I can’t deny it: going into Atomic Records gets more depressing every time. You know, I saw the Rolling Stones at the very tail end of their last gasp at relevance, but at least I’ve skipped out on the past ten years or so. You don’t want your last memory of something to be the last days of a dragged-out mockery. It’s not Rich’s fault; he doesn’t have the option of just ending it abruptly and gracefully. The relationship with the fans is infinitely more personal, doomed to an unavoidably clunky, unsatisfying end. There will be no more amazing discoveries at Atomic. Last time I was there, even the conversation was almost nonexistent. So I don’t really think I can go in there any more. Maybe for the grand finale.
One of the things I’ll miss most is the weekly emails: a friendly how-do-you-do, staff picks, upcoming shows, and most importantly, an extensive list of as many notable releases as possible, concise (if generous) descriptions of the music. I made some of my best discoveries going out on a limb just because the Atomic mailing list blurb intrigued me. I’ve found myself floundering a bit in music geek limbo since I stopped getting those lists, wondering how many great quirky, sub-indie releases are going to slip under my radar this year because I just won’t be aware of them, how many Milwaukee artists will get even more lost in the shuffle unless by some miracle Exclusive Company starts actively supporting local music. Even Pitchfork is too pop to dig very deep any more, and I don’t have time to read all of their lengthy odes, much less the mentality to subscribe to their editorial tastes.
There’s only one thing I can do, apparently: listen to WMSE. I’ve had the opportunity this winter to have the station on most days, most of the day, slowly falling in love with new shows all the time. I’ve done everything in my power to catch the Jing Jong Triple Play every Friday morning ever since I first tuned into it years ago, and Dr. Fell never fails to produce a smooth three hours of eclectic indie goodness. In fact, Friday pretty much rules all around; you’ve got the immortal Chicken Shack, an about-face from 9-noon, and then Buzz’s Garage greases your afternoon up (thanks for the Lux tribute, Buzz). You can always count on Jules on Thursdays after the Blues, and while Laura King Of Rock is sorely missed, you can still at least catch a dose of extreme heaviness on Wednesdays from 9-midnight. But this year, I’ve discovered that there’s no better way to start your week (for us morning people, anyway) than with Grant’s Monday morning hodgepodge, and I must say that The Shape Of Rock on Tuesdays has become my favorite show. Tons of local stuff, the best in brand new from hip hop to post metal. You’re liable to hear anything that could possibly be considered good on this show, and I defy anyone to listen regularly and not discover something new that you’ll end up loving. And these are just MY favorites. Check out the (badly in need of updating!) program schedule, or just tune in randomly until you find your groove.
I always enjoyed the risk of buying something I’d only read about. Sure, you end up with some crappy CDs to unload at Bullseye, but without that hazard you don’t get the thrill of true discovery. Okay, I get it: the biz is changing, blah blah blah. That doesn’t mean that supporting the dwindling hordes of true independent voices isn’t still the most rewarding way to pursue your love of music. Unfortunately, it appears that it does mean I have to try and fill the Atomic void with inferior substitutes. And any day now, my work schedule might once again foil my opportunities to listen to any decent radio…hey, Rush-Mor: can you guys start a mailing list?