'Techno' beat goes upscale Severna Park teens love that repetition CENTRAL COUNTY--Arnold * Broadneck * Severna Park * Crownsville * Millersville


Think industrial strength jack-hammer music. Think techno, a computerized sound popular at all-night rave parties. Think groups with names like Nine Inch Nails and Feedus Foetus.

The setting that does not immediately spring to mind is Severna Park, an upper-class, largely conservative enclave.

But Toad Music, a new alternative CD store on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, is pulling in the customers, mostly the high-school through late-20s crowd.

Wearing green post-punk jackets, local teens have found a home with alternative rock, techno music that comes from an underground network, says store owner Alex Tinsley.

The music's main quality is attitude, says employee Ian McNeill.

"This area breeds white collar conservative Republicans. These kids have everything set up for them, and there's a lot of ennui. I don't even think the kids understand what it is they like about techno -- they just seek out something different," says Mr. McNeill, 28.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Tinsley observed about 15 high-schoolers jumping up and down on the trash bin outside Taco Bell on Jumpers Hole Road. For no reason.

"There's a plethora of bored people here, and we want to address that outlet," says Mr. Tinsley. "We want to supply something for them."

The store has plenty of attitude, beginning with a sign in the window: "No soliciting. Those violators who don't leave will be shot." Overhead, a pink and black square advertises: "Revolutionary Compact Discs."

Inside, used CDs are a big drawing card, as well as the store's policy of removing the long boxes the CDS come in so customers can examine the liner notes. Toads also will open and play any CD, and if you don't like it, you don't buy it.

More unusual, you can trade CDs for either cash or credit. Most of the store's CDs sell for about $8, and there's a stock of 99-cents buys.

Then there's the juxtaposition of CDs lined up on greeting-card racks. Under chipper little signs that say "Thinking of You" and "Happy Birthday," customers can refresh themselves with the abrasive repetitions of Nine Inch Nails' industrialism.

Opened paper clips connect CDs, out of their containers, to form the store's front window "display" -- selections by such groups as Pearl Jam, Jesus and Mary Chain, Soundgarden and Ministry.

"This is definitely for anyone who likes anything but the ordinary," says Mr. Tinsley. "Music with a bit of a harder feel."

What attracts the youngsters, says Mr. McNeill, is the poverty and lack of commercial success of many of the techno music artists. Much of the music comes from an underground network of people who never make it big commercially, he says.

"The appeal has nothing to do with the music," theorizes Mr. McNeill. "It's that, unlike somebody like Van Halen, [techno artists] Group X live in one apartment in Minneapolis and are poor. They seem to give more to the music."

In fact, the lack of tonality makes much of the techno music sound the same, a factor that seems attractive to ravers, techno-fans who attend all-night parties in Baltimore or Washington, D.C., where the hypnotic dancing is often accompanied by illicit drugs like ecstasy.

"The kids just want something to make themselves seem different from their peers or parents or the people five years before," Mr. McNeill says.

And that's precisely why Mr. Tinsley, born and reared in Severna Park, opened Toads in August. He wants to change the scene.

The 21-year-old hopes to create an alternative center through his store. Right now, alternative music fans have to travel to Baltimore or Annapolis to shop.

He wants to bring the music home. Mr. Tinsley travels to England and Germany four times a year, picking up music that's hard to find in the United States. He'll find anything a customer orders. "Imports tend to be pricey, but when you gotta have it, you gotta have it," he says.

Toads also supplies computer programs for home composers. Ultimately, Mr. Tinsley would like to find a place for bands to play.

"We would like to make Severna Park a place for the local music scene," he says. "We need something here."

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