My ass-freezing experience at the S.N.O.W. fest taught me well: Radar Station research is best conducted indoors during the chillier months. Watching my ears turn blue (I have oddly placed eyes) is no way to be a music writer. Lester Bangs never climbed Mount Everest. Not many concerts take place in Siberia. We critics are delicate folks; that's why we don't have real jobs. Leave the outside world to the suckers. Fortunately, there's this newfangled Internet thing to substitute for real-life experience. And even better, there's some online news I can report to you without feeling guilty: Another St. Louis music Web site has launched at www.stlscene.net. There are other sites around town, www.stlpunk.com still ruling them, where you can download local MP3s and check for local shows, but for a newborn, STLScene has promise. (This seems like a good time to mention that occasional RFT freelancer Erik Carlson is involved in the project. If I didn't write about anything that in one way or another involved an RFT freelancer, everything from Vintage Vinyl to the local heroin trade would be off-limits.) It looks good, clean, with a nifty logo. And the bands that have signed up include some heavy hitters, such as Julia Sets and Riddle of Steel. They've got news, too, including my favorite recent quote from a local artist. It's from P Dub, explaining his abandoning of the moniker Pretty Willie: "I'm P Dub now. Life ain't pretty no more." Indeed.
Another good thing about the site is its attempt to cover different types of music: Bands can identify themselves as everything from bluegrass to techno. Of course, the vast majority of bands signed up so far are filed under "Rock." Hurry up, you could be the first artist under "Folk"!
Of course, that will change, and pretty soon the site will get swamped by the eternal memory of the Internet. Now that the Internet boom has subsided, sites like these are put up with more thought and more care, and that shows on STLScene. But to really be successful, it needs bands and traffic, so only time will tell. Of course, they'll get all nine Radar Station readers, now.
Does Humor Belong in Music?, Frank Zappa once asked with an album title. The question has never been satisfactorily answered. For Zappa the answer was hell, yes, but that's in large part because even with songs such "Titties and Beer," Zappa melded juvenile sniggering with serious composition. His music was good for the whole brain. The brothers Ween do pretty much the same thing, existing as a joke band only on the surface, getting you laughing so that they can bore their strange genius into your skull.
But if humor is all you've got, there's not much hope for you, outside of one-hit-wonder status. In fact, Zappa himself only broke into the Top 40 once, with the overly jokey "Valley Girl." The Offspring are repeat offenders, a multiple one-hit wonder instead of a band with a string of hits. The same could be said for Weird Al Yankovic, but he is the exception that proves the rule -- don't mess with Weird Al. Humor gets stale way before music does. You might listen to your favorite song over and over again, but you don't ask someone to tell a joke twenty times in a day.
This is a warning to the local boys in Ludo. To be witty is a wonderful thing, and Ludo has way more fun with its lyrics than most bands, especially their eponymous debut's opener, "Saturday Night Thunderbolt." Any band that compares a man to a "Sasquatch wookie boner" (okay, it's not Oscar Wilde, but this is rock & roll) in the first ten seconds of its record isn't striving for the label artiste. At times they get close to the snotty attitude of the Dead Milkmen (for all their humor, another one-hit wonder: "Punk Rock Girl"). Ludo's Southern Cali pop-punk-meets-Weezer sound is fun but not catchy or original enough to carry the band without the jokes. The dour breakup lament "Sara's Song" isn't anywhere as good as the manic "Good Will Hunting," which ends in a crazed, hilarious rant against an ex. Vocalist Andrew Volpe is obviously having a good time here, and you'll probably have a good time if you go see his band at the Creepy Crawl this Friday. But will the joke be funny in five years?