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Five Instruments Not Invited Back to Rock and Roll

Posted January 29, 2007

1 comment posted. Read it now.

Some instruments not traditionally heard in rock provide interesting texture. Add a mandolin to the tune conjures the image of the band beating up and robbing an itinerant tailor. The cello, made popular by alternative bands such as Nirvana desperate to have something interesting when they appeared on MTV Unplugged, is only offensive if you mind the hums and yaws of a 900-pound mosquito. Honorable Mention goes to The Saxophone. It has been an accepted part of rock and roll since the 1950's, when certain jazz musicians who lacked talent discovered a novel way to pay the bills. Is it lively? Yes. Does it evoke pathos in a minor key, a la Shine on You Crazy Diamond? Yes. But it doesn't rock. The truly awful instruments listed below do their best to drive you from the room:


As Heard On: ACDC's "It's A Long Way To The Top"; The early songs of Korn
Of course. It's heavy metal. Even better than that, Korn's music is known as 'nu-metal': this back to basics is stripped down: bass, drums, guitars, and the 'pipes. Their overwhelming advantage, aside from summoning the Scottish military quickly to your aid, is that nobody feels bad if you destroy a set of bagpipes during the passion of a concert. I would love to see somebody windmill while they play the bagpipes. As long as I didn't have to hear them playing the bagpipes. C-


As Heard On: (anything by Billy Joel, Bruce Hornsby)
It's the instrument the keyboardist plays when his piano is in the shop. It's meant to convey poignancy, but ends up as sincere as a clown writing poetry. It's perfect for polka, but is it right for rock? D+


As Heard On: the Beatles, 'In My Life'
It's amazing that such an ancient instrument sounds like it had to be created by a synthesizer. Sir George Martin, who gave us the unlistenable 'classical' half of the Yellow Submarine album, walked into the recording studio while the Beatles were on a smoke break, and put down a harpsichord solo for the middle sixteen for 'In My Life'. It transports me from the tumult of rock and roll's revolution to a mid-Victorian English parlor where I enjoy some snuff and a sonnet recitation. D


As Heard On: R.E.M "Everybody Hurts"
If a clown could play an instrument, it would be an oboe. If ducks could yodel, they might sound like an oboe. The oboe's greatest distinction is that it is less hip and harder to play than a clarinet. It is a clarinet wearing a bow-tie. Its tall awkward relative the Bassoon is no charmer, but fortunately its pitch is so deep it can only be heard by migratory cetaceans during their summer calving seasons. D-


As Heard On: music of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, just about everybody else
The harmonica has a lot in common with the new House Speaker Pelosi: shrill and popular in San Francisco. Nobody can refute the high sex appeal of the harmonica: If you're lucky enough to hold a guitar while playing it you'll be wearing something like orthodontic headgear. The instrument also shows off the virtuosity of the musician: wow, she can play guitar AND harmonica AND tambourine. My two-year-old can play the harmonica, but that doesn't mean you want to hear it. F



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