Monthly Archives: November 2009

Tragedy

We’ve blogged about cover bands before on TWBITW, so we won’t repeat our general observations about the general suckage of cover bands. We’ll just say that, when your whole career is based on somebody else’s songs, it’s a fine line between having a clever gimmick and being truly weird–and it’s one Tragedy manages to strut along with more attitude than John Travolta wolfing down two stacked slices of Lenny’s thin crust during the opening credits of “Saturday Night Fever”.

In Tragedy’s case, the clever gimmick is pretty simple: they’re a metal band that does Bee Gees songs (or, as they like to say, they’re the tri-state NYC area’s greatest all-metal Bee Gees tribute band…got that?). But as with most truly weird bands, it’s all in the execution, people. Instead of a one-note gimmick, they actually manage to be a pretty solid metal band, with a knack for finding all the right headbanging analoges to the Gibb bros’ disco touches. And they do it without, as far as I can tell, ever resorting to “I Was Made for Lovin You”-style disco/rock cheese. So… “How Deep Is Your Love?” becomes the lighter flicking monster ballad, “You Should Be Dancing” turns into a Spinal Tap/Iron Maiden-style epic…and so on. It’s all sort of brilliantly stupid, in the way most good metal is.

Tragedy’s signature song, of course, is “Stayin’ Alive.” This video features that song and also introduces the band…including my personal favorite, bass player Gibbous Waning. With that name, he could moonlight in a Morbid Angel cover band while he’s at it.

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Scanner

Recording artists have been using found sounds and ambient noise in their works for decades, but few have done it in ways more innovative or controversial than Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner. Beginning in the early ’90s, Rimbaud, who is based in London, has used cellphone scanners, police radios and other devices to record electronically transmitted conversations and turn them into musical compositions. His work tests not only people’s notions about what constitutes music, but also people’s notions of privacy. It’s a little disconcerting to think that your cellphone chat with your girlfriend might wind up as raw material for an avant-garde electronic composer.

These days, Rimbaud’s become known as a “conceptual artist” who composes film scores, sound installations and various more high-brow projects in the art world. He also records with a experimental band called Githead. But he’s still trolling the ether with his cellphone scanner, too. On his latest Scanner album, “Rockets, Unto the Edges of Edges” (released earlier this year), he even sings a little–but the snippets of ghostly, disembodied, electronically transmitted voices are still in there. If every word in the dictionary had its own soundtrack, Scanner’s music is what you’d hear when you looked up “alienation.”

Here’s a video for a track from “Rockets.” Creepy stuff, huh?

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Birdy Nam Nam

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birdy-nam-nam

These days, it’s not unusual for bands to feature a DJ. But a band featuring four DJs? Okay, now you’re got our attention. Say hello to Birdy Nam Nam, a group of four French DJs who use turntables to create music that’s pretty much impossible to classify. They’ve won the DMC World Championships, hip-hop’s highest honor, but this ain’t your mama’s hip-hop.

What Crazy-B, DJ Pone, DJ Need and Little Mike do is take the sound collage approach to hip-hop pioneered by guys like DJ Shadow and turn it up a notch, making tracks that are dense, funky and downright bizarre, filled with samples that American producers would probably never think to try. And the coolest thing about them is, they can recreate most of their stuff live, on four mixers and turntables, as this semi-legendary video from the DMC championships attests.

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Danielson

danielson

Most people, when they think of Christian rock, probably think of the most bland, boring bands imaginable–groups like Jars of Clay or Casting Crowns or even (shudder) Creed. At best, they might try to claim that U2 qualifies as a Christian band, just because most of the members go to church and Bono mentions Jesus every once in awhile. But it turns out, there are actually a lot of interesting, creative and often downright wacky groups out there trying to spread the Good News through music. And none of them are more wacky or creative than Danielson.

Started by New Jersey kid Daniel Smith as a college thesis project, the group originally called Danielson Famile (pronounced and sometimes mispelled “Danielson Family”) first got some attention with their first album for Tooth & Nail Records in 1997. Called “Tell Another Joke on the Old Choppin’ Block,” the record stood out for its sunny, occasionally spastic, call-and-response chamber-pop, and Smith’s pipsqueak vocals, which kind of sounded like a cross between Tim DeLaughter (Polyphonic Spree) and Elmo (Sesame Street). Live, the band stood out even more: they usually performed in matching nurses uniforms (which, Smith explained, served as a “visual reminder of the healing taking place”). Later, under the name Br. Danielson, Smith took to appearing onstage in a nine-foot fruit tree costume. Apparently, there’s some Christian symbolism behind it, although it’s kind of lost on us godless heathens here at TWBITW, who just find it endlessly, awesomely hilarious.

It’s been a few years since Danielson released any new material, although they’ve kept busy with a two-CD retrospective and starring in their own documentary. They returned to the studio recently to record a new 7″ featuring a song called “Moment Soakers”; it’s due out November 17, but in the meantime, you can watch a making-of video on the band’s website.

This song and video aren’t Danielson’s weirdest by a long shot, but it gives you a pretty good sense of what they’re all about…and it’s too fantastic not to include.

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