Man or Astroman?

Man or Astroman? is a surf rock group from the 90s.  True to their name, the group is wholly dedicated to marrying punk rock/new wave sounds to science fiction themes, audio samples, obscure electronic devices (such as theremins and tesla coils) in over-the-top live performances.

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In its standard form, the band generally consists of Star Crunch (aka Brian Causey) on guitar and sometimes vocals, Birdstuff (aka Brian Teasley) on drums, and Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard (Robert DelBueno) on bass guitar and electronics.  Over the years, however, the line-up has changed and the band actually sent both Alpha and Gamma Man or Astroman? Clone groups out on tour.

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They are super cool, super talented, and super out there.  Check out their website, and go see them on your for an out of this world, super sonic experience!

 

ESG

ESG (Emerald, Sapphire and Gold) is a band that emerged from the South Bronx in the early 1980s.  They were totally and completely unique, creating a sound that was unlike anything on the scene at the time – funky post-punk, post-disco dance music.

The band originally consisted of the Scroggins sisters, Renee (vocals), Valerie (drums), Deborah (bass) and Marie (congas, vocals) and friend Tito Libran (congas, vocals).  They were active in the early 80s, disbanded, and the re-formed in the early 90s after their music had become popular sample materials for bands like TLC, the Wu-Tang Clan, the Beastie Boys, Big Daddy Kane, Gang Starr, Junior Mafia, Tricky, Jay-Dee, as well as indie rockers like Unrest and Liars.  Accordingly, in 1992 ESG released the 12″ EP Sample Credits Don’t Pay Our Bills!

While ESG was super influential in NYC, and their influence on hip hop/rock/punk is beyond measure, they quietly hung up their hats to pursue fairly quiet lives in the city.  There have been a few releases, and shows here and there, but all in all the Scruggins sisters have moved on to other (if not bigger and better) things.  But, they will forever be remembered as one of the greatest bands you’ve probably never heard of!

Brian Eno and his New App

Brian Eno is a music god on so many different levels.  He did the glam rock thing with Roxy  Music, worked with David Bowie on the seminal “Berlin Trilogy,” helped to popularise that little-known band called Devo, and was amongst the first proponents of the punk-influenced “No Wave” genre.  Oh, and did I mention Eno produced and performed on three albums by Talking Heads, produced seven albums for U2, and worked on records   by James, Laurie Anderson, Coldplay, Depeche Mode, Paul Simon, Grace Jones and Slowdive, among others?  Then there is the fact that he single-handedly founded the entire genre of ambient music.  To say the least, Eno has a pretty good track record for identifying and creating cool …

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Now

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… which means we should give a bit of consideration to his futuristic new music app.  Scape’s goal is to revolutionise the concept of the ‘album’.  “Until about 120 years ago,” Eno says, “all music was ephemeral in the sense that you would never actually hear the same thing twice. Recording changed that. You could listen to an identical thing over and over and over again and that’s what all of us grew up doing. Most of our experience is of perfectly repeatable music.”  With the new app, created with musician and software designer Peter Chilvers, the user is able to generate their own ever-changing, continuously evolving “album.”  Scape comes with music, or rather sounds, created by Eno and Chilvers, but the user is meant to think of that piece like a sheet of paper to be written on.  By arranging icons on the screen – an E shape, for example, or a triangle – he or she is able to continuously build new and different musical experiences.  Chilvers explains: “You’ve not just got every track, you’ve got every instrument on that track and, really, every musician playing them. Every piece in Scape is really like a collection of musicians playing together and they’ve got their own rules.”  Eno claims it’s the future of music and listening, others would disagree.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see …

No matter what, it is undeniably, amazingly cool.

 

The Stinky Puffs

 

The Stinky Puffs were an early 90’s rock band started by then seven year old Simon Fair Timony, then-stepson of Jad Fair, and by Cody Linn Ranaldo, son of Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo. 

In 1995 The Stinky Puffs released an LP titled A Little Tiny Smelly Bit of…the Stinky Puffs. The album included a song called, ”I’ll Love You Anyway” which was Simon’s personal response to Kurt Cobain’s death, who was a big fan of the band.  Also included on the disk are four live tracks from a July, ‘94 YoYo a Go Go festival performance. Timony performed songs with Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan on guitar, Krist Novoselic on bass and Dave Grohl on drums.

Sure they had a bit of help from some pretty famous, way cool parents, but it is a pretty great accomplishment nonetheless!  Come to tomorrow’s Smarten Up workshop with Andrew Wyatt from Miike Snow at Thompson LES and maybe your child will be inspired to do a little bit of the same … there are just a few spots left to RSVP ASAP at workshops@smarten-up.com

 

Bad Brains: a Band in D.C.

 

Whether you love Bad Brains or you’ve never heard of them, their story is worth listening to.  Lucky for all of us, it was edited down by Mandy Stein and Benjamin Logan into a perfect documentary titled Bad Brains: a Band in D.C.

The doc begins by bringing us back to the mid-1970s, when the group (four black teenagers from Washington, D.C.) met in middle school. In the beginning, the boys were mostly into jazz-fusion (playing under the name Mind Power) — bassist Darryl Jenifer says he used to write fan-club letters to Stanley Clarke of Return to Forever — but they soon turned to the faster, edgier sounds of punk rock.  The music/movement provided the perfect expression of their energy and angst.  And because of their jazz training, they were the tightest band on the scene, capable of playing the most complicated of parts at breakneck speed.  In a sea of white teenagers playing punk rock with no musical training, Bad Brains were awe-inspiring.

Then, they saw Bob Marley in concert in the late 70s/early 80s and delved deep into reggae music and the Rastafari movement.  They might have been unique to the scene before, but after this awakening Bad Brains melded punk and reggae into an innovative style that has yet to be copied.  Their shows were always amazing because you never quite knew what you were going to get. The clips below are both from their famed 1982 performance at CBGB …

With a cult following, and seemingly limitless talent you might ask what went wrong?  There were a few things along the way, including some organizational challenges, publicity issues, and the increasing insanity of frontman H.R.  You can see it all in the movie.  Bad Brains is revered as one of the greatest (punk) bands ever, whose influence can be heard in groups like the Beastie Boys, No Doubt, Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction and countless more, yet so many people don’t know of them … Bad Brains: a Band in D.C. tells their story in the most amazing way.  It’s a must see!

 

The Rock-n-Roll Farmers: Donnie & Joe Emerson

 

Meet Donnie and Joe Emerson, two brothers from a farm in Fruitland, Washington 70 miles outside of Spokane.  Their town consisted of two stores, their school had all of about 100 kids, and they barely knew music until they got a tractor with a radio.  But from that day on, they essentially lived and breathed music, and their parents were supportive enough to spend around $150,000 on that dream.  The result was a pretty beautiful album that was heard by few if any.

But thanks to Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti cover of their song “Baby,” Dreamin’ Wild has been resurrected!

Pretty great story, don’t you think?!

 

Beastie Boys Hello Nasty Infomercial

To promote Hello Nasty the Beastie Boys went old school, or kind of just weird school, and created their very own infomercial.  The results are pretty genius …

Gotta love it.