The New Normal

Tom Leykis, a veteran radio talk-show host, recently launched a new online music project.

Tom Leykis, a veteran radio talk-show host, recently launched a new online music project. It’s called New Normal Music and the idea is this: Play only music released within the past 12 months by alt-rock bands that are new to the scene.

You won’t find any Nirvana here, nor any Weezer. In fact, the NNM website is very clear about its mandate: “We are like you. We love music. We especially love new music and new artists. Yet, when Red Hot Chili Peppers release a new album, many radio stations refer to it as ‘new music.’ They were formed in 1983. Were you even born in 1983? Flea is 47. So is Anthony Kiedis. Don’t get us started on U2.”

That’s all well and good, but there’s no need to be ageist about the whole thing. I mean, Leykis just turned 54. I’m 40, and I dig a lot of what they are playing as part of their 50,000-song spinning spree. The playlist is full of bands that I know and have in my collection like OK Go, Stars, and Of Montreal; but I’m also getting introduced to cool tunes by Rooney, The Love Language, Portugal the Man, Minus the Bear, and so many more.

Frankly, I agree that a lot of bands that have been around for 20, 30, even 40 years should, perhaps, move on or, at the very least, get a new schtick. I don’t think U2 fits into that category, as they continue to produce solid, if not innovative, offerings; but I’d be okay if Flea and Anthony kept their shirts on.

There are a number of other long-lived artists that should maybe step off, as well. The Eagles come to mind, certainly. They are never, ever going to come anywhere near the success they had in the 1970s. So, unless Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and company want to carry on being the best Eagles cover band ever, maybe they should just leave history where it belongs… in the past.

Phil Lesh and Bob Weir are taking a new stab at infamy with Furthur. Again, it seems like a case of them being the best Grateful Dead tribute band on the circuit and little more. Perhaps that’s enough for them. Maybe it’s just about playing music and connecting with fans. That’s cool, but I’ll agree with Leykis that it shouldn’t be marketed as new.

The other gauntlet Leykis throws down is one with traditional radio. He doesn’t want to be associated with the industry that has been his bread, butter, and jam for all these years. The mission statement begs, “Just please: don’t call it a radio station. Radio doesn’t have the guts to do this, and radio certainly won’t spend the money and take the risks to do it right.”

That may well be true of commercial radio. I personally can’t bear to tune into those waves. However, there are quite a few non-comm, college, and community stations who color outside the lines all day, every day with eclectic programming that supports independent artists and good music, no matter the genre or backing.

So, Leykis, don’t throw the groovy babies out with the dirty, old bathwater. Please.