Alan Cross - He's really smart.
April 27, 2005 8:51 PM   Subscribe

Alan Cross is a name that is known in Toronto. He's the guy from 102.1 Edge who has the best rock'n'roll show in the business, called The Ongoing History of New Music. His knowledge is so encyclopedic it's creepy. He's personable. He's interesting. He's current. He's uber-cool. And you can either podcast his shows or read them yourself. I'm no rock newbie, but I'm currently enjoying Building A Record Library: Part I. The History of Selling Out is interesting enough to provoke the question, did REM, Husker Du and Sonic Youth really do it for the bling bling? Speaking of Husker Du, are they possibly the fathers of Emo? Do yourself a favour: give him a listen and a read. note: the site's a bit rough on the browser
posted by ashbury (28 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Velvet Underground, ey? I'll give that a listen! Thanks, Edge guy!

/bitter old guy
posted by hackly_fracture at 9:01 PM on April 27, 2005

I used to love cfny back in the days when it was the Toronto station for breaking new music...I'll enjoy this thanks...

(What dweeb decided an xml and mp3 combo would be an Apple brand?)
posted by srboisvert at 9:17 PM on April 27, 2005 encyclopedic it's creepy.

I've said it before and I'll say it again... WFMU.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:17 PM on April 27, 2005

Listening to Alan Cross is like watching an episode of A&E Biography: it doesn't matter who he's talking about -- the subject immediately becomes interesting and I get sucked in.
posted by Robot Johnny at 9:34 PM on April 27, 2005

Alan Cross gives me a rash and I think the show's nonsense.

"Whatever you think of Nickelback-be you a fan or part of the backlash-you gotta admire what they've done." Um, no.

"Why is Creed loved and loathed in equal amounts? This is worth investigating." It is?

The guy's a shill just like any other contemporary DJ at a major radio station.
posted by dobbs at 9:37 PM on April 27, 2005

Yeah, sure he's a shill - he's the program director of the station, I think - but he's an interesting shill. Hope the rash clears up! :)
posted by ashbury at 9:41 PM on April 27, 2005

I for one enjoy Alan Cross's show (note: I'll watch / listen to just about any music documentary regardless of the subject or viewpoint), so thanks for posting this-- I used to listen to it when I could but since now I live in a place that has no radio station that carries it, this site will come in handy.
posted by synecdoche at 10:13 PM on April 27, 2005

I listened, some interesting "tidbits," but overall I hate "radio announcer guy" voice. Ugh.
posted by Quartermass at 10:16 PM on April 27, 2005

"Sure, [Licensed to Ill] sounds a little dated today, but if you want to know where Korn and Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park and hundreds of other chunky, beat-heavy bands got some of their inspiration, then this is required listening."

This guy is a music critic for people who don't like music, but buy it anyway.
posted by Nahum Tate at 10:29 PM on April 27, 2005

Thanks for the good link. I found it interesting.
posted by Tlahtolli at 11:25 PM on April 27, 2005

"Hi, my name's Alan Cross and I suck the soul out of rock music for a living."
posted by dydecker at 11:38 PM on April 27, 2005

There are some listenable generalist music documentaries at the BBC.
posted by dydecker at 11:56 PM on April 27, 2005

This guy is a music critic for people who don't like music, but buy it anyway.

Amen. Add a bit of "This Business of Music" dashed in, and you got it. I guess there's nothing wrong with that, but it offers nothing more than a Reader's Digest level of perspective.

If you're interested in a survey book that talks about life on the inside of bands weighing whether or not to "sell out", I highly recommend Michael Azzerrad's Our Band Could be Your Life. Azzerrad gets it because (a) he genunine loves the music (unlike Cross, seemingly) and (b) he's spent a shitload of time, you know, with the bands, rather than with the cigar chomping overlords that run radio stations.
posted by psmealey at 2:58 AM on April 28, 2005

The two-part article on Joe Strummer is pretty funny-- it's full of the type of errors you'd make if you were furiously skimming books and taking notes in order to meet a deadline.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:26 AM on April 28, 2005

When CFNY first hit the airwaves (late 70's), it was one of the best things in my teenage life. A cool, interesting station that educated me. Now, it's simply horrible.
posted by davebush at 5:29 AM on April 28, 2005

I highly recommend Michael Azzerrad's Our Band Could be Your Life

Seconded. I think it's the only book in the last year that I saw in a bookstore and immediately paid full price for, simply because I had to have it.

As for this Cross guy, I read the whole section on Licensed to Ill and I still have no idea why it's supposed to be a Top 10 Essential except that it sold a shitload of copies.
posted by languagehat at 6:02 AM on April 28, 2005

...of course Hüsker Du is the beginning of emo. They were a) the first band to get called "emotional hardcore" (though I can't seem to find my citation) and b) predated all of the Rites of Spring guys...
posted by klangklangston at 6:15 AM on April 28, 2005

Alan Cross, eh? He's no Chris Sheppard. Groovy, Baby!

And of course Sonic Youth did it for the 'bling bling.' That's why in the videos Lee Ranaldo is all pimped out with gold caps on his teeth and a diamond glued to his pinkie nail.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:39 AM on April 28, 2005

In the second article he endorses the Velvets, Bowie, the Stooges and the Clash, but omits the MC5, the New York Dolls and the Dictators. Encyclopedaic, my ass. I can read a record guide, too.

And for the most part, "selling out," is a concept invented by people get upset when their favorite band is no longer their little secret.
posted by jonmc at 6:51 AM on April 28, 2005

Thanks for the link, ashbury - haven't heard Alan Cross in a long time. I have to agree that his voice just sucks me in. Maybe his stuff doesn't hold up when read, I've never read transcripts, but I always found them fantastic for listening to while driving.

I miss CFNY too. Now when I'm around Toronto, I turn on 102.1 and sometimes I hear the same songs - but while that's nostalgic, it doesn't work, the whole point was that they really got into the new, the interesting, the alternative.
posted by livii at 8:02 AM on April 28, 2005

Alan Cross is the music director at CFNY now, but he's been doing this show since LONG before he got promoted to that job. And to the guy complaining about "Radio Announcer Guy Voice" - that's his actual voice :)

It used to be a pretty entertaining show when I listened back in the mid-90's - it's much better when he does a show about a single specific band. When he tries to get all theme-y, the shows end up with sort of a "skim over the history of this genre real briefly" kinda feel to them, because he has to jam everything into a one hour show, INCLUDING playing songs along the way. If you're lucky he'll turn it into a 2 or 3 parter, but that rarely happens. Jonmc - I can pretty much guarantee you that's why there are omissions. If these were set up as real articles, as opposed to being constrained to a 1 hour show format, the man would definitely have more to say.

Having said that, The Edge has really moved away from the "leading edge of new music" and into the "lots of 13 year olds listen to us now, so we're going to play all the popular pop-punk we can get our hands on". You can still find some good new stuff on there, but for the most part it is constrained to the 3:20 single new song of the day, or the indie hour.
posted by antifuse at 8:04 AM on April 28, 2005

As a long time CFNY listener, it's great to see Alan Cross' show getting some respect. It never fails to interest me.

As for Cross, he was most approachable and personable when I'd bug him during breaks working at the CNE while he broadcast live from there and he's most approachable and personable when I've bugged him via email over the past few years.

The Ongoing History of Alan and I: here, here, here, here and here.
posted by booner at 9:00 AM on April 28, 2005

102.1 The Edge sucks so hard that not even light can escape it...except for Alan Cross's show, which always (as was said above) can make you want to go out and hear more of the band he's talking about (like a great article in MOJO or Q or The Wire can do...), even if it's Creed or Nickelback or U2 or whatever-your-pet-peeve-band-is.
That's his job: to interest you in music. And he loves his job (from the enthusiasm i can hear in his voice), and he wants you to love music, too (and I think it's a real "love of music" not just a cynical attempt to keep you "buying" his station's product).
It's easy to dismiss him by focussing on a few attempts to find some reason to like Creed or Nickelback (for instance), but i find you can get a lot of context and valuable insight from the guy's words. And I think he has an incredible FM announcer voice.
posted by Al_Truist at 9:25 AM on April 28, 2005

Alan Cross is the music director at CFNY now

Really? Last year I was shocked to hear his voice on the local classic rock (Y108) station throwing to Fleetwood Mac... I couldn't believe it.

Anyway, I love his ongoing history series. I don't know how much of a shill he really is, but I do know that he is quite willing to play the utter crap someone made before they 'made it'.

He's now doing informercials for an essential new rock package thing.

Seems like a super smart and super nice guy though... Seems like he'd be very interesting to chat with.

Also, CFNY blows now...
posted by jikel_morten at 9:43 AM on April 28, 2005

he is quite willing to play the utter crap someone made before they 'made it'.

Completely off-topic: This reminds me of an ill-fated attempt I once made to introduce somebody to the Mekons (in the mid- to late '80s one of the greatest bands alive), and in some sort of misbegotten attempt at historical context I started by playing their first single, "Never Been In A Riot" (1978, Fast Product [FAST 1]). He listened, appalled, to their just-picked-up-this-instrument-for-the-first-time clunkings and tuneless hollerings and flatly refused to listen to anything else, despite my pleadings. Ever since then I hit them with Fear & Whiskey and don't look back.
posted by languagehat at 10:43 AM on April 28, 2005

For those nostalgic for the glory days when CFNY was the "Spirit of Radio", check out the CFNY Spirit of Radio Fan Page.
posted by mzanatta at 11:44 AM on April 28, 2005

Also, CFNY blows now...

Yes. Yes it does. We call it "road rage radio". Perfect for the gardner expressway at rush hour.
posted by Hanover Phist at 3:12 PM on April 28, 2005

Really? Last year I was shocked to hear his voice on the local classic rock (Y108) station throwing to Fleetwood Mac...

Alan has spent the last few years bouncing around Southern Ontario, but he's back at CFNY now.

Oh yeah, and he married Mary Ellen Beninger, which somehow seems ... fitting.
posted by deshead at 5:54 PM on April 28, 2005

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