Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hardly Guest-Host Nirvana

While newstalk radio listeners seldom expect great broadcasting skills from the various fill-in talent who substitute for their favorite hosts, the audience minimally deserves intellectual integrity. And we didn't much get it in Krist Novocelic's work on The Ron & Don Show this afternoon, while the KIRO afternoon-drive team head to Louisiana for their New Orleans house-rebuilding shebang tomorrow.

Pinch-hosts, both on radio and television, are usually selected for their star power, and the onetime Nirvana bassist certainly has that. Alas, he also harbors a burning desire to steer the political process while maintaining only a loose grasp on public issues, a combination that is always dangerous in a celebrity, not to mention a radio talk host.

It's hardly remarkable that another rocker is advancing simplistic arguments against conservatism. But it's strange to hear him touting hopeless third party bids yet nearly ignoring the historic tripartite presidential election drama that is playing itself out this spring.

The musician has for years been politically active in various regional "progressive" causes. That's fine and even commendable, but apparently he isn't interested in the issues enough to acquaint himself with them to a point where he's likely to inspire the confidence of anyone he's trying to persuade. Instead, he mostly just sounds like some aging guy who got tired of being angry. Or as Homer Simpson put it in a repeat Sunday night of that 90s-flashback episode where he improbably became the frontman of a successful Nirvana-like grunge trio, "I finally reached the point all rock stars eventually do--I hated being famous."

Novocelic did bring in some interesting obscure spoken word samples from his enormous record collection, but even that was fumbled: he came back from break playing, with zero introduction, a lengthy sound bite of some guy ranting about something or other. I'd be able to report precisely what he was railing against, but I didn't retain it in part due to an uninspired delivery and no apparent profundity. But mainly the item bored me because I had no idea who was speaking. Only afterwards did Novocelic inform the audience they'd just been hearing counter-culture icon William Burroughs. As it happens, I've got more than a passing interest in Burroughs, and might have hung on the late novelist's every word--or at least been able to recall them--had the man Ron & Don entrusted with their microphone been responsible enough to uphold talk radio's rule number one: always provide your audience with some reason to listen.

My years in the Dylan sub-cult make me someone who has been long been identified with political rock music. As such, I have a much-practiced response to the frequent question of how anyone with conservative views (on geopolitical issues, at least) can so admire the work of lefty rockers like Lennon and Neil Young and, yes, Nirvana. I always reply, I prefer to get my music from recording artists and my politics from pundits. Novocelic's turn on KIRO this afternoon unfortunately affirms this dictum.



Anonymous said...

Agree and disagree. I liked Krist for the novelty of him being there but wouldn't want to hear him more than 2 days in a row. You're right about his preparation and also his voice was a bit irritating. But I'm willing to give him a pass if it's just 1 novelty show.

Did you hear Luke Burbank totally explode on-air last night during the third hour when someone had the audacity to criticize him on his blog? Now THAT is a sad day for radio. I wrote a comment about it on their blog at, in fact. He also "called out" this blog (I think) but he called it "Blatter Watch" or "Blather Watch" or something like that.

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