XM Nation: Catching Up and Moving On

Categories: XM Nation
Bye bye Tom... for now/ Photo by Mark C. Austin
Well, it finally happened. I suppose it was inevitable, although I was starting to wonder. (I know some of you probably were too.) But it looks like last weekend's Tom Petty show really did cure me of my summer-long case of classic-rock fever. With the exception of Friday, which for various reasons I spent in the arms of XM's classic-country channel America (XM 10) and the likes of George Strait's "80 Proof Bottle of Tear Stopper," Rocks Off's satellite tuner has been pretty much stuck on '90s-'00s rock outlet Ethel (XM 47) for a week now.

Mostly it's played out like an episode of the fictional reality-TV show Band Swap: Nirvana for Led Zeppelin; Radiohead for Pink Floyd (of course); Red Hot Chili Peppers for Bruce Springsteen; Foo Fighters for Van Halen; Nine Inch Nails for the Police; Coldplay for Talking Heads (as if, although Viva La Vida is growing on me); Offspring - whom I had no idea were still so popular, but then they are headlining next month's likely Woodlands sellout Buzzfest - for the Clash. Luckily for me, U2 is the only artist to get heavy play on both channels, Achtung Baby and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb standing in for War and Rattle and Hum.

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More importantly, between those grunge-era tentpoles, Ethel intersperses at least as many millenial artists. Some I'm not all that crazy about (Flobots, Brand New), but there are plenty of others I like a lot: Death Cab for Cutie, Raconteurs, MGMT (above), Does It Offend You, Yeah!. Grudgingly, I'm even starting to appreciate Vampire Weekend, at least to the point where I no longer change the station when they come on, and there are lots of fun throwaways besides that: Carolina Liar's "I'm Not Over," Airborne Toxic Event's "Sometime Around," Tickle Me Pink's "Typical." And thanks to the bounce it got from being featured in the Pineapple Express trailer, M.I.A.'s instant-classic "Paper Planes" is on at least once an hour.

This crash course in contempo rock has also been a reminder that ever so surely, 2008 is drawing to a close, and is shaping up to be a fairly strong musical year. So far my favorite albums have been My Morning Jacket's Evil Urges (which gets a fair amount of Ethel play) and the Black Keys' Attack and Release (which, sadly, doesn't), but there's still lots more to come: Metallica's rave-garnering Death Magnetic this week, plus Killers, Cold War Kids, Kings of Leon, Jenny Lewis, Shiny Toy Guns, Rise Against, Deerhunter and, um, U2, whose new one, supposedly called No Line on the Horizon, might just make my 2008 top 10 list should Bono and the boys manage to get it out before, er, New Year's Day.

And lest we forget, the 2000s are almost over too. Can that really be true? Indeed, that's what the calendar says, and judging by Ethel's roster of more recent recurrents - Arcade Fire's Neon Bible, the White Stripes' Icky Thump (or Elephant, or White Blood Cells...), AFI's Sing the Sorrow, Muse's Black Holes and Revelations, Interpol's Turn on the Bright Lights, Green Day's American Idiot, the Killers' Hot Fuss - this decade lacks nothing on the previous one, and then some. Maybe even, God forbid, the two before that.

You know what, though? I kind of miss Tom Petty already. Oh my my, oh hell yes. But it's like he said: I dig ya baby, but I gotta keep movin'. Keep movin' on. - Chris Gray



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