what the glock?!?

and now, an editorial:

has anyone else noticed the over-use which verges on abuse of the glockenspiel? for those unfamiliar, the glockenspiel is like a little xylophone which is often the instrument behind the high-pitched twinkling sounds in tunes throughout time. the glockenspiel has made its presence known in loads of pop songs over the decades ranging from Jimi Hendrix to The Velvet Underground to The Beatles to Radiohead and even to, yes, The Backstreet Boys. Not to mention a tour de force performance in The Boy Least Likely To's The Best Party Ever and numerous Arcade Fire, Andrew Bird, and Sufjan Stevens cuts.

The examples save The Boy Least Likely to don't irk me too much, perhaps because they were original at the time or because I don't know the song or because they come from artists that employ the whole spectrum of instrumentation. What gets me is when a band throws in a glock for the sake of being "different" or "unique" or "original." The glock has been done OVER and OVER and it's never that brilliant. Take up and coming Seattle band Fleet Foxes, "Icicle Tusk" for example. The song is a nice tune, but the glock just ruins almost all the credibility, canceling the quality vocals and harmonies with sugary sweet chimes and tackiness.

For another classic example check out "Mass Pike" and "Ann Arbour" from The Get Up Kids. Songs that have so much potential, but the sappiness of the songs compounded with the glockenspiel is often too much to bear. You've gotta be really nostalgic or in love or heartbroken to tolerate the two.

So I say, look to new instruments if you want to branch out? When was the last time someone threw a gamalan or a sitar into a pop song? Follow the DeVotchKa example and try a theramin. There's lots of possibility out there, break from the back, break from the sap and put down your glock!
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Click here for comments
March 31, 2007 at 10:22 PM ×

What's the difference between a glockenspiel and a xylophone?

April 1, 2007 at 6:45 PM ×

Glockenspiel is kind of a low-budget replacement for bells I'd say. It's not very "rock" but its appropriate for some things, and I can't imagine the Shuggie Otis song Strawberry Letter 23 without it! I'll agree that in hindsight it was a bit of a sappy choice for Icicle Tusk.

Robin Pecknold, Fleet Foxes