* With the famous words, “I’m Matt Pinfield and welcome to 120 Minutes,” and the video “Whirring,” by the Welsh trio The Joy Formidable, MTV’s much-loved, alternative music video show was back. Oh, it sure felt good to be there with an old friend like Pinfield, again. For although I’ve never met the man, his personable style and encyclopedic knowledge of music made him just like one of the boys back in the ’90s, another music geek who was eager to trade obscure stories and obscure bands, and he gave Saturday night’s show the feeling of a reunion with long lost college chum.
* While the name and the host may have been the same, there were some noticeable differences to the show during last night’s debut. For one, there was a much quicker pace to these 120 Minutes. We’re no longer slackers. We have high speed internet connections and smart phones with high speed data plans. We don’t have to wait to be entertained. Consequently, the interviews, and there were a lot of them (Dave Grohl, Kings of Leon, Black Angels, Sleigh Bells, and PJ Harvey, and more) were mostly limited to two or three questions. As much fun as it was to watch Beck mumble nonsense for minutes on end back in the day, it’s a stunt that wouldn’t work in today’s fast-paced culture.
* There was also a concerted effort made by Pinfield and the show’s producers to build links between today’s underground and alternative music of the ’90s. Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters talked about The Joy Formidable; The Black Angels talked about Lou Reed; Das Racist spoke about The Beastie Boys; And, PJ Harvey was asked a question about Lady Gaga. Harvey enjoys her music, but doesn’t own any of her albums.
* Personally, I enjoyed being able to sit back and watch videos without having to hunt and click or rely on a computer to build a smart playlist for me. There’s still a need, a big one, for someone to be a curator for all the new music that swamps the internet. Can 120 Minutes be that person?
* The current music discovery model, powered by web zines and music blogs, is built upon speed, being the first to debut a new track by a newer band, with little direction from writers and bloggers as to whether any given track is even worth our time. Speed equals page views and page views equal ad revenue.
* Look, I get the same press releases as Stereogum and Pitchfork and everyone else, and I can turn press emails into posts as quickly as those guys, too. However, I actually listen to those tracks a few times and form a basic opinions before posting anything. I like to think that the people who come here appreciate that fact. 120 Minutes is counting on people wanting quality over quantity, too.
* Unless 120 Minutes can pull in more viewers than Jackass re-runs on MTV2, and can convince MTV networks it deserves a weekly run, it has no choice but to embrace this curatorial position. Its ability to debut new videos and break new bands is severely hampered by its current schedule — Once-a-month, on the last Saturday of the month (10 PM PT/1 AM ET). Last night’s episode did prompt me to check out more from The Joy Formidable.
* In the past, I would have opened my notebook, written down the artist, song, and album (Joy Formidable, “Whirring,” The Big Roar) and saved that note for my next trip to Mad Hatter Records. Now, I can Spotify that artist and (legally) listen to the whole album before I decide to buy. Score one for Pinfield the curator.
* Can we call last night’s debut a success? From a viability perspective, we won’t know until the numbers come out in a few days. Even then, we’ll have to wait for the second monthly broadcast, or the third, before the show’s fate is decided by the suits. Still, from my couch, it was a fun, fast-paced two hours filled with music and knowledge, a show I would want to check out again even if I didn’t have a strong, nostalgic connection to its first run. Where else would I have learned that during the making of The Black Angels’ last album the sound engineer took an assault rifle to an amp for the recording of “Bad Vibrations?” That short interview was Pinfield and 120 Minutes at its best.
* There’s one more difference between 120 Minutes today and 120 Minutes yesterday: In the past, if I didn’t have the VCR running, I had to choose between sleep and new music. Now, I don’t have that worry. I can wake up the next morning and navigate my web browser over to MTV Hive and watch the full episode on-line, picking up where I nodded off. 120 Minutes with Matt Pinfield: Episode 1