Weekly Wire
NewCityNet Audio ESP

By Dave Chamberlain

JULY 19, 1999:  It's impossible to count the amount of times I've been asked the following question: "I like X-band. What else out there is like X-band?" Well here's the answer: Nobody else is like X-band. X-band is simply X-band.

But if that's not the answer you want to hear, the online record retailer CDNow has melded an aspect of Amazon.com, that of - alongside artists and their records - adding a list of related artists, as well as the Album Advisor (which, curiously, is trademarked), a list of the other records people bought in addition to the record you're interested in purchasing.

So with nothing but the intention of being able to answer that damn question to others' satisfaction, I joined the technologically elite (i.e., annoying online shoppers) and took a glance at the musical company some of our more well known local artists keep.

All you pretentious Tortoise heads out there, relax. Though my initial instinct told me that both CDNow and its Album Advisor would embarrass the boys in Tortoise. Alas, it seems that Tortoise buyers - and CDNow - have a good palate for peripheral tastes. The CDNow Related Artists category sounds like it was written by the band itself. Gastr Del Sol, Eleventh Dream Day, Slint, The Sea and Cake and 5ive Style are all included. And people who bought Tortoise's first eponymous record made pretty good choices as well. A Tribe Called Quest, Slint, Tom Waits, Joy Division, Pavement and Radiohead top the list.

As much as I don't understand it, Poi Dog Pondering (photo) ranks high in local popularity, and more often than not you can insert their name everywhere you see "X-band" in the first paragraph.

Strangely, the only related artist to Poi Dog Pondering is Abra Moore, she of the suicide-inducing folk crap and a former Poi Dogger herself. The Album Advisor (don't forget the trademark) tells us that Poi Dog fans also buy Paul Simon, Yo La Tengo, Radiohead, Dar Williams, Luna, Eric Clapton, Garbage and - oddly - the Old 97s. I'll be curious to see what the crowd is like at the next Old 97s show. Good money says it's very unlike, say, the first time the band played here three years ago. Chicago superband the Smashing Pumpkins is worth a comparative look, pitting CDNow's Album Advisor (that's trademarked, you know) lists for the SP's 1991 "Lull" versus 1998's platinum-selling "Adore."

Now keeping in mind that the Album Advisor (Trademark!, man) only has six months of history to deal with, folks newly interested in early Pumpkins are a curious breed. Listed bands include Pink Floyd, Henry Rollins, Garbage, the Donnas, Screeching Weasel and the Orb.

Quite the opposite end of the spectrum are buyers of "Adore," who are clearly big fans of the lowest common denominator - meaning radio music. Throughout homes everywhere, "Adore" sits proudly alongside records from Alanis Morrisette, Garbage (again), Eve 6, Sarah McLachlan and - get this - GEORGE MICHAEL. Bet Billy never pictured that.

There is a trend among underground or indie music fans to cease liking a record they once enjoyed because of the crowd said band draws. I'm guilty of it, too. And I fear that the Album Advisor (BEWARE: trademarked) and the kin it will spawn in the next five years might prevent people from buying quality music, based solely on what others are buying.

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