This week, lots of bands played and lots happened in a physical, visual way. But for a minute I’d like to turn your attention to the time-honoured, intangible realm of local listening: the radio. Yes, this week, Cool Perth Nights examines a selection radio stations that you might come across while adjusting your dial in Perth. Frequencies are provided if you’d like to join me on this (sort of, not really) real-time ride across the airwaves. Let’s go!
Capitol Community Radio – 101.7 FM
One of my favourite wireless stations, a visit to whose website informs me it’s “Perth’s Radio For Seniors.” This is slightly embarrassing but not really. Seniors are all about wisdom and that extends to their dope playlists. As I tune in, they’re playing Russell Morris’ “The Real Thing,” back-announced as having some “very strange special effects.” They whip out golden oldies from trad jazz to 50s pop exotica jams and… and now the announcer named Alan is discussing how he got rained on when he went to the shop today, and as usual it stopped as soon as he got back in his car, but the garden loves it. It’s quaint as fuck and legitimately excellent. I’ve yet to hear a dud!
Nova – 93.7 FM
I think Nova used to play at pretty broad selection of MOR pop music. It was shitty, but harmless, and it had an amusing little red guy with headphones that would sometimes appear in large-scale inflatable form in parks. It seems that the multiple-genre approach has been deemed superfluous, and that what should really be played is a sort of nebulous four-to-the-floor gruel with the odd trap snare, sub-Katy Perry vocal, sub-T-Pain autotune, sub-Pitbull rap. “Sub-Pitbull” is not even a valid proposition, but it is. Writing this article is turning me into a cantankerous septagenarian, I can feel it in my knee!
Curtin FM – 100.1 FM
Firing up in 1976, Curtin Radio is apparently WA’s first public broadcaster. It’s kinda like Capitol 101.7, with reliable veteran tunes, big bands, lush strings, crackly rockabilly, folky crooners. It ventures a bit further into modernity, flirting with the 1970s. They take requests and always answer the phone with what sounds like a smile. Totally one for the car radio preset list.
92.9 – 92.9 FM
The needle scrolls through the static. Crrwlkshisssscrawk – “And in other news, Lady Gaga has dyed her hair to what she calls ‘Louis Vuitton brown!’ Weather is up next!”
6iX – 1080 AM
This completes the trifecta of nostalgia. Forever classic. Home of Burgo’s Classic Breakfast (!) and 30 minute music marathons. Yessss.
JJJ – 99.3 FM
Sudden death tune-in: post-Nirvana high-energy youthful rockband. Not terrible, just not my vibe. Linda Mariano then calls up Baz from “Stanno.”
“Hi Baz, how are YOU goin?”
“Aww yee awlright, just got home from work, big day so keen to relax.”
“And what would you like to listen to to relax, Baz?”
“ShockOne’s new one!”
“Bit of a language warning here Baz!”
“Aw yee! Love it!”
WUB WUB WUB GET THE FOKK UP
I have no idea what to say about Triple J. It plays a lot of music I hate – commodified, cookie-cutter indie pop – but I think that’s maybe more indicative of young Australian musician’s desire to “make it” by aping JJJ favourites, resulting in a feedback loop of passable, lukewarm music that’s style over substance. They also play lots of genuinely great stuff. Name your favourite Australian band, soloist or producer and, even if they feel like exist in a different realm to the brightly coloured national youth broadcaster (e.g. My Disco), chances are they’ve been played and helped along by JJJ. The station does great things for bands. I feel its quality control is maybe lacking, but it’s always a trade-off when you want to give hundreds of young, inexperienced bands a go. I dunno. Rosie Beaton is another issue unto herself. Best left for another time.
96fm – 96.1 FM
At the risk of sounding unfair I’m going to declare that Fairfax Media’s 96fm is the supreme arsepipe of Western Australian radio. Not because it plays the worst music. It doesn’t. But as an entity, an institution, it triggers the gag reflex like no other.
96fm plays eight different songs. Two of them are by Cold Chisel, the others are by Cheap Trick, AC/DC, Bon Jovi and Dragon. As I tune my dial to 96.1, right now, “Thunderstruck” blares out in all its hypercompressed glory. This is followed up by a soundbite promising that “the music variety rolls on – as we keep real music alive!” That final clause is the real dealbreaker, along with the posters that pollute bus stops around town: “let’s make Perth the new Seattle” (seriously?) and “If Snoop Dogg went to a Keith Richards party, he’d walk out a puppy” (what in the name of Darren de Mello does that even MEAN? Does Keith Richards host a special brand of parties named after himself, or are we talking kind of any Keith-themed celebration? AND WHY ARE YOU SPEAKING ILL OF SNOOP???)
All this groundless arrogance is an insurmountable turn-off. To quote Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, “Personality goes a long way.” I mean, fark, Toto are great, I’m totally prepared to give classic rock cheez-radio a chance, but you killed the vibe guys. Now it’s been a good six minutes worth of ads since they dropped the AC/DC track and, at long last, it’s Bon Jovi time. After that, a HILARIOUS joke about the Mars rover told in exaggerated Orstrayn brogue, followed by ten minutes of hyperbolic guffaws. This is even better than that time I chewed my own tongue off (almost).
RTR – 92.1 FM
The more astute and/or suspicious among you could probably smell this one coming from a mile off. It’s Radiothon week, and it would just be a little too convenient for me to be reviewing radio stations without some ulterior motive concerning RTR. Aw, damn it to damnation! RTR is the best! Why dress it up?
In my childhood I was always a bit scared of 92.1. Uncharted territory, un-charting songs. It played some weird music, and even the stuff that wasn’t weird, was dauntingly unfamiliar. There were bleeps and bloops and angry guitars and sometimes the songs didn’t even have words.
Sometime in my early teenage years, for whatever reason, I realized embracing the weird or slightly uncomfortable was the most exciting thing you could do. Opening up to RTR with willing ears, the radio suddenly glowed in a million colours like the bit in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy steps out of her freshly crash-landed farmhouse. I began to discover that electronic music could be as nuanced and expressive as “organically” performed stuff and that the endless expanse of little-known genius in the music world was more exhilarating than recognizing every riff and being able to hum along. I also realized that Perth itself was full of wild and wonderful musicians, bands, DJs and voices, because RTR dared to turn the telescope in on its “sleepy” little hometown and explore the bedrooms and dimly-lit pubs, fossicking for creative excellence.
RTR has introduced me to some of my favourite bands, and reminded me of plenty of others. Its eccentric array of awesome presenters – many of whom are top-notch local musicians and promoters themselves – bring heaving sacks of magical sound-flavours to each show, among them Jo Lettenmaier with the cream of the beat-scene crop, Adam Trainer with his eagle-ears for subtle greatness and post-rock gems, Dave Cutbush with his penchant for heaviness, Andrew Ryan (CPN editor, vested passions, word up!) who might be considered a truffle-pig for next-level indie rock. And goddamn Peter Barr, who makes mornings bearable, and wonderful shows delving ardently into specific realms: Soulsides, Golden Apples of The Sun, Difficult Listening, Full Frequency. It’s no exaggeration to say that, if you live in WA and fancy a bit of radio now and then, RTR is a very real boon to your quality of life. This could be the bit where I beseech you to subscribe to the radio station that brings you not only great tunes and thought-provoking dialogue, but events of insane quality like In The Pines. But I suspect, if you have the RTR love within your heart and the change in your piggy-bank, that I don’t have to.