Even if you’re not a fan of the mumble-mouthed funk-rock Les Claypool turns out with Primus, you gotta admit the man has chops. Few humans have ever slapped a bass guitar with more frenetic precision. So what happens when you take away Claypool’s electric bass guitar and replace it with an acoustic resonator bass guitar? Well, basically you get an acoustic version of Primus—but hey, if you are a fan, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Claypool’s latest project is the self-explanatorily named Duo de Twang—there’s two of them, and they are indeed twangy. The other half of the Duo is Bryan Kehoe, whom Primus fans may recognize as the guitarist from Claypool’s 2008 mockumentary Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo. Armed only with an acoustic guitar, bass and some stomped percussion, Kehoe and Claypool manage to whip up a pretty good racket, as evidenced by this stripped-down version of “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver.” (If you can’t see the SoundCloud player below, click here.)
Duo de Twang’s debut album, Four Foot Shack, is due out Feb. 4th, 2014 on ATO Records. It’ll be a mix of traditional bluegrass tunes, some Primus and Claypool covers and…wait, “Stayin’ Alive”? Seriously? Looks like the ball’s in your court, Tragedy. Peep the full tracklist after this little video trailer.
“Four Foot Shack” (Les Claypool’s Duo de Twang)
“Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” (Primus)
“Amos Moses” (Jerry Reed)
“Red State Girl” (Les Claypool)
“The Bridge Came Tumblin’ Down” (Stompin’ Tom Connors)
“Boonville Stomp” (Les Claypool)
“Stayin’ Alive” (Bee Gees)
“Rumble of the Diesel” (Les Claypool)
“Pipe Line” (The Chantays)
“Buzzards of Greenhill” (Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade)
“Hendershot” (Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade)
“Man in the Box” (Alice in Chains)
“D’s Diner” (Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade)
“Battle of New Orleans” (Johnny Horton)
“Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” (Primus)
If you still haven’t submitted yourself to the awesome power of the totalitarian pop/industrial band Laibach, this might finally be your chance. Laibach’s U.K. label, Mute Records, is releasing a compilation of some of Laibach’s most distinctive cover songs, in a collection called An Introduction To… Laibach/Reproduction Prohibited. It’s available now in Europe and the U.K. and arrives here Nov. 6th.
Laibach have become justly famous for their many covers, which are by turns haunting and hilarious, thanks to their Wagnerian arrangements and frontman Milan Fras’s sepulchral growl of a voice. An Introduction to… omits many of Laibach’s most notorious covers, like “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” in favor of more mind-blowing oddities like “Bruderschaft,” an original Laibach tune done in the style of Kraftwerk, and “Geburt Einer Nation,” their nationalist spin on Queen’s “One Vision.” Also included: Laibachanized versions of two Beatles songs, Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man,” and their definitive, epic version of Europe’s “Final Countdown,” which they transform into the mock-operatic techno jam it was always meant to be.
You can watch the trailer for An Introduction to… here, but we’ll leave you with this video to “Final Countdown,” which invites you to become a citizen of NSK, Laibach’s art collective/micronation and self-proclaimed “first global state of the universe.” You used to be able to get an NSK passport online, but they had to stop issuing them because some scam artists in Nigeria were selling them to unsuspecting African nationals looking for ways to emigrate to Europe. And no, even though NSK passports do look convincingly like official travel documents, you can’t actually use them to cross international borders. The awesome power of Laibach is not quite that awesome.
This week’s band comes to us from a reader named Alex Thermostellar Duddy (Thermduddy, to his bros) and from the dark, twisted heart of the early ’80s. Back then, much of Italy was getting its hairy-chested groove on to the synth-heavy sounds of Italo-disco, a whole weird genre unto itself that might have been the missing link between Kraftwerk and Detroit techno. Or it might just have been what happens when a bunch of Italian dudes with cheap synthesizers and a Giorgio Moroder jones try to make dance music after an all-night cocaine and Chianti bender. And I know it doesn’t sound like I mean that as a compliment, but I do. Italo-disco rules. It just rules in a trashy, gold-chain, uniquely Italian way.
One of the Italo-disco scene’s less heralded producers, a guy named Stefano Pulga, originally conceived Pink Project as a one-off—a slightly tongue-in-cheek disco rework of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” and Alan Parsons Project’s “Mammagamma.” It was a mashup decades before that term even existed—except that, given the more primitive quality of samplers back in the day (and the looser laws governing cover songs, as opposed to wholesale sampling), it was easier for Pulga to just get together with some of his Italo-disco buddies and a hired children’s choir and record the whole thing themselves. Released under the title “Disco Project,” it was probably never meant to be more than a curiosity piece, while Pulga turned his attention back to his solo stuff and his other, semi-successful group, Kano, who were churning out fairly awful Italo-disco hits like this.
But then something unexpected happened: “Disco Project,” at least in Italy, became a hit. The track’s popularity in 1982 reached such heights that Pink Project began getting invitations to appear on American Bandstand-style Italian TV shows—which was sort of a problem, because as a band, Pink Project didn’t really exist. Pulga solved this rather ingeniously by hiring some performers (one of whom may or may not have been Pulga himself) to show up disguised in black hooded monk’s robes and mime playing the song. Combined in this clip with a fresh-faced children’s choir, the effect is both disturbing and totally ridiculous.
Flush with the success of “Disco Project,” Pulga decided to put out a sequel of sorts: another mashup, this time of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and The Greg Kihn Band’s “Jeopardy,” released under the title “B-Project.” As far as we’ve been able to find out, it was never a hit, but it’s even more fantastic than the Floyd/Parsons medley. And when Pink Project got invited to appear on another TV show, Pulga one-upped himself by…well, just watch and you’ll see.
Pink Project’s recorded output also consisted several other mashups, including a Police/Vangelis hybrid we quite like, a collision of Trio’s “Da Da Da” and Falco’s “Der Kommissar” called (obviously) “Der Da Da Da,” and a “Rockit”/”Superstition” mash that, sadly, is nowhere as awesome as that combo sounds. They also released a few original tracks, although the less said about them, the better.
All of Pink Project’s singles and their two albums, Domino and Split, are out of print, and there’s not much more info about the project on the web, at least in English. Even Stefano Pulga’s official website only mentions the group in passing (and in Italian, so we’re not sure what he says about it, except that it was “un prodotto nuovo”). But all of their stuff is widely available on YouTube and collector’s websites like Discogs, as well as a few of those naughty Torrent sites, if that’s your thing.
So what do you think? Italo-disco ’80s mashups—superior to hipster ’00s mashups? We say yes. Especially when delivered by guys dressed up like a low-budget cross between Xanadu and Lord of the Rings.
From the Jackson 5 to Black Tide to Smoosh, kids performing and recording pop and rock music is nothing new. But they seem to be getting younger all the time. And we’re not just saying that because we’re crusty old fogeys. Some of the kids in this latest wave of pre-teen rockers are so little, it looks like they can barely hold up their guitars, much less play them. And yet the best ones manage to rock out with more skill than your average happy hour cover band.
Case in point: The Mini Band, a pint-sized sextet from Berkshire, England who scored a YouTube hit late last year with a surprisingly credible rendition of “Enter Sandman.” Since then, they’ve started writing and recording original material, and they’ve even released their first music video, which you can see below. Both the song and the video ape mid-’90s alt-rock with uncanny accuracy, considering none of the band members were even born in the era of Soundgarden and Soul Asylum (the oldest of them, drummer Charlie, is 11; most of them are just 9). Either these kids are extraordinarily good for their ages, or mid-’90s-style alt-rock is so easy to churn out, even a bunch of 9-year-olds can do it. Probably a bit of both.
The Mini Band are hardly the only precocious-yet-retro rockers on the block. There’s also Haunted by Heroes (the self-proclaimed “World’s Youngest Rock Band,” a title they can no longer lay claim to since they’ve all turned 11), Crime Scene (who win the “most vaguely inappropriate name for a kids’ band” award), and this Japanese kids band that we really wish we knew the name of. We probably could have added any of them to The Weird List, but there’s something about The Mini Band, with the sharp contrast between their rosy-cheeked English adorableness and their fondness for Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers covers (they do a mean “Dani California“) that makes them stand out. Also, we kinda love the fact that they’re just called “The Mini Band.” Maybe “Ankle Biters” was already taken.
Anyway, here’s The Mini Band, standing in a pile of dead leaves trucked in from a Screaming Trees video, galloping through their original track, “Find the Time.” Somewhere, the father of a 3-year-old is watching this and saying to his wife, “See? I told you we shoulda started her on guitar lessons already.” (P.S. For the record, at least one Mini Band guitarist, Zoe Thomson, can seriously shred.)
It’s been too damn long since we made a cover band Weird Band of the Week, don’t you think? Let’s end the drought with a little “When the Levee Breaks,” as played by a reggae band led by a fat Elvis impersonator. Yes, people, we are finally paying tribute to the mighty Dread Zeppelin.
In case this ship sailed without you: Dread Zeppelin is a Led Zeppelin cover band that started right here in L.A. way back in 1990 or so…a time when Elvis impersonators were even more popular than they are now, if you can believe it. L.A. also gave birth around the same time to the so-called “Mexican Elvis,” El Vez; Nicolas Cage skydived into Vegas with the Flying Elvises’; and the band Living Colour felt compelled to remind everyone that “Elvis Is Dead.” Someone smarter than us has probably already explained this spike in Elvis mania, but let’s Google that shit later and get back to Dread Zeppelin, shall we?
Around this time, a semi-successful ’80s rock band called The Prime Movers was in the process of getting dropped by their label. (The Prime Movers’ biggest claim to fame, incidentally, was a song on the soundtrack to the 1986 film Manhunter. Their second biggest claim to fame was some seriously awesome ’80s hair in the accompanying music video) Unable to release any of their own music, they decided as a goof to remake Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”/”Hey Hey What Can I Do” single, but in a reggae style. And just to make the whole thing extra-ridiculous, they recruited an Elvis impersonator called Tortelvis (Greg Tortell) to sing lead vocals.
The single was a hit, as was the band’s live show, which mixed up Zeppelin, Elvis, Bob Marley and other random bits of popular music like Edwin Starr’s “War” (“what is it good for? absolutely nuthin’!”) and the Yardbirds’ “Train Kept A-Rollin.’” Dread Zeppelin was unleashed upon the masses.
And 22 years and about a zillion lineup changes later, they’re still unleashing it. They’re latest album, SoSo, just came out last year. If you got the Zeppelin in-joke in SoSo before you even saw the cover art, congratulations. You can probably also recite entire chapters of Hammer of the Gods, which we’re sure makes you a hit with the ladies.
Fun Dread Zep side notes: Robert Plant is a fan. Tortelvis performs with a personal assistant, Charlie Haj, whose entire job is to bring him water and towels. They have an album called No Quarter Pounder. And judging from their Facebook page, they really love donuts. Hey, Tortelvis didn’t get that fat on banana-and-peanut-butter sandwiches alone.
It may seem to the casual fan like Dread Zeppelin have run their shtick into the ground at this point…and, well, they kinda have. But they have actually tried to mix it up occasionally. They released an album of disco covers in 1992. The Fun Sessions includes covers of non-Zep classic rock staples like “Smoke on the Water” and “Freebird.” (So yes, you can yell “Freebird!” at a Dread Zeppelin show and not be a total asshole. OK, you might still be an asshole.)
But let’s face it: Anyone who’s ever gone to a Dread Zeppelin concert has been there to hear Elvis/reggae versions of “Black Dog” and “Whole Lotta Love.” Or Zep/Elvis mashups like the one in this video, which might feature our favorite self-indulgent guitar solo of all time. Mercy.
We usually only include one video per post, but fuck it. These guys deserve an encore. Besides, as excellent as the above clip is, it doesn’t fully showcase the band’s reggae chops. This one does: