Page 4-The Michigan Daily-Weekend etc. -March 19,1992
The extreme justifies the norm
by Stephen Henderson
T'd always dismissed most TV talk shows as pretty unimportant -
silly programs that normal people didn't put much stock in and only
watched occasionally for their cheap entertainment or shock value. For
me, Geraldo, Oprah and Maury Povich were no different than the
National Enquirer or The Globe.
But recently, a good friend of mine pointed something out that
changed my mind, and clued me in to the purpose talk shows may
serve for the people who watch them.
Her point was simple: Television talk shows are so popular because
the extreme positions the guests always represent help regular people
to put their own lives into perspective. She said Joe or Jane America
can catch the Montel Williams Show between work and dinner every-
day, see someone who's situation in life is worse than their own, and
take comfort in that fact. It's sort of the same warped, but necessary,
pleasure you get from seeing someone stub their toe or from watching
the police pull somebody else over for speeding. That kind of stuff
makes the day-to-day grind more bearable for us.
And I suppose that given some of the topics you see on talk shows,
that can be a fairly healthy and benign exercise. There's probably no
harm in average Americans
watching as Geraldo grills
"teenagers who killed their
parents" and thinking to them-
selves: "Well, my kids aren't so
bad, then. They might drink a
little beer and smoke a little
dope, but there's not much threat
of them killing me."
And it might even be a good
thing for young people around
the country to watch Oprah beat
up on "adult children who ,epicture
NEVER call their parents" and say
to themselves: "I lust talked to my mom last week. Those kids are real
But what about the more disturbing topics which periodically
appear on talk shows? What happens when the KKK or other distaste-
fully extreme groups show up on the tube? I can imagine this whole
scenario becoming more counterproductive then, and I can see
people's justifications turning a little scarier.
I can just see someone sitting back watching Montel Williams
throwing verbal punches at a few Klan members and saying: "Well,
I'm not that bad. I don't hire Black people, and I don't want them
living on my block, but I'm not burning crosses on their lawns or
In that case and many others, letting people take comfort in their
distance from the extreme isn't so benign. By contrast, it encourages
and grants tacit approval to many of the undesirable social norms that
are so pervasive in our society.
Maybe in an effort to curb that, TV talk shows could start showing
us the norms rather than the extremes. It might be interesting to see
what kind of reaction there would be to a show that featured the CEOs
of corporations that have no Black employees besides the janitors, or
families from neighborhoods that are notorious for excluding ethnic
minorities. Perhaps even a show that exposed common negative
feelings about people who carry the AIDS virus would be appropriate.
I'd guess that shows with those themes wouldn't be so popular;
people would probably see a little too much of themselves in those
shows to be entertained or comforted by them..
But that in itself says more about us than anything else.
As a trio, Crossed Wire (Ito r: Bud Burcar, Chris Moore and Cary Marsh) are way, way cooler than they were as a four piece. It's weird.
Crossed Wire keeps up the fun
by Michael John Wilson
It's a dilemma. The band you've
been in for six years just can't get
your big break. No matter how many
people say you're great, and how
many scouts hear you play, you're
rejected with excuses like, "Too so-
phisticated." One major label dumps
you after they offer you a contract.
And then your lead guitarist
But if you're Crossed Wire, you
keep on going. Instead of folding,
the band has tightened up into a
power trio and become even better.
It's just another chapter in the con-
tinuing saga of Crossed Wire, the
underdog from Detroit that won't
"It's cool to play live as a three
piece. It's fun," says Chris Moore,
the 26-year-old lead singer/song-
writer/guitarist. "It's also weird be-
cause people like it so much better.
They think it's just so much more
focused ... I think everything's sim-
pler and better."
"Fun" is one of the words that
continually comes up when speaking
about Crossed Wire. "Unpreten-
tious" and "honest" are some others.
"I think people relate to the
honesty of it," Moore says. "I think
that's hip. I don't think ours is a hip
sound right now - I think it's more
like ... harsh folk songs. But people
like it, it's weird."
That kind of self-depreciating,
unselfconscious talk is just what has
made Crossed Wire so endearing for
years. The trio of Moore, Bud
Burcar (drums) and Cary Marsh
(bass) are not image-conscious rock
'n' roll stars. They're just some guys
with guitars, guys who create a de-
licious sound that is at once sweetly
catchy and brutally energetic. One
record company executive told
Moore that they sound like "'Elvis
Costello meets Nirvana."'
It's just that unpretentiousness
that has been Crossed Wire's undo-
ing. They're nearly impossible to
package, and they have little interest
in self-promotion. Their appeal has
always been the intimacy and sheer
fun they convey live, an intimacy
that's the antithesis to the major-la-
bel, beer-sponsored megatours of the
times. But as their age and wisdom
grows, the band is learning to play
the games of the record industry in
their own way - without selling
"We've only been a three-piece
for eight months and yet we've got
so much accomplished," Moore
says. "We know how to do a lot
more things - promoting ourselves,
more business things that we always
didn't care about. These days, it's
everything. I guess it's from people
telling us the music's only half the
"The record company wants us to
promote our new record by us going
to record stores with acoustic gui-
tars. The strength of our band has
never been on image, it's always
been on music. So that could be our
thing. I don't know, what do you
think of that idea? I think it's a real
honest kind of (promotion) ... It's
not just a big commercial."
The new indie record, Caught in
the Current, is their first since be-
coming a trio, and not surprisingly,
it's the best of their three releases.
"I just think the musicianship, the
quality of our playing is technically
better," Moore says. "I think it's
more consistent, it's got more inten-
sity. And it's not so light."
The grungier sound also helps the
recording reflect the energy of their
live show. "We've never matched
how we sound live. That's been one
of our criticisms: 'Man, you guys
can never match your energy on
record.' I think this record is the
But apart from all the business
worries and the technical concerns
of the recording process, Crossed
Wire has always been about good,
catchy songs. For Moore, songwrit-
ing has become a fact of daily life. "I
just always write songs. I don't
know, I just always do it," he says.
"Stuff that I'm afraid to say to
someone's face, I write it in songs
... It speaks my mind better than me
"It might be a business kind of
problem selling us. I used to worry
about that but now I just don't even
care. It's better to just write good
songs. I mean, try to write good
So until that day when Crossed
Wire makes it big (and fame is com-
ing), the band is ours to savor as
they keep playing and keep improv-
ing. "Obviously we don't want to
work day jobs and go play for three
nights a week forever ... it definitely
takes its toll. Every once in a while,
you wonder, 'Geez, when am I go-
ing to draw the line?' But I just think
that we're always getting better. I
feel that people recognize that. As
long as that's going on, I don't think
CROSSED WIRE's record release
party is tonight at the Blind Pig.
Cover is $3, but bring extra money,
Moore says: "Oh yeah, we'll have t-
shirts. We'll have merchandise.
(member of the Grateful Dead)
March 22, 1992
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