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.
A few days ago, our old friend Richard There posted a comment on TWBITW noting that he has a new video for his song “Silence Train”—his first proper music video, according to his website. Congrats, Richard! MTV will be your oyster any day now. That is, if they ever start showing music videos again.
“Silence Train” was directed by Brian Square—a pretty weird musician in his own right—and features lots of found black-and-white footage of trains, bustling city streets, diving horses and various other peculiar images from bygone days. The song it accompanies describes what sounds like a fairly humdrum train ride, but Richard imparts the whole thing with a dreamlike sense of foreboding and dread. His music has gotten less rough and more atmospheric, too, at least on this track. We like!
In other news from There, Richard is playing his first-ever U.K. show in Colchester on June 2nd, the first date of what he plans to make into a full-fledged U.K. tour. We’re not really sure where Colchester is, but if you’re anywhere near it and you dig weird music, go. The show will also feature this guy.
Ready to take a ride on the “Silence Train”? Please present your tickets and existential angst to the conductor. Thank you.
Okay, so I know I made a big production on New Year’s Day about how we were gonna start having Weird Wednesdays as the day to unveil our Weird Band of the Week—and by the time 99% of you see this, it won’t be Wednesday anymore. Bear with us, okay? We’re still getting used to this whole operating on a regular schedule thing.
So anyway, our first weird band of 2012 is actually more of a solo project. Her name is Merrill Garbus and she operates under the name Tune-Yards…or, as she prefers to type it out, like a 14-year-old in an AOL chat room, tUnE-yArDs. Which right away should tell you that we’re dealing someone a little off-center here.
Fortunately, Merrill’s music is much less annoying than her use of capital letters. She recorded her first album, Bird-Brains (okay, fine, BiRd-BrAiNs) at home on a voice recorder, multi-tracking her vocals along with some very lo-fi percussion and the occasional guitar, bass, ukulele and hard-to-identify racket. Her music is at once abstract and somehow very pop, with lots of pretty layered vocals and the occasional soul shout—seriously, this woman can belt like Nina Simone, with a force that kind of catches you off-guard when it’s rising up out of all this primitive, home-tape murk. It doesn’t seem like that voice can possibly be coming out of this funny-looking, slightly androgynous hippie chick—but there it is, and she totally owns it. Merrill Garbus is fierce.
What’s even more amazing is that, thanks to getting signed to this uber-hip indie label 4AD Records and getting written up all the blogs that are way cooler than, say, us (i.e. Pitchfork, Drowned in Sound, Coke Machine Glow), Merrill Garbus and tUnE-yArDs have become sort of indie famous. The video for her song “Bizness,” off her second and far more polished album, Whokill (okay, fine, w h o k i l l), has racked up over
1.8 2.3 million views on YouTube. For something as peculiar as tUnE-yArDs to be seen and heard by that many people…well, it kind of renews our faith in the power of weirdness.
I was really hoping we could embed the video for “Real Live Flesh” off tUnE-yArDs’ first album, because it’s by far the weirdest thing Merrill Garbus has ever done—a sort of dykey, art-school send-up of video vixen come-hitherness with lots of face paint and awkward editing and even more awkward dancing all set to a song that’s like an R&B slow jam getting shaken around inside an empty coffee can. But embedding seems to have been disabled on that video, so we’ll have to settle for the video for “Bizness,” which is actually okay because if we can help get it to 2 million views, we’ll have done our part. [Update: Mission accomplished!] Also, if you haven’t already, you should go check out our first-ever Weirdify playlist, because the tUnE-yArDs track “You Yes You” is the first song in the mix and it will make you feel grateful to have been blessed with the power of hearing. No seriously, it’s that good.
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!”
- Threebrain official site (currently just a static page promising “new site coming soon”)
- Gonads and Strife! (onetime online home of Threebrain; appears to have been inactive since April 2010)
- Toilet of Wisdom (a collection of quotes from bathroom walls; may or may not be related to Threebrain-affiliated comedy troupe of the same name)
- Threebrain on MySpace
- Threebrain’s YouTube channel
- Threebrain on Facebook
- Threebrain at Albino Blacksheep (classic Flash videos)
- Threebrain on Newgrounds (more recent videos)
Who says our democracy is broken? Once again, our readers have spoken! And by spoken, I mean clicked little buttons on our Submit and Vote page. And what they have told us is this: Dolchnakov Brigade are a really weird fucking band.
How weird, you ask? Well, they didn’t receive a single “Not weird” vote, which in the entire history of TWBITW has never…oh wait, sorry it’s actually happened before four other times. Still, not too shabby.
Beyond that, what can we tell you about these guys? Honestly, not much. The “About Us” page of their website is just a random list of shit like “crawling creatures” and “Bruce Lee” and “Rush Limbaugh in a coma.” Which is kind of an awesome way to describe your band, but not very helpful to us bloggers. We want easy answers, Dolchnakov Brigade! Why do you deny us the simple pleasures our short attention spans demand?
But with a little digging, here’s what else we’ve found out: They seem Russian but they’re actually from Brooklyn. (Okay, we didn’t actually have to dig for that one…they emailed and told us.) Their music is basically lo-fi, campy synth-pop. We’re pretty sure the main guy is named Clark Silkmer, but he might also be a dude named Shlomi Lavie who, randomly, is also the drummer for Marcy Playground. (Yes, they’re still around; we were surprised, too.) The other band members seem to consist of two backup dancer/singers, a keyboard player, and a rubber rat named RAT! who produces their beats on an MPC pad. They have a Tumblr. The organizing principal behind the band is summed up by the word “Palevish” which we thought was Russian but we think now might just be made up. The band’s official website describes it like this:
“Palevish! (pronounced Pal-Eh-Veesh) is the concept of taking a seemingly random and meaningless idea and repetitively executing it with full conviction like it was a matter of life and death. Then, at some point, it becomes a matter of life and death.”
I can get behind that. Kinda sounds like the organizing principal behind this whole blog, actually.
And who knows? Maybe that’s all you really need to know about Dolchnakov Brigade. Or maybe they’ll reveal more about themselves when they feel the world is ready.
Their live show still seems to be a bit of a work in progress, but they have made a few low-budg videos that are pretty creepy/hilarious. Here’s the one for their catchiest tune, “Onion Is the Underdog.” Respect!
Democracy has struck again here at TWBITW. The latest band featured on our Submit & Vote page, a London outfit called BAANEEX (why all caps? because they’re shouting it at you, that’s why), was overwhelmingly declared Weird by you, our ever-fickle readers. So congrats, BAANEEX! Apparently it was not presumptuous of you to name your debut EP Weird Dance after all.
We actually don’t know very much about BAANEEX, except that some of them used to be in another band called Muarena Helena and they’ve been together since 2009 or so. They’ve also apparently been known to describe their music as “Dracula-inspired garage punk/noisepop/roarcore.” So there’s that.
They also have a couple of videos, our favorite of which was apparently created by their drummer, who’s either called Rosie or Risoe (or maybe someone in the band is just mildly dyslexic). It’s called “Cool Count” and it’s posted below.
BAANEEX is one of those bands that isn’t overtly weird. They don’t have any clever gimmicks or a wacky stage show. They’re basically just a noise rock band. But there’s something about them that’s definitely a bit off. Plus, how great is that publicity photo? So we’re happy they made the Weird List.