Alt-Nation: WBRU Memories and Biltmore’s Biscuit


WBRU – Post-End of the Century Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio

The news in recent days is that WBRU is possibly up for sale subject to a wider vote from their student council. This isn’t new, as it has been tried before, but the bids were approximately $14 million short of the desired asking price. I can’t control what happens when a bunch of 20-year-olds who watch YouTube and listen to Spotify are voting. Hey, the world changes — I get it. What I am going to talk about is what WBRU meant my teenage self. WBRU meant everything. I would sit by a cassette tape recorder hoping to catch my new favorite tune that I didn’t have the money to buy. WBRU pushed me over the edge to be a fan of The Rolling Stones by virtue of playing the 1989 single “Mixed Emotions.” It’s kind of a weird way to get into the Stones, but I’m sure Keith Richards has a better story on how he got into Muddy Waters. The point is, it was before the grunge explosion in 1991 when battles lines were drawn. You were friends with anyone wearing Doc Martens. WBRU has brought so many great and shitty bands to town over the years. It is easy to focus on the shitty ones, but I’m stuck on the great ones that changed my life.

I don’t know how much the expense is to run a radio station these days and these kids are bred to make money. Maybe selling the station is the business practice they are there for. I lack a vote when it comes to the table, but want to emphasize how this station has meant so much to so many over the years. There would be a huge loss of shows without WBRU sponsorship. In the last few years, WBRU has provided unprecedented exposure to local bands. In the grunge revolution of the 1990s, the lines between corporate radio and BRU got muddled. Both the Clear Channel controlled 94 WHGY or whatever they want to call it — I Heart Radio, sure — spent half their day playing Pearl Jam’s first two albums and Nirvana, but the difference is WBRU mattered. The last disturbing trend is even WBRU’s annual Rock Hunt has been moved online. In a weird event, one can vote for past Rock Hunt Champions The Wandas among others. They suck. I have emails to prove their whiney ways. But what do I know? I’m the only one who writes an honest opinion. My opinion on WBRU is that we still need you.

Biltmore – Revolutions & Romantics

I don’t know if naming one’s band after an iconic hotel is weird or the most Rhode Island rock ‘n’ roll maneuver. If another band pops up called Dean or Omni I’m going to trash them, so don’t even think about it. For now, let’s discuss this biscuit, Revolutions & Romantics, from Biltmore. It is heavier on the latter than the former in the title.  Biltmore fit into the alternative pop guitar genre. My first impression is that this is one smooth-sounding and lush record. Biltmore fall somewhere on the spectrum between the shimming reverb guitars of U2 and the pop instincts of American Hi-Five minus the humor. “Temper Temper” has a subdued Foo Fighters vibe. “Dirty Pillow” has a Killers covering R.E.M. vibe. “Glitter (Dance All Night)” doesn’t really make me want to dance all night. Does that make the song a failure? I don’t know because it really isn’t a bad song. “Thank You for Bringing Me Home” has a definite Springsteen vibe if the E Street Band was formed in 2002 instead of 1972. Maybe it is my inner degenerate gambler, but for some reason I’m always partial to songs that mention Las Vegas. If you want a good review from me, just insert “Vegas” in a line in the song and I’ll probably like it, which is all the more weird because I don’t like casinos. The only time I was in Vegas I slept something like a total of five hours over four days, so when singer/guitarist Phil Ayoub sings about “seeing her eyes at 5am in the Vegas Blue” on “Las Vegas Blue,” of course it hits home for me. Even if I put my own biases aside, the tune itself is really a beautiful, wistful number, probably my favorite here. “Going Out” is another rocker that hits home as I’m prone to paralyzing internal debates on whether to go out. Biltmore even nail the I-really-don’t-want-to-but-what-if-I-miss-something sentiment. Biltmore nails the satellite ballad quota with the broken-hearted “Stars in the Attic,” although I can’t help but picture someone doing slow interpretative dance moves in a room with glow-in-the-dark stickers on the ceiling. This is another thing that I may or may not do. So what have we learned here besides the similarities between Biltmore and my life? Revolutions and Romantics is chock full of dreamy rock ‘n’ roll with lyrics that set the scene. Biltmore was selected to compete in the annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble in Boston and as soon as they have the date, I’ll be tweeting them out or you can just go here: Good luck to them as I don’t think a Rhode Island band has won the Rumble since the Amazing Royal Crowns’ triumph in the late ’90s.  And unlike The Wandas, Biltmore don’t suck.

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