Robot Genius

“They let the robots do their dirty work for them.” That is a paraphrased quote that I heard while watching a documentary on the very well-known electronic duo, Daft Punk, called Daft Punk: Unchained. This quote stuck out to me and it was only in the first 5-10 minutes of the film. It set the tone in which I would, from then on, view Daft Punk.

I have always been a steady fan of the group, listening to them every now and again. I am not really a big fan of house, EDM, or other electronic music other than Phantogram, which have their own very unique music and style. Even though it is fun to dance to and listen to at parties, etc, I never found myself actually immersed in the genre. It did not grab me like others did, it became repetitive after a while. That changed when I started listening to Daft Punk to which I was a late bloomer. Their music grabbed me unlike most other electronic music. The more I listened to it, the more I realized how much care, precision, and skill went into this music. You can actually hear it. You can tell that, apart from the other music they sample, there was plenty of music that they mixed and produced themselves and actually performed on as well. DJs using instruments!? Who knew?!

After watching this documentary, I walked away with a whole new respect for Daft Punk, who are Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter of France. They began as members of an indie-rock band in France who had a talent for DJing and mixing and decided to call themselves Daft Punk based on a negative review of their prior band. Many interviewees explained that people started to listen to these guys a lot and very quickly because of their unique sound and the clear skill and talent they possessed. The turning point was after their first record came out and they started to gain fame and momentum. Thomas Bangalter was really interested in the millennium blackout theory and they decided that they would go into the studio as humans and come out as robots once the new year hit. They never went out in the public eye as their human selves again. The “robots” were their new personas.

This is what really struck me and got me thinking about that quote I heard above in the beginning of the documentary: “They send the robots to do their dirty work.” I got the feeling that they cared so much for their music that they did not want their personal lives, looks, and human selves to hinder the perception of their music whatsoever. It is all about the music to them. They use the robots to do all their “dirty work” such as award shows, live concerts, photo shoots, and other appearances. I do not think that is what matters to them. Yes, it was great when Random Access Memories won multiple Grammys including album and record of the year, but it is not what is most important. These days it seems there is less and less of and importance on the music and that is with any genre. In the last couple years I have focused more and more on less popular bands and music because of this. Apart from that, Daft Punk play live very rarely and have long gaps between records. They seem to be perfectionists which is a breath of fresh air considering it seems today the music business is a wasteland, week after week of generic top 10 iTunes pop songs and of people taking advantage of technology and using it in a way to release music more and more frequently to make more money, faster.

The “robots” of Daft Punk have been able to make themselves a household name these days but do it without compromising or corrupting the music they make which seems to get better and more interesting with every album. They don’t have to worry about their age getting in the way. Robots can live forever.

By the way, do yourself a favor….sit back….and listen to Random Access Memories.


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Last Of Their Kind

The kings of heavy metal land in Massachusetts. The Prince of Darkness among them. After almost a year since I purchased the tickets, my dad and I were lucky enough to see Black Sabbath live Thursday night in Mansfield, MA at the Xfinity Center while on their final, goodbye “THE END” tour together and BOY…did they go out with a bang! Now even though traffic was terrible on the way down, parking was frustrating even with VIP parking (surprise, surprise) and I was cheap and bought lawn seats (not to mention being short), this was one of the most fun concerts I have ever been to.

When we finally arrived and finally found our VIP parking lot, I knew immediately this was going to be a unique show. I have been to a lot concerts, small shows, stadium shows, shows where there was moshing, shows where I sat the whole time (Fleetwood Mac….), but this was unlike any other. The people were what made this concert great (apart from Sabbath of course). They were people you would expect to be at a Black Sabbath concert. Leather jackets, ripped band shirts, bandannas, and a whole lot of cigarette smoke. We even spotted a heard of bikers approach. This set the tone for the show and it was great!

The next great event of this show was Rival Sons opening up, on the dot, 7:30pm. I am a huge Rival Sons fan. These guys play the music I love. They came out and ripped it. Ozzy… made a great choice in an opener (he hand picked the band)! Soulful and strong vocals, heavy and catchy riffs, groovy bass and heart pounding percussion. They have it all. Once they they finished their set………it was time……….!

The lights go out, the screen in the background shows a video of a blood soaked egg hatching and out comes what looks to be a demon. I looked over at my dad, slowly head nodding in approval….”yes..” I start hearing rain and thunder sounds and then finally….Ozzy appears, followed but Geezer and Tommy and they blast into the opening riffs for the song “Black Sabbath.” Song after song, heavier than ever! The whole crowd was headbanging, air guitar, and air drumming. The smell of cigarettes and…um…*cough* other substances in the air. This was great! I felt like I was seeing them back in the day. It was such a cool experience and I feel so lucky to see them before they are gone forever.

This concert got me thinking too. As my dad and I were driving home, he brought up a good point that these bands are fading away. It will not be long until it will be “The End” tour for any band that came out of the mid to late 60s and 70s. The music from that time period is timeless. It definitely is a very unique time in music. I do not think there has been any other time period where the music is as relevant today as it was back then. It is sad to think that when I have kids, I will not be able to bring them to concerts like Black Sabbath, Rush (most likely), Fleetwood Mac, etc. How many more years to the Rolling Stones REALLY have?

Black Sabbath really are the last of their kind. A lot of the bands from their era that are still around, are not touring. The band members may not even be making music together anymore and the music they are making…..isn’t really that great. Black Sabbath’s recent album “13” was amazing. Heavier than they have ever been. I believe a new Zeppelin album would be the same way but just like the others, they two no longer making music, let alone touring (C’mon guys! You know you want to!). Sabbath are the last remaining band of their time that are touring together and making music together with 3/4 of their original lineup. I cannot think of any band, of their caliber, touring and making music as good as it was when they started way back.

People like me, who really appreciate and respect that music of any band including Sabbath from that time period have responsibility to carry that passion on to our children because, as I said above, it is timeless, spans generations, and influenced most of the bands coming out today.

I felt so lucky Thursday night to see them and will always remember it for the reasons I laid out above. They are one of a kind. They are the last of their kind……..and, by the way, I am done buying lawn tickets.



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A Music Revolt

Recently, I have felt something in the air around me. I’ve noticed it on television, on the news, on social media, and in the conversations I have either heard or had with a friend or colleague. There is this overwhelming, yet hidden need for something that is real, tangible, and physical. People are tired of the convenience of simply, daily activities. They want to go somewhere, do something, have a hands on experience. They want something that is real, stripped down, and simple. What has fascinated me is that my generation are the ones who feel the most strongly about this. You would think that my parents generation or ones before them would feel this way but it is the opposite. I have noticed this with books, entertainment, and household things such as coffee. People my generation love coffee and different ways of making coffee. There are coffee shops everywhere now. They could never tell you what a Mr Coffee is. I have been through this same dilemma for quite a while now too. I love finding ways to be more involved in my daily activities. Getting a coffee press, buying physical books, even something small like using cash instead of a credit card. One of the biggest areas in which I see this need in myself and others is with music.

Today there are so many ways to get music and listen to music without breaking a sweat. You can buy music from iTunes, you can burn it from a CD, you can stream millions of songs from one location such as Spotify, Apple Music or Tidal. Even the iPod has become too inconvenient in our culture. We now have one device that can play music, take pictures, display books, and get you connected to the internet all while you can text and make phone calls. Music is too easy to access now and we are no longer listening to albums, we are listening to songs. They are more convenient. We do not have the patience anymore to sit through 10-12 songs. We have lost what I believe to be the essence of music and I believe other people have noticed this too, surprisingly in my generation.

My generation are the ones who have totally given a re-birth to physical music. Vinyl record sales are through the roof. It is a physical and tangible way to enjoy music. It makes you work for it. It has images and pictures to go with the music. There is a visual aspect to the music. Album covers (which is something lost in music today). You have to physically get up from your seat, grab a record, take it out, place it on the turntable and put the needle down and THEN, in order to get to more songs on the album, you have to get up from your seat again and change the side. Can you imagine anyone, with today’s convenience driven culture in mind, who would take the time to do this when you could simply press the play button. This is a revolt in music. It is a revolt against how music is too convenient and too easy. And get this!….You actually have to go to a store…A physical store!… get this record and god forbid talk to someone about the music in the store. It’s not just regular people who are in this music revolution, it is also the musicians.

Even though Led Zeppelin will forever be my lifelong anchor in music, my two recent anchors in music is the band Rival Sons and singer Charles Bradley. Rival Sons is a band with a sound that takes you back but reminds you of the current time as well. Some of the best heavy riffs you have ever heard with a rhythm and percussion section with so much groove. Their singer, Jay Buchanan, has this voice that has the emotion and chills like Robert Plant in his prime but with a slight raspiness and blues as Janis Joplin. They are a great example of stripped down, bad ass music is to me. Next, Charles Bradley……I mean, c’mon….the man is the second coming of James Brown. Literally. If you want something funky, simple, stripped down, and REAL, this is the guy to listen to. Need I say more…see for yourself: Ain’t It a Sin

Artists and bands are consistently releasing albums on vinyl because they know just like we do, an iTunes release is boring. They understand that people was something to hold in their hands as they listen to the music. There is a new fad in the music business for reissues and remasters of old records. Led Zeppelin has and still is re-releases their classic albums with bonus and unreleased music. Pink Floyd and Rush has also decided to reissue their entire catalogs. More and more bands are beginning to do this for the same reason. They are seeing a resurgence and need for something real and tangible. They are revolting against the norm.

Bands are also going back to their roots with the music they are making. Even popular bands such as Blink 182, who just came out with an album, are going back to their old sound. Their new album, California, has this great youthful attitude about it and sounds just like the music I was listening to in middle school. Just today, I heard a release of a new Green Day song, it sounds like it could have been on their first album ever when they were still an underground punk band. Record Store Day is bigger than ever. Black Sabbath is on tour, BLACK SABBATH and, take a listen to the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, you will know what I am talking about. The list goes on….

I have had my own sort of music revelation. It started around Fall, Winter of last year. I started having this urge for classic music. I have started to buy cheap used CDs of albums released back in the 60s and 70s. The HBO show VINYL came out which was one of my favorite shows but it will only last one season and for a reason that has to do with what I am trying to say here, young people did not get any of the references or music. My mind has been searching for tangible, real, stripped down music. That is why I love Charles Bradley and the Rival Sons. They are two great examples of my need for music that is real. It is an inner and silent revolt. A revolt against “easy” and “fast.” A revolt against cookie cutter. A revolt against the convenience of technology. Music is art, it is heart, emotion and compassion. It is itself a revolt against what is the current norm.

Yes, I love my new Keurig coffee machine, but you know what is sitting right next to it on my kitchen counter, my coffee press.

Thank you.


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