. If the mention of those names make you want to puke your guts out, you, like Radar Station, are probably outside the demographic target anyway.
Let's face it: Commercial rock radio isn't about surprising or enlightening anyone. The DJs -- assuming they're even living, breathing human beings and not just prerecorded ciphers -- don't get to pick out the songs. Stocked with lowest-common-denominator rehashes of proven formulas, the playlists are the carefully crafted product of focus groups and major-label payoffs. Not every song played on The Point is absolutely horrible, of course. Every so often you'll hear Jurassic 5 or the Donnas or OKGo or Eminem, and you'll think that maybe the Point isn't necessarily the devil. But then Disturbed or Sum 41 or, horror of horrors, Creed will come on, and you'll remember what Hannah Arendt said about the banality of evil.
But let's back up a step and return to Pointessential 7. Until recently, Pointessential comps were a more-or-less annual affair. The first one came out in 1994, about a year after The Point made its debut on St. Louis-area airwaves, and the penultimate one came out in 1999. According to KPNT's marketing/promotions director, Kyle Guderian, the sale of the station to media giant Emmis accounts for the lapse: "For whatever reason, there was a new regime, and it got off track." Asked why station heads brought it back, Guderian says they just wanted to support the local music scene: "We have no hidden agenda. We're one of the few stations in town that can really support local music and get away with our audience appreciating it."
To its credit, The Point is one of the only commercial rock stations in town that doesn't try to coerce local bands into taking loyalty oaths. A disgusted associate recently leaked us a memo from The River (WVRV, 101.1 FM), the gist of which was "Don't expect airplay from us if you send your stuff to them." According to our sources, 93X (KNSX, 93.3 FM) operates in much the same way. Maybe the Pointessential concept isn't purely philanthropic -- as a marketing tool, the CD's promoting the station as much as it is the bands -- but it's a hell of a lot less revolting than what passes for "support" these days.
Pointessential 7 has actually been out for a few months, but given that it was first sold exclusively at Custom Sounds, a car-audio place in the exurban hinterlands, we waited. Now it's at Vintage Vinyl and Slackers, which also carry used copies of previous volumes. (If you buy the new one at Vintage Vinyl, be sure to ask whether Dan Campbell's working the floor -- if so, maybe the Asia Minor frontman, whose song "Big Bag of Knuckles" is one of the disc's few highlights, will autograph it for you.)
Pointessential historians will remember that Radar Station's predecessor did a track-by-track critique of the disc last time around [Randall Roberts, July 7 and July 14, 1999]. This worked so well that we're gonna rip him off, discussing each band/song in chronologic order. Unfortunately, though, our weighty exegesis will have to wait until next week. In the meantime, pick up the CD and play along with Radar Station: Which track blows the hardest? Which doesn't suck at all? Which sounds most like Blink-182? Which sounds most like Limp Bizkit? Listen to the whole thing three times in a row, as we did, and we'll commiserate over beers.