Time to get those gold pants dry-cleaned and spit-shined, weirdos. After way too long of a silence (OK, only since 2011, but we’re impatient), gem-sweater dance-pop queen Leslie Hall is coming back with a brand-new album of remixes and a 2014 tour. Can an album of remixes be brand-new? It can when Leslie’s doing it. She’s a rule breaker like that.
No word yet on the title of Leslie’s remix album, but we can tell you it’s due out this December and features new takes on Leslie & the LY’s classics by “Mash-Up Mad Man” Titus Jones. She’s following up its release with what is sure to be the most bedazzled national tour of early 2014. Lady Gaga and Katy Perry may as well just wave the white flag now.
Full tour dates after this delightful clip for Jones’ booty-shaking remix of “No Pants Policy.” We are blogging pantsless in its honor. Actually, we blog pantsless most of the time, but you probably could’ve guessed that.
Leslie and the LY’s 2014 tour dates:
1/12 San Francisco, CA – Rickshaw Stop
2/5 Kansas City, MO – The Riot Room
2/6 St Louis, MO – Plush Saint Louis
2/7 Chicago, IL – The Empty Bottle
2/8 Grand Rapids, MI – The Pyramid Scheme
2/9 Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
2/10 Pontiac, MI – The Crofoot (The Pike Room)
2/11 Columbus, OH – TBA
2/13 Cambridge, MA – Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub
2/14 Providence, RI – AS220
2/15 Brooklyn, NY – Knitting Factory Brooklyn
2/16 Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s
2/17 Washington, DC – DC9 Nightclub
2/19 Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506
2/20 Charlotte, NC – TBA
2/21 Atlanta, GA – The EARL
2/22 Birmingham, AL – Bottletree Cafe
2/23 Nashville, TN – 12th & Porter
2/24 New Orleans, LA – TBA
2/25 Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s Houston
2/26 Dallas, TX – Club Dada
2/27 Austin, TX – Red 7
3/1 Tucson, AZ- club congress
3/2 Las Vegas, NV – TBA
3/3 San Diego, CA – Soda Bar
3/4 Los Angeles, CA – The Satellite
3/7 Seattle, WA – The Vera Project
3/8 Portland, OR – Branx Blow Pony
3/10 Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge
3/12 Denver, CO – Hi-Dive Denver
3/13 Omaha, NE – The Waiting Room Lounge
3/14 Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock Social Club
3/15 Des Moines, IA – Wooly’s
3/21 Iowa City, IA – Blue Moose Tap House
How do you say “crowdfunding” in Portuguese? Tribal-futurist electro-rock weirdos Blasted Mechanism have just launched a campaign on a Kickstarter-like Portuguese site called PPT to raise fan funding for their “eighth generation,” or “eighth album” as other, less tribal-futurist bands might call it. They’re hoping to rake in 8,000 Euros by Jan. 7th, 2014, so go visit their campaign page and give generously.
We probably should have figured this out back when we made them our Weird Band of the Week earlier this year, but apparently Blasted Mechanism totally reinvents their look with each album—hence the “generation” term. Past looks, as handily recapped in their PPT project video, include Mind at Large, Namaste and our favorite, the totally bonkers, Japenese-meets-Aztec (Japaztec?) superhero outfits from their fifth generation, Sound in Light. Actually, the costumes from each generation are pretty freaking cool—except maybe generation one, Balayashi, when they kinda looked and sounded like a bad Red Hot Chili Peppers knockoff. But hey, it’s cool. We all made bad style choices in the ’90s.
So what form will the eighth generation of Blasted Mechanism take? We’ll just have to chip in and find out.
This week’s band is a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a bunch of untranslated Russian websites. Meet Dvar, a Russian Goth/darkwave/synth-rock band whose music allegedly has the power to ruin people’s lives. Which we hope isn’t actually true, because we’ve been cranking it all evening. So far the cats are all still alive and no inanimate objects have attacked us. But consider yourself warned.
Dvar (not to be confused with Dwarr, another evil-sounding band shrouded in mystery) is probably a duo from Moscow, but that intel is based solely on a single grainy piece of record artwork (seen above) and the fact that their self-released early material seems mostly to have circulated in the Russian capital. They’ve been active since the mid-’90s, but didn’t really begin to attract much of an audience until 2002, when they got some international distribution through an Italian industrial/ambient label called Radio Luxor S.P.K.R. Their first album for Radio Luxor, Piirrah, is hard to listen to alone. Full of ominous, droning synths and strangled vocals allegedly sung in an ancient occultlanguage called Enochian, it sounds like party music for some cave-dwelling race of gibbering, subhuman troglodytes. No, scratch that—if those cave-dwelling troglodytes spawned a generation of disaffected youth who took to piercing their snouts and sewing metal studs into their loincloths, it would be party music for those kids.
The creators of this creepy shit claim that they don’t actually come up with it themselves. Instead, it is transmitted to them in their dreams by a creature called Dvar, an angel or demon or possibly both, who takes the form of a giant bee. (Bees figure prominently in most of the band’s album artwork.)
Over the years, Dvar’s music has evolved away from its Goth/darkwave beginnings to encompass everything from quirky 8-bit to quasi-reggaeton to, most recently, avant-minimalist compositions played out on unlikely mixes of synths and what sound like medieval instruments, as if Philip Glass and the guys from Sparks were co-leading a troupe of wandering cyberpunk minstrels. The only constant has been those weird, strangled, Enochian vocals, which even over some jaunty chiptune circus pop kind of sound like they’re being delivered by someone or something on the verge of ripping out your esophagus because it thinks you stole its “precious.”
At some point, either the band or one of their labels began calling their new sound “lightwave.” They also began to be represented on their album covers as Gorillaz-style cartoon characters (complete with bee antennae, naturally), but fortunately they seem to have since dropped this gimmick. On their most recent release, the double album Deii, they’ve taken the much more tasteful route of using Renaissance paintings as album art. Renaissance paintings with bees in them, I might add. Yeah, these guys really like bees.
The origin of the word “Dvar,” incidentally, is a matter of some debate, even among the band members themselves. In one of their few interviews (and the only one, as far as we can tell, that’s ever been translated into English), a Russian journalist asked them if it bore any relation to the Hebrew word “Dvar,” meaning “word” or “thing,” and more specifically to the Hebrew phrase “Dvar Torah,” which translates roughly to “sermon.” This was the answer they gave:
It doesn’t have any connections with Dvar Torah, but all the coincidences evidently are nonrandom, if say more exactly, Dvar Torah means “penetration.” And we already feel this penetration.
Elsewhere in the same interview the Dvar guys says stuff like, “Ignoramus, juggles a saber, can leave himself without hands.” So maybe Dvar speaks to them through the medium of fortune cookies.
Oh, about that whole life-ruining thing: Dvar’s biggest online fan, a Russian Goth dude called (of course) Shadow Angel, claims that within just a few weeks of first hearing an early, self-released Dvar album called Raii, his dog, grandmother and best friend all died tragically. “The strange thing,” Shadow Angel wrote in a review of the album, “while my nearest and dearest ones were gone, Dvar became closer to me”:
Their melodies dyed with new colours and hidden tunes arose from the depths. I started to worship them, while my health started to fade. I lost my immunity and now I can catch almost every disease.
Shadow Angel’s response to all this was, of course, to build the Dvar unofficial homepage, which apart from a Bandcamp page is pretty much Dvar’s only English-language presence on the web. Remember, bands: Afflict a Goth with pain and tragedy and you’ve made a fan for life.
Because we’re a blog about weird bands, we’re obligated to mention the weirdest and most random factoid about Dvar: At some point, some genius (possibly someone at Rolling Stone) started the rumor that Dvar was the secret side project of Michael Jackson. The other, more plausible rumor is that they’re a side project of one of these guys.
As far as we can tell, Dvar have never released any official music videos. (They never perform live, either.) But there are a handful of cool fan-made videos of YouTube, most of which are the work of a superfan called freakrobot99. This clip is fairly typical of his creepy yet amusing output.
This is less typical of both freakrobot99 and Dvar, but it’s too fantastic not to share. Apparently it’s a parody/remix of this near-forgotten piece of YouTube detritus, which was a viral video campaign about the disappearance of honey bees launched by, of all things, Häagen-Dazs. I love bees and ice cream as much as the next sucrose consumer, but I still think I prefer the Dvar version.
P.S. Thanks to reader Robert for suggesting these guys.
Zayte Buti’s tribute to Dustin Pedroia and coconut water should replace “Sweet Caroline” as the thing Red Sox fans sing during the 7th inning stretch
I was born in New England, so I’ve pretty much been a Red Sox fan since before birth. If Mom could’ve shoved a tiny Red Sox cap up her baby chute, I’m sure she would have. So like everyone else in Red Sox Nation, I’ve spent most of the past five days curled in a fetal position around a case of Sam Adams Octoberfest, occasionally yelling out “Boston Strong!” and the lyrics to “DIrty Water.” It’s the traditional way we celebrate a World Series victory, dating all the way back to 2004.
I’m sure many Red Sox tribute songs will be coming out in the days ahead, most of them focusing on facial hair. But none will be weirder than “Dustin Pedroia Hydrates Natural-l-y” for our old pal and former Weird Band Poll champ, Zayde Buti. Take it away, Zayde.
For those of you who weren’t around way back in 2010, when we first discovered Zayde: He used to make cheesy synth R&B anthems about fast food, often dressed up in full-on Wendy’s drag. When we heard he had decided to switch things up and make a folk/country/blues album, I have to admit we were kinda bummed out. But we needn’t have worried. Even strumming an acoustic gee-tar, Zayde’s still a 9.2 on the weirdo scale.
Zayde’s promising a new album called Going, Going, Gone! sometime in December. We’ll keep you posted on its impending release. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go curl up in a fetal position around a case of Vita Coco coconut water. Well, I love that coconut water, oh, Boston you’re my home…
So it being Halloween and all, we were going to make some wacky costumed act our Weird Band of the Week. But then we were going through some old reader comments and a few different folks mentioned Nina Hagen and we said, “You know what? Other acts wear Halloween costumes. Nina Hagen is a Halloween costume.” People have been ripping off her unique style for decades, to the point where some of them (ahem, Lady Gaga) probably aren’t even aware of the original source. So for all you young’uns out there, let’s get acquainted with the so-called Mother of Punk, shall we?
Nina Hagen was born in 1955 in East Berlin, at the height of the Cold War. She was pegged very early in life as an opera prodigy, but she was more interested in pop music. After singing in a more traditional German pop band called Fritzens Dampferband (you can hear one of her early vocals here), she formed a “rock” band called Automobil in 1974. I put “rock” in quotation marks because this was one of their more rockin’ tracks:
The song title translates roughly to “You Forgot the Color Film” and the lyrics are basically all Nina Hagen berating her boyfriend on their vacation for, well, not bringing color film. Apparently it was interpreted at the time as a sly critique of the drabness of East Berlin. Yeah, life behind the Iron Curtain was not fun.
In 1976, she and her parents defected to West Germany, and that’s when the Nina Hagen we all know and love really began to blossom. Inspired by the nascent punk scene on a visit to London, Hagen formed the Nina Hagen Band and began playing a theatrical mix of punk, glam and progressive rock, all punctuated by her increasingly over-the-top, operatic vocals. The music was frankly not all that exciting, but Hagen was developing into an astonishing vocalist and live performer. Here, for example, is the Nina Hagen Band in 1979, performing a track called “Naturträne.” It’s basically one minute of song followed by three minutes of Nina wailing over a bunch of prog-rock noodling, but this woman could wail over a Yanni record and I’d still camp out for tickets.
By the end of ’79, the Nina Hagen Band had already broken up, as Hagen went off to explore wilder musical frontiers as a solo artist. Even in this 1980 clip of her covering “Ziggy Stardust” on Swedish television, the style and attitude she became famous for is pretty much all there: the crazy hair and eye makeup, crazier facial expressions, and positively batshit vocals.
In 1982, Hagen released her first solo album and first album sung entirely in English, NunSexMonkRock. Richard Metzger of Dangerous Minds recently called it the post-punk era’s greatest “unsung masterpiece” and it’s hard to argue with him. From beginning to end, the record sounds like it was flown in from another planet, not exactly punk or glam or New Wave but somehow channeling all those forces into a totally original sound. The best-known track is an anti-heroin anthem called “Smack Jack,” which isn’t the weirdest thing on the album but which features a music video that has to be seen to be believed. Yes, that’s Nina in male cop drag. And Nina singing backup. And another Nina singing the other backup. It’s a Nina-palooza.
Hagen’s done plenty of other weird shit in the years since: One of the most amazingly ’80s videos of all time, “New York New York” (her only real hit here in the U.S.). A Rammstein cover with the Finnish cello-rock band Apocalyptica, which is fitting since Till Lindemann stole many of his vocal affectations from Hagen. She released an album of Hindu devotional chants, with cover art featuring herself dressed up as the goddess Kali. She once told David Letterman about a UFO she saw over Malibu—actually, she told lots of people about UFOs. In more recent years, she’s recorded an album of big band standards, covered Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” and, sadly, lost much of her once-astonishing vocal range. She’s also become a devout Christian, which probably alienated some of her old punk fan base. But she remains as refreshingly kooky and totally original as ever.
We’ll leave you with one of Nina Hagen’s signature cover tunes. Sid Vicious may have punked up “My Way” first, but Nina’s version is untouchable, even after all these years.
P.S. Thanks to readers Singing Grass, Alex and Denny for reminding us to add Nina to the Weird List. Better late than never, right, guys?
Jolly good news, ladies and gents: Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer has announced the arrival date for his latest chap-hop opus, Can’t Stop, Shan’t Stop. It shall arrive in all antique and modern formats (save, alas, for wax cylinder) on November 5th. You can pre-order it here for a mere £10, which I believe is equivalent to five guineas, four sovereigns, a half crown, two shillings and sixpence. At least I hope that’s right, because that’s all the change I could find in the cushions of my chaise longue.
Can’t Stop is the fourth Mr. B long player, following up last year’s redoubtable Tweed Album. You can sample a little solo piano rendition of one of the album’s most titillating ditties after the full tracklist below.
1. Shelltoes Or Brogues
2. Ladies Have Friends Who They Hate
3. (I’ve No Wish To) Keep It Real
4. Hip-Hop Was To Blame After All
5. Pop Song
6. Grammar Song
7. In A Club
9. Rude Britannia
10. It Doesn’t Pay To Turn Up Late To An Orgy
11. Reasons To Be Unsuccessful (Part One)
12. The Corinthians
13. The Neglect Of My Duties
14. Brushed Tweed In The Hour Of Chaos
Is Mr. B touring in support of his latest masterwork? You bet your brass buttons he is. Here are the dates.
1st: Whitby, Steampunk Central, Whitby Rifle Club
8th: Southampton, Orange Rooms
9th: Brighton, Concorde 2
16th: Leeds, Wet Spot @ The Wardrobe
18th: New York, I Am Dandy book launch
27th: New York, The Slipper Room
29th: King Of Prussia, Pennsylvania USA, Gilded Festival
6th: Canterbury, Penny Theatre
7th: London, The Grand Anarcho Dandyist Ball, Bloomsbury Ballroom
12th: Doncaster, Cast
13th: Brighton, The Haunt
20th: London, Lost Theatre, Wandsworth
21st: Portsmouth, Beats And Swing @ The Wedgewood Rooms