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Drat!

Racket proposes a rock radio revolution. Clear Channel beats him to the punch.

Houston commercial rock radio has always been a wasteland, a badlands of tired music and dead trends. And it seems that the people of Houston know it. The Buzz -- our so-called alternative station (though it's now as mainstream, and intelligent, as Jessica Simpson) is the highest-rated rock station in town, which is all well and good, until you take a close look at the Arbitron ratings book. There, you'll find that the Buzz is tied -- with smooth jazz seephole the Wave, no less -- for ninth overall. KLOL -- the alternative to the alternative, as it were -- fares much worse. It's all the way down at No. 20, tied with the Point, an '80s station that might lead you to believe that absolutely nothing but crap was recorded in the whole decade.

Neither the Buzz nor KLOL has much of an identity these days. Broadly speaking, the Buzz is for tools with goatees and the women who love them; KLOL is for tools with mullets and the strippers who fleece them. (And the goatee is the new mullet, for what that's worth.) If you sell ads for one of those stations, you need look no further than the booze industry. That's all the guys -- and it is mainly guys -- who listen to those stations buy; well, that and drugs, and you can't exactly sell an ad package to the dope man. And a good chunk of what's left in the pockets of Buzz and KLOL listeners after they've bought all their drugs and liquor ends up in some stripper's thong, who then spends some of it on drugs for herself, and takes the rest to her boyfriend, who blows it on drugs and booze because he's just like the guys she "entertains," only worse, because he's jealous that his girl is cavorting naked in a room full of drooling, lust-crazed tools every night. Or maybe it all ends up in some other stripper's thong across town, 'cause he's one of those dawgs you see on Ricki Lake. Either way, the money winds up in one of two places: fattening the bottom line at Big Liquor Inc., or lining the pockets of Juan Valdez's naughty hermano up in the Colombian hills. And as our fair and balanced government has told us, Al Qaeda has some kind of profit-sharing scheme with him, so there you have it: Listening to the Buzz and KLOL helps the terrorists win.

And over the past few years, Clear Channel Radio, the entertainment monolith that owns both stations, has taken notice of the declining ratings, if not the patriotic angle. You'd think they'd fool with the playlists some -- but that's why you're not a radio honcho with a corner office in a tall building. Yep, that's why you don't have an executive putting green, 'cause if you did, what you'd do instead is fire the disc jockeys. Evidently, their research has told them that people want more fart and dick jokes and less good music, 'cause that's pretty much what they've done recently over at the Buzz, and a few years ago at KLOL.

"Pardon me while I puke," says "Houston Hawk," a prominent local radio personality who requested anonymity. (Mr. Hawk's writings on Houston radio can be found at www.radiodailynews.com/houstonhawk.htm). "My main complaint with [the Buzz] is the disc jockeys and the dialogue and the high jinks that they are doing now on there are not a whole lot different than what they are doing on KLOL. And KLOL is not in the best shape either, so all I see is the Buzz dividing more of their own audience."

Exactly. The Buzz has a related problem -- namely, that it's trying to play too many mutually exclusive styles of music at the same time. Racket can't claim to speak for every 19-year-old rock fan, but it's hard to imagine that the average fan of say, the Darkness, would have a soft spot in his heart for a band like Puddle of Mudd, whose members look like the kind of dudes who used to beat them up in high school.

The reverse is also true. "People who listen to nü-metal don't listen to anything else," says Press contributor and Hands Up Houston booking collective founder Lance Walker, who adds that he finds the KLOL morning shows offensive and sexist. "The horrible thing about nü-metal is that it just goes in a big horrible uninspiring circle. Guys wearing their bass guitars down around their knees -- it just doesn't expand on anything. Therefore nobody wants to learn anything new, nobody pushes anybody in any new directions, it's all the same, it's all on ten, everything's as loud as it could possibly be, they're always screaming as loud as they can."

As the Darkness and dozens of other young and hip bands have reminded us in the last couple of years, what's old is new again. Look at the rock bands making waves with the cool kids, and even a bunch of thirtysomethings, these days -- the White Stripes, Jet, the Datsuns, the Kings of Leon, the Hives. Though the media, including this member of it, has branded them all "neo-garage" rock or some such, it's pretty much a bullshit tag. It's just plain old classic rock, albeit new classic rock songs played with the piss and vinegar of youth.

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