Monthly Archives: May 2010
We don’t mention hip-hop very often on TWBITW, but it’s not because Jake and I aren’t fans. We thought that last Jay-Z album was pretty dope, as the kids like to say. But there seems to be a severe shortage of truly weird hip-hop acts out there. Most stick to the formula: Drop danceable, repetitive beat; spit rhymes about how awesome you are and how much your rivals suck; attempt to sing simple pop chorus yourself or hire moderately successful R&B star to sing it for you; repeat. Hey, don’t get us wrong—when it’s good, it totally works, but there’s precious little room left for weirdness.
Enter MC Frontalot, a rapper so uniquely weird that he’s inspired the creation of his own little hip-hop sub-genre, nerdcore. See, instead of rapping about bitches and bling, Front (real name: Damian Hess) and his fellow nerdcoreans rap about Star Wars, Commodore 64’s, tech blogs, role-playing games, and other subjects near and dear to geeks’ hearts. It’s sort of like if you took Weird Al’s “White and Nerdy” and built an entire genre of music around it.
Front just released his fourth album, Zero Day, earlier this year; it features tracks about actor/blogger Wil Wheaton, multiplayer online game Kingdom of Loathing, and a cameo by that geekiest of geek icons, John Hodgman (who plays the PC in those “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials). If you’re wondering how anyone could possibly fill four albums with songs about such specific subject matter, you clearly have never been to Comic-Con. The nerd culture well runs deep. (It should also be noted that not every single Frontalot song is a nerd anthem; he also defends homosexuality on “I Heart Fags” and makes fun of hipster culture on “Indier Than Thou.” Mostly he writes nerd anthems, though.)
Since coining the term “nerdcore,” Frontalot has inspired a host of misfit rappers to get in on the geekiness. Other nerdcore rappers include MC Lars (sample song titles: “O.G. Original Gamer,” “White Kids Aren’t Hyphy”), MC Chris (who does some of the voices on Aqua Teen Hunger Force), and our favorite (name-wise, at least), Optimus Rhyme. There’s even not one, but two nerdcore documentaries in circulation: Nerdcore Rising and Nerdcore for Life. Because if there’s one thing nerds like almost as much as videogames and computers, it’s making documentaries about themselves (see also: The King of Kong, Wordplay, etc.)
Anyway, here’s the official video for “It Is Pitch Dark,” a track from MC Frontalot’s second album, Secrets From the Future. And if you don’t know what a grue is, all we can say is, you are clearly not an O.G. Original Gamer. Go find yourself a copy of “Zork” and recognize.
(P.S. This live version of “It Is Pitch Dark” is pretty killer, too. Watch those nerds bounce!)
Damn, I wish I’d thought of this guy’s shtick before he did. Bob Log III is a one-man band who dresses up in an Evel Knievel costume, plays Delta blues slide guitar, sings songs about boobies and booze, and gets chicks to bounce on his knees while he plays a bass drum and cymbal with his feet. It’s genius!
Somehow, Mr. Log has been milking this routine for over a decade, and people still go apeshit for it. How we failed to discover him until recently is beyond me. Maybe it’s because Eddie and me aren’t really blues fans so much…but when you throw in the human-cannonball jumpsuits and songs with titles like “Boob Scotch” and “I Want Your Shit on My Leg,” we’re in.
Oh, and did we mention that the dude also recorded an album featuring additional percussion played by two “professional women” smacking their tits together? It’s true. He also occasionally crowd-surfs in an inflatable rubber raft. Like we said, genius.
This video was shot last year at Spaceland in Los Angeles, which is like, practicaly at the end of my street. How did I manage to miss that show and the one he just did tonight in Echo Park? Clearly I need to remember not to get drunk until after I leave the house. Oh and P.S.: yes, that’s a telephone strapped to the front of his helmet. I guess that’s where he keeps his microphone. He need to rig up a straw on that thing so he can drink his scotch though.
Let’s be clear here: We’re not including Rasputina on TWBITW just because they’re a cello band. Lots of rock bands actually feature cellos (Avett Brothers, Belle & Sebastian, Ra Ra Riot, etc.) and another band, Apocalyptica, even uses the same format as Rasputina (multiple cellos + drum kit) to play something they call “symphonic metal,” which is arguably weirder that what Rasputina has traditionally stood for, i.e. chicks in quasi-Victorian garb doing sort of gothy chamber music.
No, the reason Rasputina rates a spot on The Weird List boils down to one thing: Melora Creager. Over Rasputina’s 15+ year history, she has proven herself time and again to be one of the most fabulously weird, eccentric characters in all of music. Without her unique songwriting style, her quirky obsessions with historical emphera, and her ingenuity for coaxing new sounds out of the cello, Rasputina would be a one-trick pony that wore out its welcome ages ago. Instead, they’ve managed to still sound fresh over five studio albums and various EPs and live discs. (The fact the band’s lineup has evolved even faster than Creager’s increasingly fanciful costumes probably hasn’t hurt, either.)
Rasputina is probably best-known for doing cellified (is that a word? is now!) versions of classic rock songs like “Barracuda” and Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll,” and they’ve also been known to breathe new life into creepy old folk songs (“Wicked Dickie,” a little dirge about “an old man who had but one cow,” is my personal favorite). Creager even released a limited-edition recording called Ancient Cross-Dressing Songs that features three…well, ancient cross-dressing songs. Like we said, this woman knows her ephemera.
But it’s Creager’s original songs that really make Rasputina stand out. Many of them delve into very specific historical material, like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire or the Year Without a Summer; some are based on 19th century pulp fiction (the truly excellent “My Captivity by Savages“) and other esoteric source material; some employ historical figures but are apparently just the product of Creager’s lurid imagination (“Incident in a Medical Clinic,” which casts Mary Todd Lincoln as a fevered madwoman leading an army of blimps…no, really). Other song titles speak for themselves: “Momma Was an Opium Smoker,” “Transylvanian Concubine,” “The Donner Party.” Then there’s “Choose Me for a Champion,” which is based on an Osama Bin Laden speech. Yep, for Creager, pretty much nothing is off-limits.
The best part? Much of Rasputina’s music is actually downright catchy, despite its frequently bizarre subject matter and the fact that most of what you’re hearing is cellos. Okay, the song about Josef Mengele is a bit of a downer, but much of the Rasputina catalog is actually quite beautiful, or rockin’, or often both.
Rasputina’s sixth studio album, Sister Kinderhook, comes out this summer on Creager’s own Filthy Bonnet label. We’re stockpiling absinthe in preparation for a marathon listening session the day it comes out.
Apart from a rather ridiculous clip dating back to their brief stint on Columbia Records in the late ’90s, Rasputina haven’t done much in the way of music videos–which is too bad, because Creager’s doll-like features and steam-punky fashion sense are pretty photogenic. Still, this live clip of a track from the group’s best (IMHO) album, Frustration Plantation, gives you a pretty good idea of what their all about. We assume she’s running her cello through some kind of guitar pedal to get that effect, but however she’s doing it, it totally makes us want to rock out–in a top-hatted, Victorian sort of way. Maybe snort a line of snuff off a chorus girl’s bloomers?
(Photo by Dianna Augustine)
When was the last time you found something really, truly offensive? If your answer included the words “Lady Gaga,” fuck off and go read some nice CCM blog. Girl-on-girl kissing and re-enacting Tarantino movies with Beyonce is so inoffensive in this day and age, they got a friggin’ sandwich spread to sponsor the video. Okay, how about that M.I.A. video? Meh. Too obvious to be offensive. Plus that super-gorey ending was actually kinda cool in a Gears of War kinda way.
My point is, it takes a lot to offend us these days. As a culture, we’ve been pretty thoroughly desensitized. Which is why when someone recently turned us on to this guy who calls himself The Emotron, we were blown away. I mean, this guy works overtime to be in-your-face, hide-the-children offensive. It’s like if GG Allin and that yams-up-the-ass lady who got an NEA grant had a love child, then raised it on Atom and His Package, Jackass reruns and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Musically, The Emotron (real name: Jason Kyle Knight) is basically just a one-man punk band whose weapon of choice is a cheesy ’80s synthesizer. But the music is kinda secondary to the whole Emotron experience—although several of his songs, especially “Michael Jackson’s Dead”, are undeniably awesome. No, where The Big E really brings it is at his live shows, which typically feature some or all of the following: tying rubber bands around his head to mash his face into various greusome configurations; nudity; vomiting (real and/or simulated); lighting his dick on fire; and stuffing objects into a flesh-colored leotard to make himself look like a disfigured circus freak. He also usually cusses a lot, covers himself and the audience is various mysterious powders and fluids, and sometimes does all this shit dressed up like a Texas trucker. Oh, and he drinks alot. Okay, we’ll say it: we have a huge man-crush on this guy.
Emotron’s live show has definitely been a work in progress, and a lot of the older clips on YouTube don’t really do him justice. We originally posted one that showed his signature lighting-his-crotch-on-fire move, but it’s since been taken down, so here’s a clip from an even more recent show, which is a full-blown multimedia extravaganza. Or at least a good simulation of a guy freaking out in the display window of a used electronics store.