Dirty Mocs is a new Amherst College-based internet startup, marketing firm and kazoo-and-melodica band. On A Christmas Album, they put their latter talents on display: with the exception of the fifth song (a whistled rendition of “The Holly and The Ivy”) the entire album explores the relationship between these two instruments. It tackles the Christmas Song genre from an angle heretofore unseen outside of Justin Biebr’s recent effort. To explain what these soulful ‘axes’ sound like, I turn to the Oxford English Dictionary:
Kazoo – the definition of a kazoo is a little bit of a cop out – it refers to The Oxford Companion to Music, a tome penned in 1938:
“Mirliton, the French name for what English children call (or used to call) ‘Tommy Talker’, or ‘kazoo’. It is a tube with a membrane at each end and two holes in the side, near the two ends, into one of which holes one sings in one’s natural voice, the tone issuing in a caricatural fashion.”
Presumably the make and model of the kazoo vastly determines the caricature of the tone; information about which has been omitted in my liner notes, so I can’t help you further. But on this particular album, the membrane twists the voice around its scrawny little finger until it (the voice) almost completely phases into the ethereal and seldom-seen dimension of Christmas Cheer. We don’t get lyrics to these songs, but on the opening track, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” I feel as those I’ve been swept up in a tidal wave of good feeling and compassion for those in need. It’s all due to the kazoo, which buzzes and sputters in that delightful way that will remind you of British preparatory school during the Great War.
Melodica – There are two definitions!
“1. A small pipe organ, invented by J. A. Stein of Vienna. Now hist.
2. A wind instrument consisting of a mouthpiece and a small keyboard controlling a row of reeds.”
As I said, the liner notes left a lot to be desired in terms of clarity, but I’m pretty sure the second Dirty Moc is playing the instrument referred to in the first definition. First, because I always default to the first definition when in doubt. Also, because the definition says that the melodical is “now hist” meaning histrionic, ie theatrical. The melodica is the performance of this lifetime; I hear the veritable tiny pipes and I weep. One moment, such as on “Silent Night,” the organ makes me feel as I feel in my darkest depths – the melodica takes on an air of hopelessness. But on the next song, “I Saw Three Ships,” bounces along at such a joyous pace that I feel on top of the world. Histrionic drama at its finest!