I gotta be honest: I have no frame of reference for reviewing a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu concert. I had never been to a J-pop show before, unless you count Trippple Nippples, which I don’t. Where the Trippp Nippps are clearly trying to be a little edgier and more “arty,” KPP is gleefully, blissfully, unironically out to sweep her audience away under a raging torrent of cuteness. It was quite possibly the most ridiculous show I have ever been to, and definitely one of the happiest. If you walk out of a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu concert wearing a frowny face, you need to adjust your meds.
So is KPP fairly typical of a J-pop show? I have no idea. All I know is not since the ’90s heyday of candy raving have my eyeballs been bombarded with such a colorful display. Oh, and the music was pretty good, too. Even though it was all just a pre-recorded backing track, including most (all?) of the vocals. You don’t go to a KPP show because you want to hear an extended version of the piano solo on “Mottai Night Land.”
There was a set that looked like the bedroom of a giant toddler. There were Oompa-Loompa-like backup dancers. There was a dancing rabbit and a dancing bear. There was an inexplicably bizarre video interlude, to cover for one of Kyary’s many costume changes, that featured her playing poker with a bunch of scary-looking Americans and posing next to a motor scooter like a kawaii James Dean. There were not, sadly, any of the dancing fuzz-monsters from the “Invader Invader” video, but they did throw in that song’s dope-ass dubstep breakdown—and in case you’re wondering, yes, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is still totally adorable, even when dancing to dubstep. Her adorableness defies all logic and the basic laws of the space-time continuum. All the kitten videos on YouTube contain less cumulative adorableness than a single KPP dance move. I can’t explain it, but it is so.
The crowd was almost as much fun as the show, full of elaborately costumed J-pop fans of all ages, races and even styles—there were more than a few goth/steampunk dolls in attendance, sprinkled amidst the expected packs of girls in frilly pink princess dresses. I tried to snap a few pics but when you’re a middle-aged guy at a J-pop show, you have to be careful about who you point your camera at. Fortunately, others with more balls and better cameras were there, too.
My arms are still tired from doing the “Fashion Monster” dance, so I’m going to stop typing now and just leave you with a couple more photos. As you can see, we got there late and our seats weren’t the best. I did try to capture the energy of the crowd in that one shot, though. Yeah, people were really into it.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been binge-watching the Olympics all week and wondering why I wasted my youth on comic books and video games. Fierce competition pushes people to pinnacles of achievement that are nothing short of awe-inspiring. Can it have the same effect on weird bands? Probably not, but it’s still fun to pit them against each other and see who can ascend to the winner’s podium.
You people know the drill by now: Voting ends Sunday, Feb. 23rd at midnight and we’ll announce the winner on Feb. 26th. Got your judge’s hat on? Here we go…
[Sorry, this poll has closed. Check back here Wednesday, when the winner will be revealed. And bookmark this page to partake of future polls. We do a new one every month(ish).]
For more on this month’s bands, read on:
Astro Al is a duo from
Boston outer space named Paul Angelosanto and Debbie Nash. “Imagine if William Shatner replaced Jim Morrison in the Doors” is how they describe themselves, which is such a great image that I kinda wanna run out right now, buy a Shatner mask and start a cover band called The Crystal Shat. Here’s their website and here’s a video that’s more Deliverance than Doors, but still pretty weird.
Ebola Ape is a DJ from
Poland the Congolese jungle who claims to be the world’s first gorilla turned music producer. What kind of music are gorillas into, you ask? I would’ve guessed Kool & the Gang, too, but it turns out it’s more of a cross between glitchy downtempo, witch house and something I guess the kids these days are calling chillstep. Here’s his website and here’s his SoundCloud page.
Gout Pony is a band from Ipswich, England who don’t claim to be from anywhere else. They call their jazzy/lo-fi/folk/stream-of-consciousness music “trampcore” and list The Residents, Cardiacs and a.P.A.t.T. among their influences. Here’s a link to their album, A Family Gouting, and here’s their Facebook page.
Iris Von Gul
Iris Von Gul is an electro/industrial/math-rock band from Bordeaux, France. They were formed last year by Sam Barbier and Denis Dedieu, formerly of the electro-punk band Decay. Now a quartet, they’ve put out one EP called, appropriately enough, Decay Is Dead, which includes a nifty cover of Marilyn Manson’s “Dead to the World.” Here’s a video of them performing their song “We Are Vicious” in the studio, and here’s their SoundCloud page.
Potworow is a young woman from Poland who makes sparse ambient music, short films and self-portrait photographs, all of which are both lovely and more than a little ominous. Here’s her blog, and here’s her YouTube channel, where we recommend starting with “Longing Blue” or one of her little films like “Gone” or “Dinosaurs.”
So there you have it. Remember to cast your vote before midnight Sunday, Feb. 23rd, and may the weirdest band win.
In honor of this special day, when couples fight over who spent the most on flowers and massage oils, we’ve expanded our “My Freaky Valentine” Spotify playlist. Now 30 songs deep and sexier than ever, this freaky mix of weird love songs features additional tracks by Suicide, Psychic TV, Busdriver, The Deviants, The Dead Brothers, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Johnny McGovern, DEVO, Smoota, Univore and our patron saint, GG Allin, wrapping things up with his classic baby-making ballad, “I Wanna Fuck Your Brains Out.” It’s all guaranteed to put that special someone in the mood—that mood being confused unease.
So fire up your Spotify player, or use the nifty embedded player below, and let’s get physical. Happy V-Day, everyone!
Just because Macklemore sang “Same Love” at the Grammys (more on him in a minute), don’t think that hip-hop in 2014 isn’t still rife with homophobia. But a handful of ballsy performers are starting to change that—none ballsier, or weirder, than Mr. Khalif Diouf, better known as Le1f.
Le1f (pronounced “Leaf”) first made his name as a producer, making beats for fellow oddball New York rap duo Das Racist. You know that annoying/awesome song “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell“? That’s a Le1f joint. Even then, Le1f was already subverting hip-hop culture; he borrowed the track’s start-stop rhythm from “The Ha Dance,” a gay house anthem from the early ’90s, when the “vogue” scene made famous by Madonna was in full swing. “I was tricking them into rapping over a vogue beat,” Le1f gleefully bragged to Spin.
But punking his straight friends was the least of Le1f’s tricks. In April of 2012, he released his debut mixtape, a 21-track head trip of a record called Dark York. What immediately jumped out at most fans and critics—maybe because Le1f prefers to keep his vocals tantalizingly buried in the mix—was not the rapper’s out-and-proud lyrics, but his polyamorous relationship with genres. Dark York knocks boots with everything from dark electro and experimental beat music to the menacing, trunk-rattling sounds of the Dirty South—all of it tied together by Le1f’s syrupy flow and a vaguely stoned, psychedelic quality, as if all the music is coming at you through a bong-smoke haze. Or maybe it’s bathhouse steam?
Then came the videos. Starting with “Wut,” Le1f has created a visual style all his own, patched together from gay club culture, avant-garde modern dance (he has a degree in dance from Wesleyan University—my alma mater! holla!), neon-colored hipster fashion, and a dash of Pokemon. It’s playful, eye-popping and will probably make the most hetero among you extremely uncomfortable.
Side note about “Wut” and the aforementioned Mr. Macklemore: When Macklemore won at the MTV Video Music Awards last year for his pro-gay marriage anthem “Same Love,” Le1f launched into a tirade on Twitter, accusing the straight white rapper of cynically co-opting gay pride and style-biting the horn-driven hook on “Wut” for his other big hit, “Thrift Shop.” “[T]hat time that straight white dude ripped off my song then made a video about gay interracial love and made a million dollars,” one of the tweets read. “Wut” is hardly the first time anyone built a rap beat around a saxophone loop, but the timing is more than a little suspicious; “Thrift Shop” came out a little over a month after the video for “Wut” showed up on YouTube, and the similarities are hard to miss. But that’s way more space than Macklemore deserves in any post on this blog, so let’s move on.
Since the release of Dark York, Le1f has been on a tear, churning out EPs and mixtapes that seem to get better (and weirder) every time. He’s also created a live persona that’s a mesmerizing combination of hip-hop aggression and ball culture camp. And he has fantastic hair. (Watch until about the 5:30 mark; that’s when he really starts putting Willow Smith to shame.)
We’ll leave you with what is probably Le1f’s weirdest and/or sexiest (depending on what you’re into) video to date: “Soda,” from a 2012 collaborative EP with producer Boody called Liquid. Oh, and an important disclaimer: We are not making Le1f our Weird
Band Rapper of the Week because he’s gay. Thankfully, being a gay rapper is not as weird as it used to be, and there are plenty of examples of other hip-hop artists, from Big Freedia to Mykki Blanco* to Brooke Candy, making music that probably seems—to straight audiences, anyway—just as weird as Le1f’s. But he gets our vote because ultimately, even if you took Le1f’s sexual orientation out of the picture entirely, his music would still be weird. And we mean that, as we always do, in the best possible way.
*OK, yeah, Mykki Blanco deserves a spot on the Weird List, too. She’ll show up here eventually. Promise.
British music news rag NME broke some eyebrow-raising news last week: For their next studio project, avant-pop duo Sparks are collaborating with Scottish rockers Franz Ferdinand. Apparently sessions have been in progress since April 2013 and should be completed by this summer.
If you think this sounds like a trainwreck in the making, you’re not alone. Sparks keyboardist Ron Mael agrees with you. “If there was a train crash between Franz Ferdinand and Sparks,” the mustachioed Mael brother told NME, “this is what the wreckage would sound like.” I’m sure he meant that in a good way, but still, we’re concerned. Not that Franz Ferdinand are the worst of the early ’00s crop of Brit-rock bands; at least Sparks aren’t collaborating with, say, Razorlight. Alex Kapranos and co. are fine, and even occasionally catchy in a Scottish Strokes sort of way. But they’re not exactly weird or innovative or groundbreaking—so for this pairing to be anything more than a curiosity, Ron and Russell Mael are going to have to do a lot of the heavy lifting.
Oddly, this isn’t the first time there’s been talk of a Sparks and FF collab. Way back in 2006, there were reports that Franz Ferdinand was working on an entire album of Sparks covers (which never came to fruition, obviously). Turns out Kapranos and his mates really are huge Sparks fans—so who knows? Maybe working with the brothers Mael will bring out a side of FF we haven’t heard before.
Listen up, weirdos: Our favorite Australians-with-disabilities power-pop act Rudely Interrupted need your help. They’ve only got about 48 hours left on a Pozible campaign (the Down Under version of Kickstarter) to raise another A$2,000 to finance the release of their latest EP, plus send them out on a promotional tour. So do the kids a solid, as we Americans like to say, and go pledge your support. A mere $9 gets you a copy of the EP and a warm, fuzzy feeling.
For those of y’all not familiar: Rudely Interrupted is a band made up mostly of folks born a bit different than the rest of us. Lead singer Rory Burnside, for example, has Asperger’s and epilepsy and was born without eyes. Hype man/sampler/occasional bassist Sam Beke—he of the trademark sparkly cape—has Down syndrome. But as you’ll see in the video below, none of that matters once they start playing.
Here’s that link to pledge again. Help ‘em out, people!
[Most Sundays, we give a little hype to a fellow blog, website or other source for all things related to weird music and the people who love it. Check the tag "Sunday Shout-Out" for other recommendations.]
As anyone who’s ever been a baseball game knows, you’re not really immortalized in American pop culture until someone makes a bobblehead doll in your likeness. So God bless the people at Aggronautix for inventing the “Throbblehead,” which is basically a bobblehead doll for the punk-rock crowd. Now you too can glue a jockstrap-clad GG Allin to your dashboard and watch his head waggle every time you hit a pothole. It’s almost better than listening to “I Wanna Fuck Myself” on a $10,000 stereo system. Actually, wait, the jockstrap GG is sold out. You’ll have to settle for the fully clothed version. Sorry.
Throbbleheads are the brilliant idea of a dude by the name of Clint, whose day job is working at MVD, a company that specializes in reissuing old punk records and DVDs and underground films. A few years back he started using his punk and indie music connections to get the rights to the likenesses of various icons of the scene, including more than a few of our favorite weirdos. Since making a splash with the GG Allin Throbblehead, he’s gone on to release figurines based on everyone from Mojo Nixon to DEVO to Wendy O. Williams. Most are limited to runs of 2,000 dolls or less and sell out quickly.
Aggronautix puts out other cool stuff, too. They were the folks behind that GG Allin prison diaries coffee table book we
made fun of told you about awhile back, and they’ve also put out everything from picture discs to skateboards to homoerotic comic books starring Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig. If you’re into punk rock collectibles, they’re basically K-Tel, Target and the Hummel Figurines catalog all rolled into one.
We’ll keep you posted about future Throbblehead releases. Who knows, maybe Clint will find inspiration for his next loose-necked doll right here in the virtual pages of this here blog.