down a rock music rabbit hole

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(Image above from a Birdeatsbaby video)

This is how an entire afternoon can disappear. Recently I was perusing a long list of rock music genres and sub-genres when I came across this one:

Italian Occult Psychedelia

How could I not look into it? Before long I was on Spotify listening to a band called Cannibal Movie.  Imagine if you dumped a beat up old carnival organ into a swamp, and then the Creature from the Black Lagoon sat down and began to play. The sound burbling up from the water is their song, “Fame.” 

Take a less distorted organ and add somber drumming and gothic chanting and you’ve got Capra Informis. Music to play at a goat sacrifice – “Tunnels of Cliphoth.” From here I moved on to …

Math Rock

I listened to music from several bands in this genre and really couldn’t detect a common denominator (ha ha) among them. One British group called Three Trapped Tigers had an album called “Numbers: 1-13” with songs labelled 1, 2, etc., as befitting math rock. I like a lot of this music. Another group, from Japan, called Ruins was utterly different and berserk. I recommend this inspired weirdness called “Skhanddraviza,” which must be a homage to Frank Zappa.

Folk Metal

I started with Finntroll. I don’t know why, but this combination of black metal and a type of Finnish polka music was hard to take seriously. It kept reminding me of the Stonehenge scene from Spinal Tap. Much of this genre is Scandinavian. However, the Orphaned Land is out of Israel, mixing metal with Middle Eastern folk music. Here they are live, doing a number without the deep growly voice technique they use on other songs. Finally, I’ll end with:

Dark Cabaret

Picture a group of young circus vampires trying to look menacing while playing squeezeboxes. Face makeup, accordions, and a theatrical style create the cabaret and lyrics about death and destruction make it dark. The Tiger Lillies recommend mindless insurrection in “Start a Fire.” I really like the stop motion style video for this Birdeatsbaby song called “The Trouble.”

You can have the same adventure I did by following the links to the music videos above. As an avant-guard metal band, Gorguts, says, “As spleen takes over me, resound, the echoes of my threnodies.” Live at the Brutal Assault festival.

(Avant-garde metal band, Giant Squid.)

it gets worse at 24-hour fitness

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I said I wouldn’t complain again about the music on the PA system at 24-Hour Fitness. I even praised them when for a day or two they switched to something that didn’t make me gag.

Of course they always returned to music that I describe as endlessly repeating bleeps and farts. Insultingly bad music that reaches into your head to stomp brain cells. It’s an odd strategy for a health club – playing tunes that make people want to cry and give up.

How could it get worse? By putting advertisements into the mix. Yes, these songs that resemble the soundtracks to chewing gum commercials are now interspersed with spoken ads. Today I heard an ad for Justin Bieber (the King Joffrey of pop). I was supposed to buy something and win tickets to a Bieber concert.

They also introduced a 24-Hour Fitness channel on the TVs in the workout rooms. The channel shows bad music videos interspersed with ads for the powdered protein crap they sell by the check-in counter. Are there any suckers who buy that stuff? There must be a few.

Why does this business work so hard to make the environment as unpleasant as possible for customers? I know they pretty much have me trapped – it’s right across the street from where I work. I don’t have other choices beyond going out into the rain and breathing auto fumes. But still, why bother poking the proverbial sharp stick in my eye?

My guess is that someone told 24-Hour Fitness that they could monetize the environment in the health club. It must have been a realization akin to being struck by lightning.

My god, they thought, most of our customers have working ears and we’re not shooting ads into their heads as they exercise! Good lord, these people have eyes and we’re not putting enough commercials in their faces.

“This is going to be easy. We just put sales pitches on repeat everywhere and it will turn into money.”

Sales

thank you, 24-hour fitness

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Twice I’ve written about how the music on the PA at the gym is so awful that I’d rather listen to barking dogs. Recently I got on my spin bike and dang if there wasn’t a song that started with barking dog sounds. It was “Been Caught Stealing” by Jane’s Addiction.  I like that song. The bigger story is that the music seems to have changed overall. Mostly rock and roll and not so much of that horrific dance-disco-Auto-Tune voice crap.

Before the change I heard an actual dance mix version of Carole King’s “It’s Too Late.” It was gratuitous song destruction; the audio version of a slasher movie and repulsive beyond imagination. These days it’s usually material that I don’t particularly like but can tolerate and ignore.

It’s all about the puke-per-song ratio. I can listen to mediocre rock and roll for a long time without gagging. But music that sounds like a breakfast food commercial with a drum machine causes disgust over and over. Thankfully that’s gone away for now. It’s kind of like how good it feels when you stop hitting your toe with a hammer. Thank you, 24-Hour Fitness. Thank you so much. Don’t ever go back to the way it was.

dear 24-hour fitness

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I’m writing about the music you play on your PA system. To say that it’s awful is not nearly enough. It’s embarrassing and painful at the same time. You know what it sounds like? It’s like the soundtrack to a really bad cartoon, complete with instruments that make rhythmic farting noises and squealing pig chords. You know what else it sounds like? It sounds like the frickin’ background music for a chewing gum commercial.  I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say, “What about the awesome brilliance of having the singer’s voice echo-echo-echo on every chorus? We’d never heard that before and we love it.” I know what else you’re going to say. “Dude! (I knew you’d say ‘dude.’) Every other song has auto-tuned vocals, and that gives us happy memories of when auto-tuning was popular.”
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Though I seriously doubt it, maybe you’re curious about what I’d like to hear. Well, 24-Hour Fitness, I’d much rather listen to polka music than the crap you play. I’d rather listen to the sound of barking dogs. I’d go for blessed silence or white noise instead of the throbbing brainless crud that sprays out of your speakers. I know that you won’t change it because you’ve got some marketing statistics that say your music draws members into your club like flies to a dead possum.

Here then, is my request. Just turn it down. Turn it way down. Then I can use my own headphones and blot out what you play. As it stands now, I have to blow my eardrums out with my own headphones just to cover up the audio stink you create. Just have some mercy. Have some common decency. Please.

Yours,

Grumpypants

my annual holiday music post: ¿Que es mas macho?

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Which of these two Christmas songs is the most powerful soul-sucking mood destroyer for anyone over the age of 14? When you go into a store with muzak or walk past some carolers, which one of these tunes brings you down the farthest?

Is it “Jingle Bell Rock” or “Little Drummer Boy”?

“Jingle Bell” has the vapid, empty-brain despair of a chewing gum commercial. It’s one-dimensional white bread hell that smells like a junior high gymnasium. It’s the musical equivalent of a poster of a cute kitten that says, “Hang in there!” as the baby kitten dangles from a string. You feel nauseous during exposure and long afterwards.

“Drummer Boy,” on the other hand, creeps in with an almost tolerable melody and then you realize, in horror, that the words are puerile nonsense. You’re singing baby talk imitations of a toy drum. It’s like a mantra designed to kill brain cells. You’re embarrassed by what’s going on in your ears and head and you try to stomp it down like you’d stomp down a fire in your kitchen. Too late.

Go ahead. Choose your poison. Jingle Bell or Drummer Boy? Which is the most bad ass? And happy frickin’ holiday christmas kwanza new years crap to you, too, Mr. or Ms. reader. That’s right, I’ve got a bad attitude. You want to step out into the alley behind this blog and deal with it? Right now? Come on, mofo, get in here.

angels and demons in the recording studio

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In tonight’s spin class when we got to a particularly hard “steep” exercise, the instructor played some music that I would give the old fashioned label of heavy metal. I know there is death metal, grindcore, metalcore, and various other permutations of metal, but I couldn’t tell you the difference between them. Don’t know what band it was, but you could pry the lid off a coffin with the singer’s voice; very deep and growling and scraping the vocal chords.

His verses alternated with others sung by a children’s choir, and that achieved some of the ghastly effect intended. Pairing children’s voices with something quite different is an old gambit in the music business. Pink Floyd and Alice Cooper come to mind. But the first time I came across it was on Leonard Cohen’s 1967 album, The Songs of Leonard Cohen on the song, “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye.” It’s an unbelievably beautiful song. Personally, I think it might be better without the child singers and the twanging mouth harp, but that’s Leonard for you. I’m so used to that version now I don’t even notice.

Recordings of children’s choirs should be mixed with the sounds of:
humpback whale songs
electric can openers
radio static
a cat fight
a 28.8K modem connecting to the Internet

I give you these ideas for free and you may become famous and wealthy. You’re welcome.