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Kiss

KissKiss, one of the biggest band’s of the 1970’s, and arguably one of the biggest bands ever, has always been a bit of an enigma to me.  I bring this up because I heard a Kiss song on Ozzy’s Boneyard, an XM radio station, last night on my way home from a night class that I am taking, and it just got me thinking a bit about these monsters of rock.

Like I said, Kiss was absolutely huge in the 1970’s, I mean think about this for a second, this band had their own lunchboxes, dolls, pinball machines, and countless other knick-knacks, and no other huge band of that era appeared to have such strong merchandising – not Led Zeppelin, not the Beatles (though the Beatles weren’t exactly of that era), not Black Sabbath, not AC/DC, none of them.  In fact, it could be argued, that such a strong merchandising blitz wasn’t seen of a similar magnitude until the advent of the whole New Kids on the Block, and the subsequent ad nauseam, mass produced, Disney, Pop acts that continue to this day.  I’m not saying that the merchandising is a bad thing, quite the contrary, however the merchandising is a part of what has made Kiss kind of enigmatic to me; which I will now try and explain.

It was the late 1970’s, and I was in first grade, this is when I saw my first Kiss lunchbox.  So, here’s this 6-7 years old little boy, with his plastic Peanuts lunchbox, and across the lunchroom is a kid sitting there with a metal lunchbox covered with these guys with their faces painted in kind of a sinister (for the era) like fashion, dressed in a kind of sinister (for the era) fashion, and, when I was told that they were a rock band, I thought something to the effect that they must be pretty dangerous.  That thought stuck with me for years.  As my familiarity of music grew, there was one constant that stuck with me, Kiss must be dangerous, hard, heavy; as such, I thought there would be no way I would like their music (remember this was back in the day when many rock and roll bands [including Kiss] were considered to be satanic) so I never actively sought to hear anything by them.  I mean if you simply based Kiss upon their appearance, they looked like the 1970’s version of what Slipknot looks like today; but that’s the end of the similarities between those two bands.

Fast forward to the 6th grade, I am now 12/13 years old, it is now the mid 1980’s, and I am a fan of Van Halen, Quiet Riot, Billy Idol, with a burgeoning interest in the now disbanded Led Zeppelin, somewhat heavier music for sure, it was also the era when MTV actually played music videos, and Kiss premiered their new look, sans face paint, also sans original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, with the titular track of their new look/new line-up album, Lick it Up:

With some anticipation, I watched that video, not quite knowing what to expect – again because I thought Kiss must be some hard rock band, based simply upon that very early impression their look made on me – and when I heard “Lick it Up,” I thought, “What, that’s it?  What the hell have I been thinking all these years?”

As I got older, and heard more and more Kiss songs, particularly the songs from their 1970’s hey day, songs like “Detroit Rock City,” “I Love it Loud, “I Was Made For Loving You,” and of course “I Wanna Rock & Roll All Night,” I simply found that their sound belies their look, which is where my enigmatic view of this hugely successful band took root.  Here’s a band that, I thought, looked like they must be the hardest, heaviest, and most dangerous band of their day, and well, quite honestly they weren’t even close to being that.      In a bit of irony though, as I deliberately steered clear of Kiss because of my mistaken impression of them, I became a fan in some fashion or another of bands that were/are decidedly heavier, harder, and maybe even more dangerous than Kiss.  Bands like Motley Crue (particularly their album “Shout at the Devil”), AC/DC (contemporaries of Kiss), Black Sabbath, Metallica, Guns ‘N Roses, Korn, Pantera, Anthrax, and of course, one of my all time favorites, Led Zeppelin (whose sound is tame by today’s standards too).

There is no real point here, other than (I suppose) don’t judge a book by its cover.  I am not saying Kiss isn’t/wasn’t good; their record sales, concert sell-outs, and massive merchandising sales would show that, if I were to dare make such an argument (which I am not), I would definitely be in the minority of such an opinion.  To me, and this is just my opinion here, Kiss’ music is feel good, party rock, plain and simple; which definitely isn’t a bad thing whatsoever.  There’s no pretense in their music, no attempt to make some deep and profound statement, Kiss just wants us to “rock and roll all night, and party everyday;” they just looked like they might have wanted more.

 

Don’t Tell Mom, but You Can Play With Your Food

We’ve all heard it from our Mom’s, when we were kids, “Don’t play with your food!”  Okay, maybe it was just me, but when I was a kid I, like many kids, didn’t like, nor did I eat my vegetables.  Instead I just pushed them around my plate (I tried giving them to my dog, but she didn’t want them either) until Mom finally got so exasperated and told me to leave the dinner table.  Now I am an adult and to be perfectly honest, I not only eat my vegetables, but I find a meal incomplete without a veggie being on the plate.

Well, apparently these adults never listened to their Moms’ on the not playing with their food front.  They instead decided to continue playing with their food, which, some how, that continued playing with their vegetables led them towards making music with them . . . Um, wait, what?!


Yes, apparently they recorded an album.  I don’t know if it is available on iTunes™ though...

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the World…

Okay, yeah, I am an American; and, like many Americans I, at times, suffer from an Amerocentric view of – well, just about everything.  This isn’t to say that I am completely oblivious to the rest of the world; nor is it to say that I feel that the entire world should be “Americanized.”  No, it is instead, a recognition that I am a product of my environment, which can, at times, lead to a bubble like view of things.  In all actuality I am cursed with both an acute case of wanderlust, and a dearth of dinero.  I would absolutely love visiting other countries, and experiencing their own particular je ne sais quoi.  Perhaps one day I will make that happen.  Anyway, as a resident, in a predominantly English speaking country, I am basically exposed to predominantly English speaking music – along with some Latin American music too.  So, today I decided to explore some of what the predominantly non-English speaking world is listening too.  Now, I will apologize that what follows are mostly European, and I know that they may be dated too, but what follows are songs that I thought sounded good, even though I might have only the smallest inkling of an idea what they may be about – in most cases I don’t even have that; and yes, I know that these are not exactly what one can, or would call “traditional” music from the countries from where they hail, but that isn’t really my point here.  My point is/was simply to hear what may, or may not be popular music from outside Los Estados Unidos:

From Sweden:  MOVITS!

This band kind of reminds me of a much more tame, Quarashi, who are from Iceland, but I also feel a bit of a Black Keys vibe too…  maybe it’s just the hipster look though.

From Germany:  Peter Fox

I also like his Haus am See too.

Italy:  Adriano Celentano

C’mon, I dare you not to move to that song!

France:  Yelle

Um, my understanding is that the lyrics are a tad risque…but it is catchy.

India: Dalar Mehndi

The next Gangnam Style…maybe????

Korea:  Witches

Is that really Korean?  Well, according to the ol’ interweb that is where they are from…

I’ll end with some 1970’s French Pop-Punk:  Plastic Bertrand

Not filled with as much angst as British punk, but there is a bit of a Ramones feel to it – no?

There are oh so many more though, like Portuguese singer Ana Moura, who does a Portuguese flavored cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” (in English), and is currently on tour in America; and the artists not only span the globe, but their music spans multiple genres too.  It’s nice to go exploring new things from time to time, even if it is just from sitting on your sofa, using your laptop, and wondering, “what else is out there?”

 

What Does Fills the Gap? Maybe a Little Thelonious Crunk?

I found this while purusing Reddit today, it is a video by Will Cady, and I thought it was cleverly edited, in the music, images, and the voice over, which is of British philosopher Alan Watts:

Maybe that’s not exactly what you were looking for on Noise Made Me Do It; but upon a little deeper digging I found that Will Cady is also the bassist for a band called Thelonious Crunk, and I think this maybe more of the reason why you stopped by…

www.ourstage.com

Yeah, now that definitely fills the gap – doesn’t it?

FM Gem is Seeking Beta Testers

FM Gem claims to be a new and a fast and easy way to create & share commercial interruption free YouTube music playlists.  You simply search for music, and then drag and drop the videos you want to see in the bar at the bottom of the screen, or simply select play all and enjoy:

FM Gem

 

The Skins – What Teen Music Once Was and Still Should Be

The Skins

The Skins

Okay, I am now well beyond my teen years, so I guess that should be taken into consideration about my thoughts regarding “teen music.”  I put teen music in quotes because I suppose it can be argued that it isn’t really a genre, however I stand on the side of that argument that Disney is the creator and perpetuator of a genre of music that is geared and targeted directly at preteen and teen ears – thus “teen music.”

My preferred genre of music is rock and roll, I do have preferences in rock and roll, but, by and large, I am a fan of the genre on the whole; and let’s not forget that rock and roll blew up out of the mouth and sound of a nineteen years old Elvis Presley.  Almost immediately upon Elvis’s success, there were teenagers throughout the world who bought guitars, gathered in garages, or basements, and created bands.  While many of the early rock and roll music is decidedly tame, by today’s rock standards, there was always an element of teen angst in the music, so much so that many adults of the day thought rock music was dangerous, leading some radio stations to outright ban rock and roll music from their playlists.

Today’s “teen music” is decidedly lame, lacking much of that teen angst, and decidedly gooey in its prepackaged, mass marketed, overly managed and over-produced products (Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, pick a “boy band,” The Jonas Brothers, Justin Bieber, etc., etc.).  That isn’t to say that any of them are not talented, because they are, hell Justin Bieber is quite a talented musician, and The Jonas Brothers can play their own instruments too.  Nor am I begrudging them their success, more power to them.  It just seems, to me, that few of those products offer much in the name of real substance, and are like almost everything else in today’s world – disposable.

I imagine a room of executives in a product planning meeting, putting together demographics and spreadsheets, directly targeting the pre-teen and teen markets, hiring song writers, and studio musicians; then holding auditions for who the next star is going to be … That’s a far cry from forming a band in your parents garage and struggling to land gigs, and earn a little coin and make a name for yourself, isn’t it?  I think all of that prepackaging, over producing, mass marketing, focus grouping, over managing is one of the biggest issues that is hurting rock and roll specifically, and the music industry in general – music shouldn’t be created in a boardroom; but that’s just my opinion.

So, back to the title of this post.  Just as I (and I am sure many of you at this point) was sure I had reached the point that everyone reaches, where I just don’t get “it” anymore; much like my Dad didn’t get the music I listened (and still listen) to; just as I was willing to throw in the towel and be too old to understand, I heard The Skins.

The Skins is a Brooklyn Based band, comprising of siblings Bayli, Reef, and Kaya McKeithan, along with Daisy Spencer, and Russell Chell; recording on the Wreckroom Records record label; but none of that is what surprised me.  The thing that surprised me is this – The Skins range in age from 13 to 19 years old, and I can assure you that they do not make “teen music.”

Listen to their song “Surf,” and tell me that it is something that a Disney boardroom committee came up with:

Aside from the powerful vocals, and the decidedly fusion of funk, surf, and classic rock of their sound – did you happen to catch the homage to Black Sabbath’s 1971 song “Sweet Leaf,” in the guitar riff at the 3:03 mark?  That wasn’t sampling, that was knowing beyond their years – other than all of that they are just another teen band right?

Now listen to their song “Killer:”

The tightness in their sound and rhythm belies their age, as does their apparent knowledge of “older” sounds.  THAT is what “teen music” should sound like, not whatever some giant media conglomerate focused grouped and forced fed to us (or rather teens).  So, this “old,” out of touch dude just found a little ray of hope for the future of rock and roll, and their name is The Skins.

Bonerama

Jim Nix / Nomadic Pursuits / Travel Photos / CC BY-NC-SA

During the interminable lead-in to this past Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, I heard Scott Van Pelt, and Ryen Rusillo on their ESPN radio show make several glowing references and mentions to a local funk brass band called Bonerama.  I think most people wouldn’t think too much about a couple of sports talk radio guys giving their musical recommendations, and I admit I am one of those people.  However, I have been to New Orleans many, many times, it is one of my favorite cities in America, and through those many, many visits I have come to truly appreciate the actual culture that thrives in New Orleans that is so much more than the revelry of Bourbon Street.  One of the biggest pieces of New Orleans culture is music, so when Van Pelt and Russillo continued to speak of how awesome Bonerama is, going so far as to want to make this band the house band for their show, while in New Orleans (due to their proximity to other media sets though their want was not able to happen) I began to think that maybe I should check this band out, and see what the fuss is all about.  So, four days after the Super Bowl, I finally did just that, checked out the band Bonerama, and let me tell you, they are well worth the fuss.

As they describe themselves, they are a brass funk band, the brass in question though is the trombone – thus the bone in Bonerama – and are accompanied by drums, electric guitar, bass guitar, and synthesizers.  They play/produce both original and cover material, and let me tell you, this band brings the funk AND the noise.

Since I am a big Led Zeppelin fan I have to share Bonerama’s covers of two of Zep’s songs, first is The Ocean:

Then there is one of my favorite Zeppelin tunes, When the Levee Breaks:

And finally let’s close this out with one of Bonerama’s originals called Big Fine Woman, in which you can definitely hear much of that New Orleans sound:

Patchwerk: control a real massive modular synth from your browser

In 1973, Media Lab associate professor Joe Paradiso was an undergraduate at Tufts University. It was a time, he says, when information and parts for DIY projects were scarce, and digital synthesizer production was on the rise. But, he decided to tackle creating a modular synth. Paradiso gathered information from manufacturers’ data sheets and hobbyist magazines he found in public libraries. He taught himself basic electronics, scrounged for parts from surplus stores and spent a decade and a half building modules and hacking consumer keyboards to create the synth, which he completed in the 1980s.

That synthesizer, probably the world’s largest with more than 125 modules, is now on display in the MIT Museum.  Through the magic of the interwebs, Joe has created a system that lets you control the synth through your browser!

Patchwerk lets you control a massive analog synthesizer from your browser, and streams the results back to you and everyone connected. The interface on this site is linked to a physical synth cabinet connected to the world’s largest homemade modular synth, currently housed at the MIT Museum. Turn a knob here, and Patchwerk will turn a motorized knob on the cabinet. If someone at the Museum grabs a knob, you’ll see it turn too.

Watch Joe describe the synth:

You can try out the synth right here (just enter your name, and switch to “control”), and you can find out more about it here.

If you don’t feel like playing with it, you can hear a live 24h stream of the synth right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(3/11/2012 Update:  Unfortunately though this link no longer works)

Touch Screens with Texture

Fat FingerOkay, this post has nothing really to do with sound, but it does have everything to do with technology.  I am a notorious late adopter of new technologies, I think the biggest reason may be due to me having plenty of  the “Show Me State” of Missouri’s blood in me (I’m naturally skeptical, and notoriously cynical), and maybe a little cheap too.  Let me give you some examples of my coming late to many a technology party.  I was one of the last of my friends, and maybe even one of the last humans, to upgrade to CD’s over cassettes.  My reason?  Well, I had a pretty extensive collection of cassettes, with several band’s complete set of studio albums.  The cost and thought of replacing it all was daunting.  Then, just as I was getting my CD library filled, the whole MP3/downloadable music thing began to take off, and . . . well . . . yes, I was among the last humans to adopt that tech too.  Cellphones?  Why yes, I was the last of my friends to join the cellular age, mostly due to their basically telling me that I “needed” to get one, because they were tired of not being able to reach me when I wasn’t home.  I was one of the last people to buy a laptop (that was mostly due to me being too cheap, and poor to justify the expense).  I was also pretty darn late to the “smartphone” thing too, and if it weren’t for a package deal that was offered when I upgraded, I still wouldn’t have a tablet either.  Which brings me to today’s post.

I have a love/hate relationship with my smartphone and tablet; for many quirky personality reasons; but one definite ergonomic reason – the touchscreen.  I don’t think I am alone in my general feelings about the still, if you stop to think about it, amazing technology that is a touchscreen.  How many times have you been tapping out a text, email, or tweet, click send, and then realize the number of typos in your message, or the dreaded, and remarkably dumb, auto-correct decided to “correct” a word that suddenly makes you message nonsensical, which then makes you feel dumb and mad, so you then quickly send a correction.  If the point of these smartphones and tablets are supposed to improve our efficiency, then these touchscreens, and the not so smart auto-correct, certainly erases a lot of that efficiency.  Sure there are smartphones and tablets with actual QWERTY keypads, but they either take away the screen size, and/or add weight and increase the size altogether, all of which kind of takes away from these technological marvels.  I mean the screens on smartphones are already small enough without shrinking it more for a keyboard, and no one wants to walk around with something as heavy as a brick in their pocket or purse.  So, it looked like we were stuck with either having to wait until we evolve tiny fingers, or just live with fat fingering, and then editing, every email, text, and tweet we want to send – until now.

Tactus Technology, based in California, has created and introduced a clear, flat screen, that actual keys “grow” out of it whenever you need the key pad at CES 2013 in Las Vegas (see video below):

Tactus Technology – CES 2013 from Tactus Technology Inc. on Vimeo.

This may be a technology that I just might adopt earlier than what is usual for me.

Read and watch this video from BBC News at CES 2013 in Las Vegas for more even more information.

The Magnetic Motor

I should have paid more attention in my high school science classes; which is really an odd thing to say about someone who was. is, and I hope always will be curious about how “things” work.  Not just how things mechanically work, but what are the scientific principles behind why things work.  As such, when I was a kid I was absolutely fascinated with the science of “things;” yet as an adolescent I became a very lazy student, and essentially ceased trying in school – shame on me.  Well, I know I am not the only person who has ever taken an educational slumber in their teen years, and I am not the last either, but when I stumbled upon the below video about an electric car that runs on what is called a magnetic motor, and thus doesn’t need a battery, I sure do wish I could revisit the teen me and give him a kick in the pants.

Now, I want to know more about the principles of magnetism, and how those principles can be applied in energy producing applications.  Sure, as a car guy, who loves the sound emitted through the exhaust notes of powerful cars, the whine of an electric car seems anti-climatic and lame in comparison; however I am also a realist, and realize that fossil fuels are finite in their availability, and that they do emit pollutants into the atmosphere.  So, I know there will have to be a viable, efficient, and abundant alternative that takes hold at some point, and after watching the above video, as well as just doing a cursory reading up on the magnetic motor, I can’t help but wonder if it couldn’t be that viable alternative?

Sadly, the above videos don’t do a very good job of explaining exactly how either of their “miracle” engines work, let alone their viability, but you have to admit that it is intriguing, that there could be a relatively simple, inexpensive, and almost limitless source of energy already available.  Is it viable, practical, and feasible?  Well, I did essentially take my teen years off educationally, so I am no scientist, but  I’d gladly trade the sound and the fury of the internal combustion engine for the dulcet whine of electric motors, if it meant saving me a little coin along the way.  Wouldn’t you?

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