Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Misfits

When I want to get into the Halloween spirit, my third favorite thing to do (after answering the door naked and offering Jager shots to the neighborhood kids) is crank up The Misfits. Seriously, is any band more synonymous with Halloween? I think not.

There are, of course, two versions of The Misfits: the original, Glenn Danzig one, and the latter-day, Jerry Only one, also widely known among fans as “the bullshit version.” I actually dig them both for totally different reasons. Danzig’s Misfits were fun, kooky and occasionally scary in a sort of Ramones-meets-Tales From the Crypt way; Only’s Misfits are fun, kooky and occasionally hilarious in a Dead Milkmen-meets-Killer Clowns From Outer Space way. See the difference?

Anyway, I figured this Halloween, it’d be good to honor the original horror punks with a spot on our ever-growing Weird List. Here’s a video from the Jerry Only era. Had they become total parodies of themselves by this point? Of course, but that’s sort of the point.

P.S. Not that the world really needs a new Misfits album, but we got one this month anyway. It’s called The Devil’s Rain and you can hear a track, “Land of the Dead,” by going to their website and clicking the Audio On/Off button. Yes, that’s Jerry doing vocals now. At this point, he can do whatever the hell he wants, but…man. Suddenly, for all the wrong reasons, they’ve gotten kinda scary again.

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Loutallica (Lou Reed & Metallica)

We’re not usually big bandwagon-jumpers around here. Show us a bandwagon and we tend to run the other way as fast our wobbly legs can carry us. But with this whole “Loutallica” thing, we cannot sit idly by while the rest of Ye Olde Blogosphere whips up a good-old fashioned shitstorm over how unbelievably, monumentally terrible it is. We gotta get on in there and start freaking the fuck out with the rest of them.

So in case you weren’t sure: Yes, we share the near-universal opinion that Lou Reed and Metallica’s much hyped Lulu–in addition to being quite possibly the weirdest album of the year–is a trainwreck of epic, biblical proportions. If this album was a movie, it would be Howard the Duck. If it was a car, it would a lime-green Pinto with vinyl seats. If it was a rapper, it would be Vanilla Ice, only if he had never done “Ice Ice Baby.” If it was a football team, it would be the 2008 Detroit Lions. If it was something you could buy out of a vending machine, it would be New Coke. No wait…it would be Diet New Coke. Did they even make Diet New Coke? If they did, it would have sucked only slightly more than Lulu.

To be fair, we should have seen this coming. These are the guys that gave us St. Anger and Metal Machine Music, after all. Lou Reed has a penchant for pretentious noise that dates all the way back to his Velvet Underground days–just try to listen to all nine minutes of “Murder Mystery” and feel anything other than proud of yourself for slogging all the way through it. And Metallica’s issues, both musical and emotional, have been well-documented. Put them together, and a perfect storm of bombastitude was probably the inevitable result.

But still…it could have been so sweet. “Sweet Jane” + “Enter Sandman”? Sign us up. But Reed and Hetfield and co. have pretty clearly lost all interest in making those kinds of records at this point in their respective careers…or they’ve forgotten how to. Either way, this whole project was a moonshot that came up well short.

The only good thing that’s come out of Lulu? An awesome new “I Am the Table” internet meme. People are getting more creative online with that shit than Lou and ‘Tallica got with their entire album. (If you have no idea what “I Am the Table” means…well, count yourself lucky, or listen to the track below if you want in on the joke.)

Anyway…if you’re one of the five people who still haven’t heard this shit, feast your ears. And if you’re one of the zero people who want to hear the whole thing (including a 19-minute track called “Junior Dad”…you’ve been warned), it’s all streaming over on the Loutallica site.

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The KLF

(Photo originally appeared in Details magazine, 1991; article available here)

Today’s band was suggested by a reader from Belgium (worldwide, baby!) named Steve V., and it may surprise some of our American readers. Here in the States, The KLF are mainly remembered (if they’re remembered at all), as just another of that pack of seemingly indistinguishable bands who cashed in on that weird moment around 1990 or so when house music was actually getting played on the radio. But trust us, these guys were not in the same league as MARRS and C+C Music Factory. They may as well not even have come from the same planet.

The KLF originally started as a British hip-hop group called the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, then morphed briefly into a deliberately lame proto-house group called The Timelords, whose one and only single, “Doctorin’ the Tardis,” was a piss-take of pop hits that, perhaps inevitably, itself became a massive pop hit. A mash-up of the Doctor Who theme with Sweet’s “Blockbuster!” and Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll Part Two,” “Doctorin’ the Tardis” went to No. 1 in the UK in 1988 and reportedly sold over one million copies. Its success inspired the Timelords/KLF duo, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, to write a book called The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way), which dispensed such we’re-kidding-but-not-really advice as “if in a band, quit” and “watch Top of the Pops religiously.” (The book is out of print but you can read most of it online here—or shell out $89 $170 to a greedy Amazon reseller here.)

Drummond and Cauty probably could’ve scored a spot here on TWBITW as The Timelords solely on the basis of “Doctorin’ the Tardis” (and its video, which is one of the most hilariously amateurish artifacts of ’80s pop music), but they didn’t stop there. Instead, they reinvented themselves yet again as The KLF, an acid house group that specialized in what Drummond (aka King Boy D) called “pure dance music, without any reference points.” The KLF went on to become one of the most successful dance acts of the era, releasing a string of increasingly bizarre Top 10 hits in 1990 and 1991 that combined elements of acid house, rock, pop, hip-hop, gospel, ambient electronica and even country. (Their last single, “Justified and Ancient (Stand by the JAMs),” featured guest vocals by Tammy Wynette.) They called it, a bit cheekily, “stadium house”—and they were indeed successful enough with it to fill their fair share of stadiums.

It seemed The KLF could do no wrong. Until Drummond and Cauty got bored with their success and, in one spectacular public gesture, chucked it all.

In February of 1992, The KLF were scheduled to perform at the BRIT Awards, England’s answer to the Grammys. Instead of their usual rap/rave stage show, Drummond and Cauty brought in a punk/grindcore band called Extreme Noise Terror to play a thrashed-out version of the KLF hit “3 a.m. Eternal,” which climaxed with Drummond, grinning and supporting himself on a crutch, breaking out a machine gun and firing blanks over the heads of the stunned audience. As the band left the stage, an announcer declared, “The KLF have left the music business.” Later that night, The KLF left a dead sheep at a BRIT Awards after-party with a sign hung around its neck reading, “I died for you—bon appetit.”

Not content to stop there, Drummond and Cauty took the almost unheard-of step of deleting their entire back catalog. All albums and singles by The KLF, The Timelords and the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu remain out of print in the U.K.—although last we checked, The KLF’s final album, The White Room, is still available in the U.S., presumably because the duo’s contract with their American label, Arista, didn’t allow for catalog deletion. (But Arista’s parent company, Sony, just folded Arista into RCA Records, so it will be interesting to see if White Room stays in print.)

But wait! Drummond and Cauty took it a step further still. Still flush with cash from their days as pop hitmakers, they decided to take one million pounds in cash, nail it to a picture frame, then shop it around to various art galleries under the title Nailed to the Wall. Then, when no gallery would agree to show the work, they took their million quid to a remote Scottish island and burned it—all of it, in £50 notes—in a fireplace, filming the whole thing. The film they made about the whole project—including the creation of the K Foundation, a satirical arts foundation that also awarded £40,000 to the “worst artist of the year”—is called Watch The K Foundation Burn a Million Quid and can be viewed in its entirety on Google Video. It’s a pretty fascinating document. (The burning starts at around the 13:45 mark.)

We could go on about these guys: How they came out of retirement in 1997 in old-man makeup and motorized wheelchairs, giving a single performance of a remixed version of one of their old songs titled “Fuck the Millennium.” How they invited a bunch of journalists out to the island of Jura (the same island where they later burned their million quid) and made them all dress in ceremonial robes so they could film an elaborate ritual centered around a burning wicker man and called the whole thing The Rites of Mu. How they once traveled to Sweden hoping to persuade ABBA to let them keep an uncleared sample on their debut album, 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?). (ABBA refused to meet with them and insisted that the album be withdrawn from sale—Drummond and Cauty, ever the pyros, burned a bunch of copies of that record, too.)

But really, we think nothing sums up how completely mental these guys were than this video for “America: What Time Is Love?” It’s got everything: Vikings! Rappers! Stadium house beats! Shredding guitars! The lead singer from Deep Purple! Yes, there really was a time in pop music history when this song could go Top 10 in eight countries.

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*Note: The Library of Mu domain name expired the day we published this. It’s a conspiracy! Which would sort of make sense, because The KLF loved conspiracies. They were big fans of The Illuminatus Trilogy.

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Threebrain

Back in 2003, I had one of those horrible, soul-crushing jobs where you sit at a desk all day and chip away at the same boring, tedious, a-monkey-could-do-this-shit tasks knowing that your reward, upon completion of said tasks, will be another giant, teetering stack of the exact same boring, tedious, a-monkey-could-do-this-shit tasks. It was assembly line work, basically, except that instead of a bad back and exposure to carcinogens, I got a fat ass and carpal tunnel syndrome. At least my cubicle had a window. With a view of a Chevron station, but still.

In between monkey tasks–and since I’m not a monkey, there grew to be a great deal of time between monkey tasks–I whiled away the hours in all sorts of stupid ways. This was before Facebook and YouTube, remember, so even with access to the Interweb, my cubicle-bound office-mates and I had to make due with some pretty primitive entertainment options. We created lots of fake Friendster accounts. This one girl Sarah got me totally hooked on a ridiculous videogame called Snood. We anticipated the arrival of Friday happy hour with lots of rockin’ out to “Peanut Butter Jelly Time.” It was a simpler, more innocent era.

Somewhere, in the midst of all this, someone turned me onto this amazing, totally stupid little Flash animation featuring a squirrel and a song in which a guy with a chipmunk voice basically just screamed “Weeeee!” a lot. In my somewhat dehumanized state, I thought this was pretty much the greatest thing I had ever seen. That squirrel and that “Weeeee!” song helped me through some dark days.

Eventually, I got another, less soul-crushing job and I put those dark days behind me. Or so I thought.

A few days ago, a reader named Steve R. wrote in and suggested we feature a band called Threebrain. And damn if it isn’t the same crazy bastards who did that “Weeeee!” song. Turns out they did a whole crap-ton of cheesy little animation videos in the pre-YouTube early ’00s and most of them are still viewable on this site. Ain’t the web a wonderful place? Nostalgia is but a mouse-click away.

So thanks, Steve, for bringing back a fond memory I had inadvertently buried in my mad dash to mind-erase most of my miserable 2003 existence. Turns out it wasn’t so bad after all. I even miss Friendster, kind of. At least they didn’t try to data-mine our entire browser history like those fuckers at Facebook.

I wish I could tell you more about Threebrain, but honestly, the amount of info out there is surprisingly limited, considering that back in 2003, that “Weeeeee!” video was more ubiquitous than the dancing hamsters. Allegedly it was the work of a duo from Morristown, New Jersey. They put out two albums, Weeeeee! – Albert Christmas Squirrel and Fetus Trackstar, in 2001 and 2003, respectively. They’re both still available on iTunes, actually. The music is sort of like if the Violent Femmes tried to make a children’s album–but a children’s album with song titles like “Hot Dogs Are Shit” and “Buttbadger 123.” And if the only thing they had to record their work on was a crappy laptop mic. And they sped up their vocals to make themselves sound like chipmunks. Yeah, it’s kinda like that.

More recently, Threebrain appears to be the work of just one guy: this guy, in fact. That video was uploaded just three weeks ago and yes, it really is just seven minutes of that guy noodling around on his banjo and singing in weird voices. The rest of his YouTube channel has other videos that are more in the “Weeeee!” tradition of lo-fi animation accompanied by silly songs, as well as a bunch of videos of something called Toilet of Wisdom, which appears to be some kind of three-man comedy show. He promises on YouTube, and also on Threebrain’s (former?) online home, GonadsandStrife.com (“where funny lives!”), to make “a new cartoon every damn day,” but as far as I could tell, he’s only made about three in last year or so. But hey, that’s cool–we promise ourselves to update this site two or three times a week, and you can see how that’s working out. Sometimes great art takes time–and so do 15-second slide whistle cartoons.

So hopefully Threebrain will get his mojo back soon and spawn another Internet viral sensation. Or maybe the days of primitive Flash animation videos are past and we’ve all moved on to cat videos with comedic voiceover dialogue. Either way, here’s a blast from the past, starring Albert Christmas Squirrel. Trust me, you’re totally gonna watch it and be all like, “Weeeee!”

 

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Paska

Today’s band was suggested to us by a reader named Alex. Big ups to him, as the kids like to say, because the one-man rock ‘n’ roll wrecking crew known as Paska (Finnish for “shit”) is as weird as they come. It’s like if someone shoved Bobby McFerrin so far up G.G. Allin’s ass, he started spouting punk-rock a cappella covers of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Paska is one Ari Peltonen, and his entire shtick is that he performs and records, very, very badly, with just his voice–no instruments, no overdubs, just one clearly unhinged individual sing-screaming highly condensed, barely intelligible versions of songs like “Ace of Spades” and “Love Me Tender”, interspersed with the occasional really bad mouth guitar solo, random drum hits and whatever other noises he can muster in between sloppy gasps for more oxygen. Oh, and he does perform a few originals, too, like “Pain in the Ass,” “Sex Is Shit,” and my personal favorite, “I Fucked Myself and Fell in Love.” Been there, my Finnish brother!

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Jake, this sounds like what me and my friends do when we’re driving home from $2 pitcher night and everyone in the car is too drunk to work the CD changer.” But here’s the difference, my friend: No one would so much as buy you another $2 pitcher to see you and your friends drunkenly butcher the punk and pop classics of yore. Whereas this Peltonen dude has been doing his Paska shtick, and getting paid for it, since the 80s. He’s played major festivals. He’s toured the U.S. He’s released an album (2005′s Women Are From Venus, Men From Anus), an EP and various singles and 7″s. In Finland, he’s either sort of a national hero or public enemy No. 1, or maybe both. At the very least, he has his own radio show.

I think my favorite part of the whole Paska story is that in the early 90′s, Paska “broke up” and Peltonen began staging concerts as various “ex-Paska” members: the egomaniac lead singer was Jeesus, the cheesy organist was Johnny Blue, the disgruntled bass player was Jorma (Finnish for “dick”). Of course, all of these Paska “solo projects” also just consisted of Ari Peltonen jumping around by himself and screaming into a microphone, but that’s the genius of the whole thing, don’t you think?

Alex sent us over a crap-ton of YouTube links to Paska’s hijinks, and it’s hard to pick just one as our favorite. So fuck it, we’ll embed a few. He’s just that awesome.

First off, you gotta start by just appreciating the man’s raw performance skills, or lack thereof–and the fact that yes, he regularly does this stuff in front of attentive, seemingly appreciative audiences. So here’s Paska um, interpreting “Stairway to Heaven”, live and in concert:

Still with us? OK, now here’s my personal favorite: some wiseass edited Paska’s version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” over bits from the original Queen video. I like to think Freddie Mercury would have loved this, but I know he probably sheds a golden tear in rock star heaven every time it’s viewed:

And finally, for a good long stew in the sauna of Paska’s madness, see if you can make it through a mere 8 minutes (yes, this is only half of it) of his epic version of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”:

You didn’t actually listen to the whole thing, did you? Yeah, us neither. Just knowing it exists is the whole punchline, really.

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Social Climbers

I gotta be honest on this one, folks: I’m not sure democracy really worked this time. You people voted this band onto the Weird List from our Submit & Vote page, fair and square, but…I dunno. I’m just not really feeling Social Climbers.

Part of the problem could be just a lack of hard evidence. According to the label that’s reissuing their one and only album, Social Climbers were a “no-wave/proto-punk” band from New York who were odd even compared to other bands at the time like Suicide and Teenage Jesus & the Jerks. They supposedly did things like stage entire concerts with cardboard cutouts of themselves and piped-in music. But this was back in 1980, before videocameras were everywhere, so no record of those shows exist. All we have, in fact, is the music: an album’s worth of stuff like the “Domestic” track below, which is a little odd in a Talking Heads-meets-DEVO sort of way, but nothing especially mind-blowing.

We will say this for them, though: Mark Bingham, the main driving force behind Social Climbers, sounds like our kind of dude. An Indiana native who was apparently always more into jazz and avant-garde music (and played with guys like Glenn Branca and John Scofield), these days he runs a recording studio in New Orleans called Piety Street and looks back somewhat ruefully on his days hanging with the hip kids on the Lower East Side. “The downtown scene was really hostile to anyone who really knew how to play music,” he says of the whole NYC punk/no-wave scene at that time. “I couldn’t take the whole vibe of trust fund kids in black clothes getting smacked out and pretending to be punks.” (This from a great 2009 profile of the guy by Offbeat magazine.)

Bingham’s also done a bunch of solo records, some of which are available on CD Baby. Among them: an album of music cues for puppet shows and a bunch of instrumentals originally written to accompany poems by Ed Sanders of The Fugs. So hey, maybe he is a pretty weird guy, at that.

Anyhow, Social Climbers’ self-titled 1980 album was just reissued on Drag City Records. If you’re feeling it, you can preview more tracks and perhaps buy yourself a copy here.

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