MTV’s 120 Minutes makes a comeback.
By Derek Phillips
It didn’t seem like so long ago that I was sitting in front of my TV late on a Sunday night waiting for the start of MTV’s only show dedicated to “alternative” music; the only place you could see videos of the bands who were never going to compete with the corporate built pop princesses and dancing buffoons of Top 40 radio or the meaty head-banging sludge so often played on “real rock stations.” In fact, it was just last Sunday. My respite from awful music of the 80s turns out to be the same today: 120 Minutes, the only alternative.
But then the 90s roared in with the sonic assault of grunge and suddenly all the jocks I hated in high school were embracing the markings of punk. As Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sound Garden and even the Meat Puppets and Mudhoney started to sell records, the programming dopes and marketing hacks started to reposition their radio stations to reflect the new trend and suddenly every FM station in America was vying to be the “Only Alternative.” MTV was in on it too, putting alternative acts in high rotation during prime time programming hours. Hell, even the Flaming Lips had a hit in the 90s. Soon alternative lost its meaning and 120 Minutes became irrelevant.
Well, just as history repeats itself, so too do the trends of our past. Mainstream radio is once again constipated with teen pop and cock waving metal. So too is MTV with the “Mandy Moore’s Diary” and the unexplainable hype of a half-wit mullet-head named Andrew WK. But thankfully, 120 Minutes again has a place.
I recently cancelled my cable in favor of Direct TV and with the switch came MTV2, a music station that actually plays music videos. And lately, I’ve found myself in the exact same place I was 10+ years ago when the high school me waited until midnight for the hip, decidedly English host, Dave Kendall to give me the scoop on bands I’d only read about in NME or heard on mix tapes from friends and European penpals. Today, Dave is gone but I am still seeing videos of the coolest bands in the world that, I am convinced, never get airplay on Top 40 Radio. In the last weeks I’ve seen videos from Beulah, International Noise Conspiracy, The Hives, The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Shins, Phantom Planet, the Toilet Boys and more. (Damn, I just heard the Strokes and The White Stripes on 94.7, Chicago’s NEW Alternative! Could this be starting all over again?)
Is 120 Minutes cutting edge? No. I’ve yet to see a video or heard mention of the Icarus Line, Modest Mouse or my own Riviera. But it’s cool just the same and good to have a place where kids who don’t shop for music at the mall can find good shit.