Music  |  Features

Appliance Rock: Rhythm, Distortion and Pyrex Bowls

June 30, 2010  |  8:30am
Appliance Rock: Rhythm, Distortion and Pyrex Bowls

Before Iggy Pop became a bare-chested rock icon, he was just another guy with leathery skin and a collection of strange instruments. Circa 1968, his band—then known as the Psychedelic Stooges—wowed crowds with its unique blend of distorted minor-chord jangle, a vacuum cleaner, a water-filled blender and an old oil drum. Of course, Iggy & Co. weren’t the first—or the last—to abuse household appliances in the name of music. In honor of The Stooges’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this spring, we celebrate the like-minded artists who’ve carried on a resourceful tradition dating back to the sudsy washboard and the whistling cider jug.

The Nu-Beams
This New Wave jazz-punk group rose to local fame in California around 1981, featuring T.L. Ary and his “Ted Tone,” a guitar strapped to a mixer sporting rear-view mirrors. On “Oh! Chico, It’s So Modern,” Ary anthropomorphized household objects with a vengeance, singing about “blenders in the bedroom” and waltzes with barbeques while firing up the Ted Tone, which whined like a go-kart on a killing spree. He claims to have later tricked out his lawnmower with pitch modulators and an octave overdrive repeater.

Harry Partch
This mid-century composer is arguably the founder of modern appliance rock, and he certainly influenced the early Stooges. In search of scales outside the mainstream musical lexicon, he crafted a marimba made of light bulbs and a beat-maker built of Pyrex bowls.

Micachu and the Shapes
These London-based grimecore experimentalists connect a Hoover hose to the microphone for waves of eerie distortion.

Hurra Torpedo
Wearing matching polyester suits, this Norwegian trio creates its jolting rhythms by banging on a stove and repeatedly slamming a freezer.

Artis the Spoonman
The cutlery-percussion master has performed with everyone from Aerosmith to Zappa, but his most famous guest appearance was in Soundgarden’s 1994 “Spoonman” video, where he danced maniacally while clinking out a 50-second bridge.

Phish
Drummer Jon Fishman has long provided a twist on the June Cleaver aesthetic with his donut-patterned frock and Electrolux vacuum solos—he rewired the machine to blast air into his mic.

Beck
Though his 1999 single “Sexx Laws” didn’t use any actual kitchen-beats, the stove-on-refrigerator hump-fest that made the music video famous deserves mention among the annals of Appliance Rock, if only for its gadget-liberating statement.

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