The Three Song Litmus Test of Indie88


Indie88 (88.1 FM) is the new alt-rock station on the Toronto dial. If telling you Alan Cross is attached to the project isn’t enough to get you to tune in right away, then just take my word for it.

Now that they’re out of their honeymoon phase, they’ve started their programming proper.  Since their mission is “play good music”, I decided to put them to the test.  There’s a short list of songs I use to judge a radio station on.  The only qualifier for passing the test is that they play these songs unedited, and uninterrupted.

Specifically, they must not play the song’s radio edits!

Radio Edits

Radio Edits are songs cut down either for time, or for content.  I give a little bit of leeway on each.

  • I understand trimming the end of a song for time if it’s one of those long, “noisy” outros– like Nine Inch Nails – Hurt,  which is pretty much one distorted note held for 60 seconds. Understood.
  • I understand SOME content censoring. There’s still the CRTC to deal with. Sometimes it’s just a stray F word that can easily be fuzzed out. A necessary evil.

What I take issue with is when songs get chopped up and spliced horribly back together. A verse gets dropped. An instrumental breakdown is missing. The song’s lyrics are so horribly mangled that they’re nigh unrecognizable.

Either play the song as is, or pick a different song! A Frankensong just tells me the program director cares more about ticking a box on a contract that says “played X song/artist, now pay me” more than the song itself.

I tuned into Indie88, and specifically listened until I heard three of the many songs I consider acceptable for the test.  Almost by fate, they played three of my top Litmus songs nearly in a row.

The Test Songs

1) Lou Reed – Take a Walk on the Wild Side.  When it was released, the song’s lyrics were intentionally subversive. By modern sensibilities, they’re fairly tame– but I guess they might still offend some elderly Q107 listener who actually bothered listening to the lyrics of “that nice little song” for the first time.  Especially if they hear the one verse that seems to get chopped.

2) Black Keys – Little Black Submarines. This song has a great acoustic build-up. The first verse is just finger-picked guitar and voice.  The second verse mixes in a very subtle drum beat and eventually some electric backing.  The second half of the song is full-out rock.  The slow unveiling of the harshness of the song is masterful. BUT the radio edit mashes the first two verses together, ruining the slow build. The result is a jarring jump from quiet to DRUMS FROM NOWHERE!  If you start hearing drums at the end of the second line in the first verse, you’re missing out on the intended audio experience.

3) Silversun Pickups – Panic Switch.  This song has an absolutely amazing instrumental break that really brings out the emotional mania of the piece. I don’t know why it’s cut.  It’s not that it sounds bad on FM. Maybe it’s too long for the attention span of some station’s listeners?  Really, go listen to the song, then listen to the Radio Edit’s version of the instrumental, and notice how JARRING the transition is. (and that isn’t even touching on the lyrical cuts)

The Results

Indie 88 passed on all three counts. Each song was played in full, without interruption. No DJ talking over the intro or outro. No jarring cuts for content or time. No radio edits! Just great music. So massive kudos to them!

I would have also given them passing marks for playing any full Tool song, or for playing Jesus of Suburbia uninterrupted. (Seriously, I once hear a THREE MINUTE version of the song, and it was just as awful as you are imagining. Given how many Green Day songs ARE three minutes long, what the hell was the point?)

So Indie88’s earned earned a spot on my presets.  Admittedly it’s on the second tier for now, but given enough warm-up time, they just might push Barrie’s 95.7 off the top row.

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