This coming weekend, I will take to the airwaves of WWSP-90FM, my college radio alma mater, as part of their annual reunion weekends. It will be my first time presiding over a radio program in nine years and my first time on 90FM in over fifteen years. I commemoration, I’m devoting this week to slightly displaced “One for Friday” posts, touching on each of my five years as a student broadcaster. To borrow a line from Robyn Hitchcock, “I didn’t write these songs; they wrote me.”
I’ve written about Too Much Joy’s Cereal Killers before, detailing my chilled-to-the-bone quest through the record stores of Stevens Point, Wisconsin on the day of its release, desperate to get my hands on a copy only to find it had quickly sold out everywhere. The local proprietors were ill-prepared to meet the demand drummed up by the outsized affection showered on the band by the college radio station that served as my most stable home. I don’t know how many of the purchasers who got ahead of me were listeners and how many were fellow staffers fully indoctrinated into the caustically cunning commentary of the punk-inflected quartet from Scarsdale, New York. Either way, I’d like to think that those of us at the station who first grabbed ahold of Too Much Joy as the tippled troubadours of our collegiate experience helped the band move an awful lot of product in our humble, Midwestern town.
After the Cereal Killers piece at Spectrum Culture went up, it was noticed by Too Much Joy lead singer Tim Quirk, who tapped out a simple tweet that I treasure like a family heirloom.
— Tim Quirk (@tbquirk) September 10, 2013
Even with that authoritative vote of confidence, I feel like my words will always be inadequate in expressing what that band meant to me. It was the ideally-synched soundtrack to the most important stretch of my life, when I forged the relationships that are most enduring and basically locked into the person I am. In the same way punk music validated youthful anger and goth rock provided a safe mirror for gloomy outsider kids, Too Much Joy gave me a permission slip to be myself, to trust my instinct to meet the world with a raucous cry of wry dissatisfaction.
Nearly any one of the songs off of Cereal Killers could be offered up here as a digital echo of countless radio spins from twenty-five years ago. I opt for “King of Beers” because it may very have been the one we sang along to most loudly, most often, our slurring harmonies themselves a testament to the complicated truths of the song. I wasn’t the only one who found insight there.
Listen or download –> Too Much Joy, “King of Beers”
(Disclaimer: Usually, I do my best to make sure the songs I share are unavailable for physical purchase. For this week, I’m scrapping that rule. Instead, I actively urge anyone who enjoys the shared track to treat it as a tantalizing sample and to go out and buy the full-length album on which it resides, preferably from your favorite local, independently-owned record store. I’m thrilled to be going to my favorite this Sunday. I will gladly and promptly remove the file from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)