Monthly Archives: August 2011

Primus

Guess what, weirdlings? Today’s our second anniversary! What’d you get us? That’s okay…your “presence” is better than any “presents.” (Don’t you hate when people say that?)

We like to mark this annual milestone in TWBITW’s continuing quest for blogosphere domination by giving props to a classic weird band…you know, one of those acts that’s been around for so long and enjoyed so much success that people tend to take their weirdness for granted. Last year, for our first anniversary, we gave up the funk for Parliament-Funkadelic; this year, we’d like to tip our big brown beaver hat to Primus, a band that after more than 20 years together continues to be the gold standard when it comes to freaky, funky, Zappa-inspired experimental rock.

Primus actually has a new album coming out next month called Green Naugahyde, their first in over a decade. Spin is previewing the first single, “Tragedy’s A-Comin'”, and it sounds pretty much exactly how Primus have always sounded: a jazz/funk/rock jam held together by Les Claypool’s trademark slap-bass and mumbly, sing-speak vocals. They’re nothing if not consistent.

If it’s hard to describe the Primus sound (“thrash-funk meets Don Knots” is probably our favorite), it’s even harder to explain what makes them weird, exactly. They do dress a little quirky; they definitely make bizarre videos; and Claypool does things with his bass guitar that it was never meant to do, bending notes with a whammy bar, using all sorts of distortion pedals, and slapping out polyrhythms that would reduce the thumbs of mere mortal bassists to hamburger in a matter of minutes. But really, it all just comes down to the fact that Primus’ music, for all its obvious influences—Frank Zappa, King Crimson, the Residents—sounds like nothing else except Primus.

That said, those videos are awfully damn weird, too. By now, even your grandmother has probably seen the clip for “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver“—so even though it is indeed awesome, we’d like to share this less famous but equally bizarre, single-take video for “Mr. Krinkle” off 1993’s Pork Soda. Yes, someone was doing single-take music videos long before OK Go ever came along. Watch and learn, kids.

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Here Come the Mummies

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It’s Friday, and Jake and I are ready to get on down with our bad selves. And who better to get down with than a bunch of dudes playing hammy funk-rock while done up in full-bandage mummy attire? No one, we say!

Here Come the Mummies are based in Nashville and keep their identities secret, so naturally there’s a lot of speculation as to who might be lurking under those mummy rags. One thing’s for certain: It’s not these guys. That’s a completely different band from California just called The Mummies, who actually pre-date Here Come the Mummies by a good decade. We’ll probably put The Mummies on the Weird List at some point, too—although they play snotty, DIY punk, which is actually sort of what we’d expect a bunch of mummies to sound like. Here Come the Mummies, by contrast, sound more like a cross between Fitz & the Tantrums and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, which is totally unexpected and therefore, we think, kind of awesome. There is not much mummy iconography in funk and soul music. Not even P-Funk, as far as we know, ever had anyone in full Boris Karloff drag lurching around the stage. These guys are breaking new ground.

Oh yeah—and they are also the proud inventors of the Cowbelt. Did we mention that these are naughty mummies?

The Here Come the Mummies live show looks pretty fun, but the best YouTube videos featuring the group were all actually shot for a syndicated radio program called The Bob & Tom Show. If you don’t mind the occasional annoying laughs of the hosts, the sound quality here is excellent—and proof that whoever these guys are, and however silly their whole horndog mummy shtick may be, they can play.

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Lightning Bolt

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(Photo by Sam Ashley)

If you ask me (and I know you probably didn’t but I’ll tell you anyway), the spirit of punk rock has always been about two things: 1.) keeping it simple and 2.) rocking the fuck out. By those standards, Lightning Bolt are punk as fuck.

Guitars? Who needs ‘em? Lightning Bolt get by with just a bass and a drum kit. (And it’s worth pointing out that they were doing this years before Death From Above 1979, who are awesome in their own way, but not as original, not as weird and definitely not punk as fuck.) Stage diving? Sorry, kids, there’s no stage.* Lightning Bolt prefer to set up right on the floor, with a bunch of Marshall amp stacks as their backdrop. The fans crowd around the band in a seething semi-circle that someone on YouTube aptly described as looking like “psycho-spermatozoa assaulting an epileptic ovule.”

So that’s the punk part. The weird part? That mostly comes courtesy of drummer/singer Brian Chippendale. Early on the band’s development, Chippendale solved the problem of how to be a singing drummer when you drum like you’re having a seizure in a pretty brilliant, makeshift way: He took the microphone out of a telephone receiver** and secured it to his face using a hood that looks sort of like a cross between a Mexican wrestling mask and something one of the guys from Slipknot would wear. Oh and did we mention he drums like he’s having a seizure? So yeah, watching Chippendale do his thing is pretty riveting stuff. The bassist, Brian Gibson, makes up for his more pedestrian stage presence mostly with volume. Those Marshall stacks aren’t just for show.

Lightning Bolt have made a handful of freaky music videos over the years, but the best way to experience their music is still live. (So we hear; we haven’t had the pleasure.) So here’s a clip of them rocking it live at a show in France in 2008. Vive le noise! Or something like that.

*Apparently, at some of their more recent shows, Lightning Bolt have finally started playing on stages. “Some of these shows have gotten too big and ridiculous, and that’s why we move to the stage,” Chippendale explained in an interview with The Stranger. “It’s just not fun or safe. Kids who complain when we play on the stage, I tell them sorry you missed it”—”it” being the “play on the floor” days of yore.

**Sorta like our hero, Bob Log III.

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Gidropony

Today’s weird band was brought to our attention by a reader called Hola-Ebola, who is rapidly emerging as our new MVR (Most Valuable Reader). Hola-Ebola (“H to the Ezzo” to his friends) also turned us on to Dirty Sanchez. Truly, H-E, you are a veritable geyser of weirdness.

This band is called Gidropony, which is apparently Russian for “hydroponic”–or so says the one English-language article was could find on this band. That article also notes that the band hails from the small industrial city of Saransk, about 400 miles east of Moscow, in what is apparently the Russian equivalent of the Rust Belt. And there’s definitely something uniquely Russian about Gidropony’s mishmash sound, which mixes the crazy videogame synths of chiptune with elements of punk, electro and drum ‘n’ bass in what sounds like some bored Russian kids’ vague, thirdhand idea of what hipsters in Brooklyn must be listening to. They’re like the aural equivalent of cheap knockoff Levi’s, or that fake version of Donkey Kong you downloaded off BitTorrent that bombs your PC with Russian porn pop-ups.

Gidropony, who appear to be made up of a guy-girl duo plus some additional live musicians, call their sound “discoviolence” (also name of one of their records, which you can actually buy on Amazon) or sometimes just “trash.” Occasionally it’s downright catchy, other times it sounds like someone having a Nintendo-induced seizure. And when they make videos for their songs, they really delve into the pop-culture scrap heap, as they do on this fairly mind-blowing clip. Warning: it gets dirty. And we’re not just saying that to get you to watch to the end.

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Powerglove

God, metalheads are such dorks. The latest proof of that statement comes from Boston, Mass. (home of another of our favorite dorky metal bands, Bang Camaro) in the form of Powerglove, an instrumental metal quartet who specialize in doing headbanging covers of videogame theme songs. Although for their latest album, Saturday Morning Apocalypse, they branched out into the slightly less 8-bit world of Saturday morning cartoon soundtracks. Don’t choke on your Froot Loops, kids!

In the studio, Powerglove’s sound actually makes so much sense that it’s hard to even categorize them as weird. The theme music for things like The Simpsons and Power Rangers actually sounds pretty OK done as melodramatic speed metal. It’s really their live show where things start to get a little WTF. Two of the guys are in sort of half-KISS drag, but another one’s sitting in a chair like they just wheeled him in from a marathon coding session and stuck a guitar in his lap. Or maybe he’s in a wheelchair? Does anyone know? Were we just unintentionally offensive to the disabled community? Wouldn’t be the first time. Wait, here the same dude is standing up, at another gig eight months earlier. Did he sprain an ankle? The mystery deepens. (Also, why are both shows in Montreal? Do French-Canadians have some weird vintage videogame fetish we don’t know about?)

Anyhow, Powerglove just released their crowning achievement in weirdness: They shot a video for their cover of the “Batman” cartoon theme music in which they cast themselves as characters in their own videogame. “I programmed several video game fight scenarios with the band as playable characters and recorded takes of me playing through the mini games,” guitarist Chris Marchiel explains in a press release. Like I said…dorks!

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Prussian Blue

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I don’t know about you, but if I was a white supremacist, I’m pretty sure hardcore punk would be my soundtrack of choice. I mean, if you’re gonna go around hating the vast majority of all other people on the planet all day, you need to be listening to something that’s gonna keep you revved up. Keep those hate juices flowing, so to speak.

And for the most part, actual white supremacists seem to agree with me. Google the words “white power music” and you get lots of smashy-smashy, shouty-shouty anthems from bands with names like Skrewdriver and Xenophobe and Max Resist and Blue Eyed Devils, who all pretty much sound like early Black Flag, except with lyrics like, “Now I’ll fight for my race and nation, Sieg Heil!”—which, by the way, is an actual lyric from a Blue Eyed Devils song called “White Victory.” No, these people are not fucking around. Most of them think Hitler was actually a pretty swell guy (although they also tend to think the Holocaust didn’t happen, which is a pretty convenient way to take some of the stink off the whole Hitler-loving thing).

Given this backdrop, it’s all the more bizarre that a band like Prussian Blue ever existed. For one brief shining moment, white power music had its Carpenters, its Hanson and its Jewel all rolled into one adorable little blonde-haired, blue-eyed package—and mainstream media lost their fucking minds over it.

Prussian Blue was a folk-pop duo from Bakersfield, California, made up of twin sisters Lamb and Lynx Gaede (yes, their actual names). They began performing together at the age of nine at the behest of their mother, April, who basically made the two girls mouthpieces for her racist world view before they were really old enough to fully grasp the significance of what they were singing about.

At first, they were cute but kinda terrible, doing tentative, slightly off-key Skrewdriver covers and goofy originals like “Skinhead Boy” (“Oi oi oi, skinhead boy, you’re my oi boy”). But by their second album, The Path We Chose (which came out when the girls were seasoned concert vets and all of thirteen), they had actually gotten pretty good. But by then, the novelty value had worn off and the mainstream media went back to ignoring them. And soon after that, they started covering Bob Dylan (“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which would actually be a great white supremacist song if it hadn’t been written by a hippie Jew from New York City), and pretty soon the white supremacist community was ignoring them too. By 2006, at fourteen, they were done.

Today the girls live in Montana and have disavowed their up-with-whitey roots entirely. “I love diversity,” Lynx told an interviewer for The Daily just a few weeks ago. “It makes me proud of humanity every day that we have so many different places and people.”

They’ve also become big medical marijuana advocates, mostly because they use pot to treat a whole host of medical issues that you have to figure are either the result of bad karma or the stress of being the target of so much public outrage at such a tender age. Lynx has cancer and something called CVS, which stands for Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (and you thought the drug store chain was bad). Lamb has scoliosis and chronic back pain. You have to feel sorry for them—even though reading some of the interviews they gave back in their Prussian Blue days is pretty cringe-inducing.

“I like everything except nigger music,” Lamb told an interviewer for Resistance, the magazine put out by their record label of the same name. Although they also told an interviewer for Vice magazine who asked the same question: “But our all-time favorite is Barney the purple dinosaur!”

So here they are, in all their Aryan glory: Prussian Blue. Don’t let the cuteness brainwash you into hating black people. Or white people, for that matter. It’s not our fault that some of us white folks are ignorant, hate-filled people who dress their children up like Sound of Music extras and coax them into singing about the coming race war like it’s “Kumbaya.”

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