Monday, December 12, 2011

Muscle Beach

Considering the vastness of the universe, extra-terrestrial intelligence isn't a pipe dream - it's a statistical inevitability.  The only problem is that solar systems are too far apart for them to have any contact with each other.  In order for a rocket to reach the second-nearest star to us (Alpha Centauri), it would require more energy than that which is available on the entire planet Earth.  Reports have come in that a planet 600 light years away is as far away from its sun as we are from our own, but it would take 600 years to get there if we could travel the speed of light, and we're technologically not even close.  Our fastest manned vehicle was Apollo 10, which traveled at something like 25,000 mph.  Light travels at 186,000 miles per second.  So yes, everyone take comfort in the fact that we are not alone in the universe... but, we may as well be.

When I moved to Austin in 2001, I knew a handful of people.  Through their hands, I ended up knowing an armful.  My roommate Paul's friend Tom was in a band called American Analog Set.  AAS was an indie rock band from right around the end of the time where being an indie rock band didn't preclude complete suckage.  They were a perfectly enjoyable, relatively harmless band that the girl you liked was into, but she didn't like you because you secretly listened to Led Zeppelin (this is not based on real occurrences).  This is not their story.

The keyboardist of AAS was a tall, Germanic young man named Thomas Hoff.  He had a bedroom band by the name of Muscle Beach.  Muscle Beach was a heavy metal/pop band that - instead of terrible bands like Poison - extracted the better elements of each genre.  Tight, heavy, catchy, short songs.  According to Paul, Tom was trying to turn Muscle Beach into an actual band, but needed a "shreddy" guitar player.  I jumped at the chance.  Muscle Beach grew from a guitarist with a drum machine to two guitarists with a drum machine.  Practice meant going to the rehearsal space with a couple of practice amps and renting a PA for the backing track.  All was well.
Muscle Beach only played one show.  It was at the Flamingo Cantina (I think?) in March of 2003 for the annual South by Southwest Music Festival.  You may have heard of it.  We were one of 47 bands playing there that day, so let's just say the soundguy wasn't really that concerned with how pleased we were with his handiwork.  The mix sounded fine to me, but Tom seemed extremely disappointed and that was more or less the end of Muscle Beach.  He had the odd notion that the songs he had written were beginning to sound "dated." Also, Tom was getting married and having a baby, so he didn't think it was viable to balance rock and roll with parenting (something I have been trying to prove right for the past decade or so).  I almost was able to get my friend Trivett to move from Seattle to Austin to join Muscle Beach, but the stars did not align.  He went on to be in another band anyway.  More on that later, I suppose.

The following recordings are all I have of Muscle Beach.  I personally do not appear on any of these tracks, but I didn't really add anything to it anyway.  It's possible - though unlikely - that Tom still secretly records jams like these for no one to ever hear.  Like with extra-terrestrials, I am under the assumption that other great one-man bands exist out there, never to be heard by anyone.  This is both inspiring and depressing at the same time.

01 Muscle Beach
02 Muscle Beach
03 Muscle Beach
04 Muscle Beach
05 Muscle Beach
06 Muscle Beach
07 Muscle Beach
08 Muscle Beach
09 Muscle Beach
10 Muscle Beach

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