Rasputina


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?

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About weirdestband

Founder of Weirdest Band in the World. Enabler of Jake Manson's binge drinking.

Posted on May 8, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Love Rasputina and keep hoping they’ll come to the UK so I can see them live. I actually really liked the music video for it’s creepy quirkiness and interesting designs, it fits surprisingly well with the lyrics of Olde Headboard, but I guess it’s personal taste.

    You might like to take a look at The Men That Won’t Be Blamed For Nothing – Steampunk punk-rock, almost permanently drunk, band with a bit of a twisted sense of humour.

  2. Love Rasputina! :D Has to be one of the best names for a band ever too.

  3. OMG! Rasputina (Melora Creager) is both amazing And hilarious! Check out her spoken-word assessment of
    “The Donner Party,” http://youtu.be/eS86rHpdRXI or
    “Mama Was An Opium Smoker,” http://youtu.be/d_PgD__VpVw or
    “Our Lies” http://youtu.be/7ymOeW2a5yk or
    “Diamond Mind” http://youtu.be/hJFkU09iYdw
    to name just a few.
    And her quips and one-liners that are delivered between songs are infamous

  4. Rasputina is genuine, amazing, lovely, enchanting, and is superbly awesome to listen to at all times of the day every single day, all of their albums are unique and beautiful, humorous and so fun to hear. If you can’t open your mind to Rasputina and Melora Creager, you’ve gone and shuffled yourself into the category of unlovable person who is undeserving of happiness in life.

  5. Such a pretentious humorless waste of time. Why?

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