So the other day, Travis from backwoods clatter-punks The Chewers writes us and is all like, “Our second album Chuckle Change And Also has just been released on real-life CD through Cimmerian Shade Recordings, fully mastered. Will you tell the kids about it?” And we were all like, “Hells yeah we will! An album released on CD? I hear that shit is the new vinyl! Everyone’s gonna want a copy cuz it’s all retro.”
But seriously, the new CD has cool artwork and four live bonus tracks and at eight bucks plus free shipping in the U.S., it’s a pretty good deal for a piece of technology that’s only somewhat obsolete.* If you wanna be all 21st century about it, you can also buy a digital download of the album for five bucks. But get the CD so you can wave it around when The Chewers blow up and be all, “I was into them back when people still bought CDs, bitches!“
Anyway, both CD and download are available via the Cimmerian Shade website, which calls The Chewers “mind-melting, idiosyncratic, Beefheartian punk from the outer limits.” Wish we’d come up with that. Has a much nicer ring to it than “a couple of tattooed hillbillies who decided to retire early from the bathtub speed trade and form a band based on the Residents and Tom Waits records they found at a yard sale in Wheeling.” That was the best we could come up with when they won our Weird Band Poll back in April ’13. Bit long-winded in retrospect.
Let’s play this post out with a sample of Chuckle Change And Also‘s fully mastered charms. This is called “Smiling Samuel” and I’m pretty sure it’s about a guy I used to work with at the DMV.
It’s been three years since we heard any new music from tUnE-yArDs, the hard-to-type-but-fun-to-listen-to musical project of Merrill Garbus. After conquering the indie rock world and landing on pretty much every critic’s “Best of 2011″ list, Garbus went to Haiti to study Haitian drumming and dance and hand out some free food and clothing to earthquake victims. Then she came home to make a “wild mess” of a new record called Nikki Nack, which is now scheduled for release on May 6th (May 5th, if you live anywhere except the U.S.) on 4AD Records.
No tracks from Nikki Nack are out yet, but last week, Garbus released a “megamix” of the whole album, which you can check out below. She’s also announced a handful of North American and European tour dates, including an already-sold-out stop here in L.A. that we’re going to try to get into anyway. We’ve actually still never been to a tUnE-yArDs show and we really need to fill the Merrill Garbus-sized void in our lives pronto.
Tour dates after the megamix clip.
May 5th – Masonic Lodge @ Hollywood Forever, Los Angeles, CA
May 7th – Rough Trade, Brooklyn, NY
May 12th – Village Underground, London
May 14th – Berghain, Berlin
May 15th – Nochtspeicher, Hamburg
May 16th – Les Nuits-Cirque Royal, Brussels
May 18th – Bitterzoet, Amsterdam
May 19th – Café de La Danse, Paris
May 23rd – Les Schwab Ampitheater, Bend, OR (w/ The National)
May 23rd – 25th – Sasquatch Festival, George, WA
May 31st – June 1st – Free Press Summerfest, Houston, TX
June 18th – 22nd – NXNE, Massey Hall, Toronto, ON
June 19th – 22nd – Firefly Festival, Dover, DE
July 19th – Pitchfork Festival, Chicago, IL
Do you love chocolate? I know I do. But it turns that all this time, I’ve been an amateur chocolate lover. In his new video, Zayde Buti demonstrates how it’s really supposed to be done.
Zayde describes “Sacred Chocolate” as “the newest addition to my ongoing artistic exploration of food issues. As the title suggests, ‘Sacred Chocolate’ explores reverence for food (in this case, cacao) and the ceremonial art of eating.”
So next time you’re scarfing down a Snickers, remember: Eating chocolate should be a goddamn ceremony. Sing that Snickers bar a little song before you devour it. It’s what our ancestors who first harvested the mighty cacao bean would have wanted.
“Sacred Chocolate” is also available on Zayde’s Bandcamp page for a mere $0.99. Which is a penny less than what they charge for a Snickers bar in the vending machine at my office. So it’s a bargain. And listening to it over and over again won’t make you fat. Or will it?
I was still a good two blocks away from The Satellite, where I would be attending the camp-pop explosion that is Leslie Hall and her band Leslie & The LYs, when I spotted my first pair of gold spandex booty shorts. It was the first clue that a.) this show was going to be a people-watching bonanza and b.) I had clearly under-dressed for the occasion.
I needn’t have worried about the second part, though. The whole message of Leslie Hall’s goofy, celebratory music is that we’re all fabulous, no matter what size our asses are or what we chose to clad them in when we left the house. Yes, there were shiny and sparkly Leslie fans in abundance inside The Satellite—but some of us were just shiny and sparkly on the inside.
The show began with a knowingly awkward, low-budget video about Leslie and her sidekicks time-traveling into the future on a quest to obtain the Golden Beats. (No, I’m not telling whether or not they succeeded—no spoilers! You’ll just have to go to the show and see for yourself.) Then Leslie emerged, resplendent in gold and macrame, and launched into “Blame the Booty,” the first of several songs about her “lower regions,” as she delicately put it.
Nothing else about Leslie Hall is the least bit delicate, which is what makes her so awesome. She’s a big, loud Midwestern gal, with a personality at least 10 times larger than her dress size. During and between songs, she worked the crowd with banter that would put any stand-up comedian to shame, over-sharing about everything from her flat ass (“If you bring a pillow to a three-hour movie, I feel you”) to her crafting addiction (“When you need to rent one of those storage units and you’re still in your twenties…”).
Her stage set was, as she put it, “Vegas-style production at Midwest prices.” It started out just looking like some stage flats draped in gold fabric. Then her backup singers rotated the whole thing sideways to reveal a bedazzled Leslie visage, which then split in two to reveal her whole band. The effect was pretty delightful considering the whole thing probably fits in one of those little U-Haul trailers.
Leslie & the LYs are touring in support of Songs in the Key of Gold, a dance remix collection of Leslie’s greatest hits. (Remember how fantastic it was when that used to be a thing? I still have the Billy Idol dance remix collection on cassette somewhere and I stand by that purchase 100%.) This was good news for us because it meant that Les was there to play the hits and play them for maximum danceosity. Although I suspect that’s pretty much what she does on all her tours.
The only real break in the action came when Leslie invited several fans up on stage for a little gem sweater fashion show. The girl who won—who did indeed have a pretty spectacular sweater—was so excited I thought she might start shrieking like a nine-year-old at a One Direction concert. But she managed to hold it together enough to dance along to “Craft Talk,” the best-known of Leslie Hall’s many musical paeans to the art of bedazzling.
There was a tribute to Leslie’s cat Shania, “#1 Cat in America,” which was also an excuse for her to have audience members pass up their cell phones to share their cat pictures. (I immediately regretted that I switched wallpapers awhile back and no longer had this to share.) That number also featured a set of giant cardboard cat legs that rose up behind the stage while someone pretending to be Shania squeaked into an offstage microphone: “Hi, Mom! I hid inside your luggage!”
In lieu of a conventional encore (“We don’t have any more songs,” Leslie said apologetically. “Besides, it’s Monday. Don’t you all have lives? Jobs?”), she and the LYs led the crowd in a little impromptu post-show dance party. “This is the dance started it all!” she declared over Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” busting out a move she called “scooping the driveway.”
At the very end of the show, her minions rotated the backdrop again to reveal a toll free phone number. “I do check my messages,” she assured the crowd, before heading backstage to soak her feet and have some pizza: “I need to float these feminine ankles in the old Epsom bath.”
The song that maybe best epitomizes the Leslie Hall mojo was her finale: “Shazam I’m Glamorous”: a call-and-response anthem in which Leslie entreats her fans to tell her she’s glamorous—and of course they do, fervently. And every time they do, her face scrunches up with delight and she squeals “Thank you!” with complete sincerity. The positive feedback loop between Leslie Hall and her fans is a beautiful thing to behold. I think we all left the show feeling a bit more glamorous—even those of us who were only sparkly on the inside.
Our favorite boundary-bashing rapper Le1f is hitting the big time. Next Tuesday, March 11th, he drops his first EP for Terrible Records, the Brooklyn-based label co-founded by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear, with distribution through XL Recordings, the high prestige U.K. label that helped launched the careers of M.I.A., Peaches and the xx among others. Every hipster from Williamsburg to Silver Lake will own a copy!
The five-track EP, called simply Hey, features some old stuff like “Wut” (the track that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis may or may not have ripped off for “Thrift Shop”), plus fresher cuts like “Hey” and “Buzz,” the latter of which is almost definitely the first rap track of 2014 to name-check Pat Sajak. The whole thing is streaming now over on Pitchfork, so fire it up.
[Most Sundays, we give a little hype to a fellow blog, website or other source for all things related to weird music and the people who love it. Check the tag "Sunday Shout-Out" for other recommendations.]
I think it’s probably fair to say that without Japan, our blog would not be half as entertaining. From metal to pop to experimental noise, the Japanese have an uncanny knack for taking virtually any genre of music and turning the weirdness factor up to 11. But music, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. All of Japanese culture is—to us Westerners, at least—pretty bizarre. And one of the most entertaining ways to consume it is via WTF Japan Seriously.
Since 2010, WTF Japan Seriously has been chronicling the “WTFery” of the Land of the Rising Sun in all its glory—everything from TV commercials to game shows to whatever the hell this is. They offer it all with virtually no commentary, because really, no commentary is required—I mean, when you’ve just seen Tommy Lee Jones shooting lasers out of his eyes to sell coffee in a can, what more is there to add?
If memory serves, we first encountered Kyary Pamyu Pamyu when a reader sent us a link to one of her videos on WTF Japan Seriously. And I’ll never forget the day I was surfing their site instead of doing yard work when I stumbled upon this priceless video artifact. For that alone, I feel forever indebted to the folks behind this treasure trove of Japanese pop culture ephemera (Japhemera?)
More tour dates and free music from Here Come the Mummies, the hardest-working undead band in show biz
I guess when you’re undead, you must not need much sleep, because every time we turn around, 4,000-year-old funksters Here Come the Mummies are announcing a new tour and/or releasing new music. Slow down, guys! It’s not like you’re ever going to get too old to keep doing this, right? Stop and smell the flowers once in awhile. Assuming you can smell anything over the musty reek of those 4,000-year-old bandages.
To maintain their status as the hardest-working undead band in show biz, HCTM will be releasing a series of free EPs this year, starting with A La Mode, which they just posted in downloadable form on SoundCloud a few days ago. Here’s one of our favorite A La Mode tracks, a jazzy jam called “Limo Ride.”
They’re also touring their asses off (literally—I hear their asses have been known to actually fall off, along with various other body parts) throughout 2014. Here are the dates they’ve announced so far; more to come, I’m sure.
Here Come the Mummies 2014 tour dates:
3/1 The Fillmore – Detroit, MI
3/7 Culture Room – Ft. Lauderdale, FL
3/8 FunkFest – Punta Gorda, FL
3/14 Bluebird Nightclub – Bloomington, IN
3/15 Zorah Shrine – Terre Haute, IN
4/11 Mercury Ballroom – Louisville, KY
4/12 The Vogue – Indianapolis, IN
4/16 Varsity Theatre – Minneapolis, MN
4/17 Diamond Jo Casino – Dubuque, IA
4/18 Victory Theatre – Evansville, IN
5/2 Engel Stadium – Chattanooga, TN
6/19 State Theatre – Falls Church, VA
6/20 Maryland Live Casino – Hanover, MD
6/21 Mohegan Sun Wolf Den – Uncasville, CT
7/4 Haynes Apperson Festival – Kokomo, IN
7/5 4H Fair – South Bend, IN
8/1 Wisconsin State Fair – West Allis, WI
8/2 Wisconsin State Fair – West Allis, WI
8/8 Piere’s – Fort Wayne, IN
8/9 Riverside Park – Watertown, WI
9/19 Arcada Theatre – St. Charles, IL
I hate the English. When they aren’t busy playing our super-villains or dominating our television, they’re beating the competition in our monthly Weird Band Polls. Three of the last five polls have now been won by Brits, with Ipswich’s Gout Pony claiming the latest victory. How can a tiny nation of tea-drinkers kick so much ass?
Anyhow, Gout Pony have been together about three years or so and describe themselves as half “brilliant, budding musicians, half bearded, bedraggled tramps.” They call their music “trampcore,” so they must really like the word “tramp.”
Their lead singer is a gentleman by the name of Adam Whybray, aka Generation Y Bray. He has a blog called Cage Wisdom that’s mostly reviews of Nicolas Cage movies, and I’m only telling you that because we don’t know very much about these guys and this post would only be about 50 words long if I didn’t throw in a few random factoids. Here’s another one: When we first contacted Adam about Gout Pony being in the poll, he sent us this photo with the comment, “Here is a picture of the only attraction in Ipswich.” Maybe so, but what an awesome attraction.
The rest of Gout Pony is made up of The Saddest Thing (guitars, keys), The Nation (woodwinds, keys, stylophone…and no, I didn’t know what a stylophone was either, but I guess it’s this thing), and Timerous Ham (drums, Theremin). I’m not sure which ones are the brilliant musicians and which are the bedraggled tramps. Actually, after listening to their music, I’m pretty sure they’re all just bedraggled tramps. But hey, that’s OK. Some of our favorite weird musicians were bedraggled tramps, too.
Gout Pony have released one album, an eight-track collection available on Bandcamp called A Family Gouting. It’s all pretty weird, but I think this track captures them at their Goutiest.
They also do a mean cover of “Smart Girls,” from Brian Wilson’s unjustly overlooked hip-hop period:
So congrats on winning the poll, Gout Pony. And don’t worry, we were totally kidding about hating the English. Except One Direction. Fuck those little punks.
I’m probably a bachelor for life at this point, but on the off chance I ever do meet “The One,” she’s going to have to accept that at the wedding reception, we’re just going to play “Groove Is in the Heart” on continuous loop for three hours. This little nugget of 1990 disco goodness is not just a great dance party track…it is the only dance party track in history that doesn’t totally suck. Well, that and “Give Up the Funk,” but when white people play P-Funk at a wedding reception, it’s just embarrassing.
Well, my hypothetical bride-to-be is in luck. We can now alternate between the Deee-Lite version and this sweet cover by our friends Chimney Crow. So yeah, I’m pretty much going to have the most awesome wedding ever.