So the other day, Travis from backwoods clatter-punks The Chewers writes us and is all like, “Our second album Chuckle Change And Also has just been released on real-life CD through Cimmerian Shade Recordings, fully mastered. Will you tell the kids about it?” And we were all like, “Hells yeah we will! An album released on CD? I hear that shit is the new vinyl! Everyone’s gonna want a copy cuz it’s all retro.”
But seriously, the new CD has cool artwork and four live bonus tracks and at eight bucks plus free shipping in the U.S., it’s a pretty good deal for a piece of technology that’s only somewhat obsolete.* If you wanna be all 21st century about it, you can also buy a digital download of the album for five bucks. But get the CD so you can wave it around when The Chewers blow up and be all, “I was into them back when people still bought CDs, bitches!“
Anyway, both CD and download are available via the Cimmerian Shade website, which calls The Chewers “mind-melting, idiosyncratic, Beefheartian punk from the outer limits.” Wish we’d come up with that. Has a much nicer ring to it than “a couple of tattooed hillbillies who decided to retire early from the bathtub speed trade and form a band based on the Residents and Tom Waits records they found at a yard sale in Wheeling.” That was the best we could come up with when they won our Weird Band Poll back in April ’13. Bit long-winded in retrospect.
Let’s play this post out with a sample of Chuckle Change And Also‘s fully mastered charms. This is called “Smiling Samuel” and I’m pretty sure it’s about a guy I used to work with at the DMV.
So it seems that while the rest of us were unwrapping presents and/or going out for dim sum this past Dec. 25th, the folks over at weirdo label Electric Phantom were hard at work. They released two Christmas Day videos from their top artists, Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin and Chimney Crow—but they also threw in a twist: Petunia does a Chimney Crow song, and the Chimney Crow does a MacPumpkin song! It’s like that Peter Gabriel Scratch My Back project, except that it’s actually worth listening to.
If you want the full story of how this little project came about, watch this video and all will be revealed. (You’ll also find out which member of Chimney Crow is obsessed with The Residents—I would’ve assumed they all were, but it turns out the other guys are more into horses and stuff.)
But let’s get right to the good bits. Here’s Petunia turning Chimney Crow’s “Teddybear and His Bullet” into a spooky, skeletal hymn:
And here’s Chimney Crow sneaking a nifty little dance groove in under the funhouse nursery rhymes of P.L. MacP’s “Houseplants.” With audio-visual aids, no less!
So thanks for these little surprise Christmas presents, Electric Phantom. We look forward to more of your inimitable weirdness in 2014.
Christmas came early here at Weird Band HQ this weekend, in the form of a brand new video from Chimney Crow, the mysterious electro-pop ensemble with the creepy basement. Previously, the only visual accompaniment for the über-funky “Run for My Life” was some found and highly distorted video of a bunch of B-boys, but now Chimney Crow have created an original stop-motion clip for the track, which features cartoon versions of the Crow crew busting some moves of their own.
By the way, in case you’re not familiar the song’s subject matter: DMT is a very powerful psychedelic substance that we don’t recommend ingesting while watching this video. Or at all, really, unless you’re accompanied by an experienced shaman and maybe an EMT or two.
Sometimes it’s the simple videos that are ultimately the most effective. This one, posted today by our buddies Chimney Crow, is called “Bucks Bike Ride Bride” and it’s about, well, a bike ride. And a bride. Pop a Dramamine and enjoy.
Stoner rock pranksters Ween may have called it quits last year, and Mickey “Dean Ween” Melchiondo may be more into fishing these days than music, but that doesn’t mean he’s hung up his axe for good. In fact, in this cool new video from Noisey, Vice’s music blog spinoff, he proves he’s still got chops for days—even though he also claims to have only played two different solos his entire career. (For you fledgling young guitarists out there: They’re lifted from the Allman Brothers’ “Blue Sky” and Funkadelic‘s “Maggot Brain.” Look ‘em up!)
Over the course of a rambling conversation/jam sesh with fellow guitarist Matt Sweeney, Dean also breaks down how to play the Ween classic “”Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony?”, argues that Jimmy Page is the greatest sloppy guitarist of all time, and demonstrates the only two proper places for guys to wear their guitar: “It either goes below your dick or over your dick.” So that’s what I’ve been doing wrong all these years! I always assumed it was because I’m tone deaf and never practice.
Spoiler alert: No, they don’t discuss the possibility of a Ween reunion. But our money’s still on Coachella 2014.
Nashville doesn’t have a reputation as a hotbed of weird music, but maybe it should. Between Here Come the Mummies, H-Beam and now our latest Weird Band Poll winners, The Chewers, Music City U.S.A. has been flying its freak flag at full mast of late.
The Chewers are Travis Caffrey on (mainly) guitar and Michael Sadler on (mainly) drums, although their songs also feature a lot of programmed sounds and the occasional oddball instrument. (We’re particularly fond of the instrumental track “Don’t Go in the Tent,” which manages to make the usually goofy Siren Whistle sound like it’s coming to suck the breath from your body.) They describe themselves as “two freaks from the woods of West Virginia” and there is definitely a creepy, Deliverance-y quality to their off-kilter tunes, as though a couple of tattooed hillbillies decided to retire early from the bathtub speed trade and form a band based on the Residents and Tom Waits records they found at a yard sale in Wheeling.
But just because they’re hillbillies, don’t mistake them for rubes. There’s a smart, satirical edge to a lot of The Chewers’ best songs, like this two-for-one send-up of organized religion and the pharmaceutical industry (if you can’t see the SoundCloud players below, click here):
Then again, they’re also pretty great at just grunting salaciously, basically turning the first 30 seconds of The Doors’ “Back Door Man” into an entire song:
Finally, here’s a more recent track, “Burn It Down.” The vocals have gotten even weirder, but the music’s gotten groovier, too. We’re digging it.
They also make pretty good videos. Here’s one for “Techno-Slaves,” a track from their latest album, Chuckle Change and Also. We especially like the little saloon-keeper singing trio croaking away in the lower right hand corner.
So congrats on winning our April Weird Band Poll and keeping Nashville weird, guys. And if you see Brad Paisley, please bitch-slap him for us, OK? That “Accidental Racist” song might be the worst thing we’ve ever heard.
We got introduced to this week’s weird band by Ms. Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin. Like Petunia herself, they remain something of a mystery. They’re called Chimney Crow. They’re from Michigan. Their leader calls himself Paulisgone. They wear fox-as-done-by-a-third-grader masks. They have a song about DMT. There might be three of them, or it might all be the work of Paulisgone and some carefully posed mannequins. And one former member might have killed himself in some kind of weird sex ritual. And that’s about all we know.
Well, that’s not quite true. We also know that their music is dark, electronic and generally quite groovy. They’ve recorded some stuff with a lady vocalist named Sarah Kristina, who also appears all over their Facebook photos, draped over various Chimney Crow members and sashaying around a basement in a little red dress. The other members of Chimney Crow are Ben Daschle and Buck Anders. Buck replaced the dead guy, Alan Bain. Here’s a song the band was in the midst of recording when they found out Ben had offed himself. Naturally, they finished the song. You know, out of respect for the dead and all.
Chimney Crow have uploaded all kinds of wacky videos to their YouTube page and a shit-ton of songs to Soundcloud. Here’s one called “Aliens are just gnomes for our paradigm part 14 (section 8)” that we’ve been jamming to (if you can’t see the Soundcloud player, click here):
They also recorded a very timely song called “The Flu.” I feel sicker just listening to it.
But my favorite thing they’ve done so far has to be this video for the track “17 Guns,” which features someone even more batshit than Petunia and Chimney Crow: an artist from Arizona named Diana Campanella who has uploaded approximately five zillion YouTube videos of herself “freestyle dancing” in her gallery. Usually she dances to stuff like Michael Jackson and Taylor Dane, but somehow she hooked up with Chimney Crow and did a little interpretive boogie to a song of theirs called “17 Guns.” Ain’t the Internet grand?
So the winner of our latest Weird Band Facebook Poll™ seems to be a big fan of our site (she’s been sharing links on our Facebook page like crazy), but we still know almost nothing about her. Then again, maybe that’s OK. Certain acts work better if there’s an air of mystery. We probably don’t really need to know the full story behind Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin. Or maybe she’ll decide to share it with us someday and it’ll be just as weird as her music. Although that’s asking a lot, because her music is some of the trippiest shit we’ve heard in a long time.
MacPumpkin is (we think) the creation/alter-ego/bizarro version of a lady from Florida named Melody Felicia-Baril McGinn. We first heard about her from a new reader named TommyTopHat. Sup, Tommy? Thanks for the tip.
Melody apparently grew up a huge fan of The Residents (hence her fondness for top hats) and Renaldo & The Loaf (another band we really should add to The Weird List one of these days). She says she started making her heavily Residents/Renaldo-inspired MacPumpkin music back in the early ’90s and is only just now getting around to releasing it via Bandcamp.
Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin’s one and only album is called Fish Drive Edsels and it’s completely insane. Vocals and rhythms speed up and slow down like some kind of cracked funhouse carnival music. The lyrics, when you can make them out, are about cowboys bagging groceries, conversations with frozen fish, and something called the Bedazzler, which we thought was just some tool chicks use for putting sequins on shit but is apparently also, in Petunia’s world, a shapeshifting monster who “usually comes at night when there’s a storm.” When I was a little kid, I was afraid of a similar monster called the Beshatter who would come at night and take a dump on your head. But I digress.
Besides Fish Drive Edsels, MacPumpkin has also released a few new tunes on Soundcloud, including one that sets Edward Lear’s poem “The Jumblies” to music that sounds like acid rock for Oompa-Loompas, and another inspired by electro-soul weirdo Gary Wilson. Apparently she and Wilson have some kind of mutual admiration society going, because on her website, MacPumpkin has this quote from Wilson: “After a pleasant listening, Petunia inspired us to go out and have some fish and chips.” High praise indeed. Here’s the Wilson-inspired track, “He Cried.” (Note: If you see a blank space below instead of a Soundcloud player, click here and that should fix the problem.)
Melody Felicia-Baril McGinn may or may not also be the lunatic behind another musical persona called Rosewater Treacle Tart. Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin hasn’t made any YouTube videos…or actually, it looks like she once had YouTube videos and for some reason she’s taken them all down. But this Rosewater Treacle Tart video is amazing, so we’re including it here, even though we haven’t confirmed it’s the same chick. Us, fact-check? Fuck that. Even the New York Times barely does that shit these days.
So congrats on being our Weird Band of the Week, Petunia! And to all our readers: If you wanna see more quality artists like PL MacP make the grade around here, go vote in our latest Facebook poll. I know, Facebook sucks now, but at least it’s not as bad as Google+. Yet.
Sad news in the world of weird bands this week: Ween have broken up. At least according to Aaron “Gene Ween” Freeman they have; Mickey “Dean Ween” Melchiondo, heartbreakingly, seems to have been totally blindsided by the whole thing. “This is news to me, all I can say for now I guess,” Dean posted on Ween’s Facebook page. Poor guy.
We never got around to adding Ween to the Weird List sooner because, frankly, we’ve always classified them more as “quirky” than out-and-out weird—more left-of-center than, say, They Might Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies, but part of that same continuum of late ’80s/early ’90s bands whose reaction to the bloviated mainstream rock of the era was to genre-hop with cheeky abandon. But we know plenty of our readers are big fans, so when news of Freeman’s breakup announcement hit yesterday, we decided to revisit their gargantuan catalog (extra-gargantuan, if you include all their self-released ’80s material). And you know what? These dudes were pretty weird.
The hardcore fans don’t really need a tally of all their wackiest moments, but for the punters, let’s include one anyway:
Their early, self-released cassettes, mostly recorded when they were still in their teens and getting baked in the totally adorable Philadelphia exurb of New Hope, PA (I’ve been there and, trust me, it’s like if Martha Stewart designed an entire town), included such immortal titles as Axis: Bold as Boognish and Erica Petersen’s Flaming Crib Death. They recorded everything on four-track and would frequently speed up or slow down the playback to achieve various creepy psychedelic and underwater effects, like on this track.
Their first major-label release, 1992′s Pure Guava, included such track titles as “Reggaejunkiejew,” “Poop Ship Destroyer” and “Touch My Tooter.” Amazingly, it also produced a hit single, “Push th’ Little Daisies.” When their label, Elektra, made them release a radio edit of the song that omitted the word “shit” from the lyrics, they replaced the word with a Prince sample and titled the new version “Push th’ Little Daisies (Shitless Radio Edit – No Shit).”
In 1996, they went to Nashville and made a country album. It was actually pretty good, too.
They followed that up in 1997 with The Mollusk, a nautical-themed concept album that many consider to be their best work—or at least their weirdest. It also inspired at least one great Lego-mation video.
They became one of the first bands to fully embraced digital music formats in 1999, when they released their next album, Craters of the Sac, exclusively on MP3.
They committed fewer acts of weirdness in the ’00s, although they did release their one and only full-on house track, the awesomely ridiculous “Friends.”
Even post-Ween, Dean and Gene have been keeping it weird. Gene’s first solo album under his real name, Aaron Freeman, is made up entirely of Rod McKuen songs. Dean Ween, meanwhile, has mostly gone fishin’—literally. You can charter a fishing trip with him on the Delaware River or off the Jersey Shore through Mickey’s Guide Service.
It’s also worth mentioning that arguably no other band, over the course of the past 20 years, covered more musical terrain. Ween songs range from punk to psychedelic rock to lo-fi bedroom folk to ambient tape loop experiments to country to reggae to bossa nova to funk to sea shanties to Led Zeppelin covers and back to punk again. They could seemingly do anything—and while much of it was done with tongue firmly in cheek, it was all executed with undeniable skill, which may be the single quality their fans love about them the most. Listening to the Ween catalog is like listening to a really good barroom jukebox after a really good bong rip.
We’ll leave you with “Push th’ Little Daisies,” which for me remains Ween’s crowning achievement (and yes, I know, that’s sacrilege to all you hardcore fans, but c’mon—how great is this song?). Also, how freakin’ cute are Dean and Gene in this video? They look like they’re barely old enough to drive.
We look forward to your Coachella 2014 reunion, guys!
More news from the Land of There, population: one. Our old pal Richard There, he of the vaguely unsettling comic strips and even more unsettling lo-fi bedroom pop songs, has just made his very first album, Future Come Back to Me, available to the public for the first time. “I made in 2008 and just showed to some few friends,” he writes. “It´s a very simple album, every song is a cappella, no instruments used to record the album but it´s something that I still like very much.”
The album is available now on Bandcamp; you can stream the whole thing for free or buy it as a name-your-price download. If that’s too big a commitment, you should at least watch this delightful (and unsettling) little animated video Richard made for the track, “If You Call Me.” We think it’s his version of a love song, but it could also be a playground argument. It works on many levels.