It's the first week of college at West Virginia University (also known as my alma mater
), and it got me thinking about college rock radio. In the pre-internet age, which a lot of us in our mid-to-late 20s straddle, college rock radio was the way we got our introduction to the alternative rock that would come to define our proto-hipster lives. And although great college rock radio is slowly dying out, the start of another new school year got me thinking about the greatest college rock bands/tracks of all time. The internet loves nostalgia. The internet loves listicles, so here are ten of our personal favorite college rock radio blasts from the past (in no particular order).
Talking Heads - "Once in a Lifetime"
Any list about college radio classics has to start with Talking Heads in one capacity or another. Arguably (alongside another band that will appear later in this list), college rock radio wouldn't exist without David Byrne and crew. So, why not just bask in this show stopping performance of "Once in a Lifetime" from the band's seminal rock-documentary Stop Making Sense
Pixies - "Debaser"
If the Talking Heads defined late 70s/early 80s college rock radio, then the Pixies were the college rock band of the late 80s/early 90s. The easy choice here would be "Here Comes Your Man" or "Where Is My Mind" (thanks Fight Club
for always imprinting exploding buildings in my mind when I here that song) so we'll go with Doolittle
standby "Debaser." It's just as good anyways.
The Hold Steady - "Stuck Between Stations"
What do we do in college? We drink way too much beer. Who was the best bar band of the aughts? It was The Hold Steady. Boys and Girls in America
was the best arena rock album not being played in arenas of 2006. So, go ahead and let Sal Paradise guide you with "Stuck Between Stations."
The Smashing Pumpkins - "Tonight, Tonight"
While Pearl Jam and Nirvana were the bands every rock station had on full blast throughout the early 90s, the Smashing Pumpkins were always for more of the arthouse set. While they certainly had their own massive success, tracks like "Tonight, Tonight" were pushing the envelope in ways their contemporaries weren't.
LCD Soundsystem - "All My Friends"
What's the other thing we do in college? We get way too fucked up and spend too much time doing stupid shit with our friends. And if anybody ever wrote an anthem to the time we spend hanging with our friends (and then realizing we're going to miss them when they're gone), it was LCD Soundsystem with "All My Friends." It's the anthem of the mid-aughts for a reason.
The Dismemberment Plan - "What Do You Want Me to Say"
This is a bit of a deep cut here, but for a lot of people in their late 20s/early 30s, 1999's Emergency & I
holds a sacred spot in their hearts usually reserved for the likes of OK Computer
. These Washington, D.C. post-punkers are the definition of the type of underground rock that blows up thanks to college rock radio.
The Flaming Lips - "Do You Realize"
Part of college is letting your freak flag fly, and I'm hard pressed to name a modern rock band that lets their freak flag fly more proudly than The Flaming Lips. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
is like the Frampton Comes Alive
of college hippies. It's a rite of passage, and "Do You Realize" is one of Wayne Coyne's strongest tracks.
The National - "Mr. November"
Another thing that we wind up doing in college is get way too emotionally invested into politics (or maybe that's just me). But, by the end, you learn that pretty much every politician you support is going to disappoint you somehow. And, there's no better anthem of political ennui and jaded anger than The National's "Mr. November."
Gin Blossoms - "Hey Jealousy"
This song has aged way better than you're imagining it has. Unlike a lot of the non-grunge alt-rock acts of the early 90s, there's something ahead of the curve about the Gin Blossoms, and New Miserable Experience
is a record that still deserves plenty of spins today. I might have been three when this track dropped, but it still speaks to me.
R.E.M. - "Orange Crush"
I intentionally started with Talking Heads so I could finish with these Athens, GA legends. Alongside Talking Heads, R.E.M. more or less codified college rock radio as an institution. They may be broken up now, but albums like Murmur
, Automatic For the People
, and Green
will live forever. So, here's "Orange Crush," and make sure you still support your local college rock radio stations.