It’s fitting that today’s weirdo, Mr. Vast, looks a little hungover in his promo photo. He’s from Germany and presumably that entire country is a bit bleary-eyed today after celebrating their historic World Cup win.
It’s also fitting that the track we’re going to share from Mr. Vast is called “Ease and Speed,” because that pretty accurately describes how the Germans dispatched Brazil yesterday. He’s actually got weirder music, but “Ease and Speed” just seemed too timely to pass up. Plus the video is jam-packed with the kind of green-screen tomfoolery we just never tire of, and Mr. Vast comes on like a groovy cross between Gary Numan and Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer. It’s good shit.
For more Mr. Vast, visit his official website.
We’ve been doing this blog for a long time, so we like to think we’ve gotten pretty good at tracking down information about obscure artists over the years. But every once in awhile, one of you eagle-eyed readers points us to something so far off the pop culture grid, no combination of Google search terms yields many results. That certainly seems to be the case with the South African novelty act Pocket Lips.
A reader named Shane sent us a link to Pocket Lips’ one and only hit—and yes, by accounts it was a hit in South Africa back in 1987, when it climbed all the way up to No. 6 on the local pop charts. Also by all accounts, the band was a studio project made up of producers/musicians Ian Osrin (actually a highly respected South African recording engineer and record producer with an extensive list of legit credits), Zack Haynes and Sam Wingate, plus a vocalist named Keith Berel who had previously fronted a popular Johannesburg band called Flash Harry. How all these apparently talented individuals came to record a song as ridiculous as “It’s Amazing (The Incredible Dance)” is a bit of a mystery—although I suppose the bigger mystery is how a song as ridiculous as “It’s Amazing (The Incredible Dance)” became a top 10 hit. Was pop radio under apartheid a whites-only affair? Maybe that might explain it.
At any rate, this ridiculous song from this ridiculous band (not be confused with a more recent U.K. act called Pocket Lips, who are also ridiculous, but for different reasons) has an equally ridiculous video, which we will now share with you because ridiculous is kind of our thing. Enjoy.
These day’s, it’s pretty common for veteran bands to dedicate entire shows to a single album. Everyone from the Pixies to Cheap Trick to Kraftwerk have jumped on that particular nostalgia bandwagon. What’s rarer is for bands to focus an entire tour around their earliest, most obscure material. But that’s exactly what DEVO have chosen to do for their Hardcore DEVO Live tour, which is based entirely on songs they wrote and/or recorded before the release of their first album, 1978′s Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! And judging from the audience response at the Wiltern Theatre here in Los Angeles last night, it was a smart decision. Turns out plenty of DEVO fans are super-excited to hear the band playing material that they mostly haven’t performed live in over 30 years.
There was no opening act, so the band took the stage promptly at 8:30 p.m.: Original DEVO-ers Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale, plus drummer Josh Freese, who’s been with the band more or less continuously since 1996. The stage set was cleverly made up to look vaguely like the Ohio basement in which the band started, with backdrops painted to look like cinderblocks, topped by translucent panels doubling as dirty windows. Mark sat at his keyboard reading a newspaper. “Nixon says he’s resigning,” he announced, his voice distorted to sound robotic and cartoonish. “I think 1974 is gonna be a good year.” Then he proceeded to hurl packs of cigarettes into the audience. “Got any Chesterfields?” Jerry asked. “I already gave away the one pack,” Mark quipped.
With the scene set and the hijinks out of the way, the band launched into “Mechanical Man,” the first track from the highly sought-after Hardcore Devo compilation that collected all their early demos onto CD for the first time back in 1990. From there the band proceeded to tear many of Hardcore Devo‘s best-known tracks: “Auto Modown/Space Girls Blues,” “I Been Refused,” “Bamboo Bimbo,” plus a few true obscurities like the bluesy “Beehive,” which someone at the Denver stop of this tour was smart enough to capture on film:
Serious DEVO fans probably also known this song from Jerry Casale’s Jihad Jerry side project, which revived the track in 2006. Throughout the Hardcore show, it was fun to see Jerry taking lead vocals duties as often as Mark—a reminder that, in the band’s early days, they didn’t have a true frontman. Bob 1 got a few turns on the mic, too, including “Baby Talkin’ Bitches,” one of several guitar-heavy early DEVO tracks that reveal the band’s roots in Midwestern proto-punk:
About midway through their set, the band got up from their stools and changed costumes, putting on the blue “workmen’s” suits and blue hardhats that served as their earliest band uniforms. From there, they launched into some better-known early tracks that definitely got the crowd more revved up (up until that point, apart from the one guy dancing like a lunatic directly in front of me, it was clear that most in attendance weren’t very familiar with the material).
This was the part of the show that included their brilliantly off-kilter cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” as well as several tracks from the 1974-77 era that eventually found their way onto Are We Not Men? and Duty Now for the Future: “Timing X,” “Uncontrollable Urge,” “Jocko Homo,” “Gut Feeling.” The crowd also knew many of the words to “Be Stiff,” a longtime live favorite, and “Fountain of Filth,” a punk rave-up with a shout-along chorus that could almost pass for a Ramones song. (In the video below, you can see Jerry wearing the creepy, transparent doll masks they donned earlier for “Jocko Homo,” another nod to the theatrics of their early days.)
They only played a two-song encore, but it was a pretty great two songs. First, Mark Mothersbaugh came out dressed as Booji Boy, one of the band’s early representations of devolution. This time around, he was dressed up sort of like a Teletubbie, in a pink hooded jumpsuit with cartoon eyes drawn over the hood. He also came onstage pushing a walker, perhaps an ironic nod to the fact that DEVO first introduced the character nearly 40 years ago.
After Mark’s solo performance of “Booji Boy’s Funeral” and “U Got Me Bugged”—definitely two of the weirdest songs in the entire DEVO catalog—the entire band came back out to wrap up the show with a rousing rendition of “Clockout,” featuring Bob Casale’s son Alex on bass. (A song they hadn’t played live since 1977, according to Jerry.) It was one of several nods to Bob 2 (and to late drummer Alan Myers) sprinkled throughout the evening, all of which felt fitting but never heavy-handed.
Overall, the band did a remarkably good job of keeping the show from lapsing into one big nostalgia-fest. The sheer rawness of the early DEVO songs probably helped in that regard, but so did the high-energy performances of the band. Even if they need to sit on stools these days to make it through a 90-minute set, the surviving Casale and the brothers Mothersbaugh can still rock out pretty convincingly for a bunch of guys well into their sixties. In my blurry Instagram photos, you’d swear they haven’t aged a day.
Since there was no opening act, the show ended on the early side, around 10:00 p.m. I heard a few protests from the crowd—a few people had probably hoped they would play some more “hits” in the encore—but as far as I’m concerned, the Hardcore DEVO show delivered exactly as promised. For the truly hardcore DEVO fans in attendance, especially that one dancing lunatic right in front of me (“How can you not to dance to this?” he shouted to no one in particular during “Ono”), it might have been their last chance to hear their heroes resurrect those songs they created back when they were a bunch of restless art students in an Akron basement.
We’re starting off the week with a flashback to 1984. While I was listening to The Cars and trying to grow my hair into a New Wave mullet, an experimental British musician who recorded under the name Fad Gadget was working on his latest album Gag in Berlin, continuing his attempts to combine pop and New Wave with industrial music. This time around, he was able to enlist some pretty cool collaborators: German industrial pioneers Einstürzende Neubauten. He was so appreciative of their contributions to one track that he named the song “Collapsing New People,” a nod to the English translation of their name, “Collapsing New Buildings.”
According to Dangerous Minds, this video is from a performance of “Collapsing New People” on a show called TV Playback in 1984. Fad Gadget was famous for dramatic, self-abusive stage antics like ripping out his own pubic hairs and tossing them into the audience. Since this was television, I guess he decided to settle for getting tarred and feathered instead.
[Update: At the moment, YFF's "Six Offender" video has been removed from YouTube due to a terms of service violation. As soon as it's restored, we'll update the link. In the meantime, we apologize for the disappointment.]
Today here at Weird Band HQ, we take another tiny step closer to resembling an actual, legit music blog. Say hello to our first-ever world premiere video, bitches! And make sure the kids are in the other room, because it features tons of graphic robot sex.
The video comes courtesy of our pals and former Weird Band Poll champs, Your Fuzzy Friends, still North Carolina’s leading plushie electro-pop jam band. It’s for the song “Six Offender,” from their new, yet-to-be-named album, which they are slaving away at as we speak. Well, all of them except YFF member Mono the Gay Unicorn, who since the making of the “Six Offender” video has been getting treatment for addiction to robot porn. It’s tragic, really.
We just got another one of those long “why haven’t you written about these bands yet?” lists from a reader named Sherlock (and we love those lists, by the way—keep ‘em coming! they are the lifeblood of this site). Among the many great weird finds Sherlock (yes, his real name) sleuthed out for us was a short-lived ’80s band from Australia called Big Pig, who were sort of a New Wave-era cross between Stomp, Adam Ant circa “Goody Two Shoes” and an Australian’s impersonation of a American-style hoedown, complete with stylized overalls and a harmonica player. Apparently the track in the video below, released in 1986, was a pretty big hit Down Under, but sadly the group disbanded after just two albums and never built much of a following outside Oz. Which is too bad, because in addition to being weird and highly original, a lot of their stuff is catchy as hell.
Thanks for the tip, Sherlock! We will probably be posting more of your suggestions soon, along with terrible detective puns because we can’t help ourselves.
Amazingly, both of Big Pig’s albums are available on Amazon.com, although our American readers will have to pay import prices for one, Bonk, and collector’s item resell prices for the other, You Lucky People. If you want to own a copy of “Hungry Town”—and why wouldn’t you?—the one to go for is Bonk.
I’m still geeking out over this one. On Wednesday, Gerald Casale of DEVO had a tasting party here in Los Angeles for the first two releases from his new winery, The 50 By 50. I got to go cover the event for my day gig at LA Weekly. You can read my write-up here, and you can look forward to a full transcript of my 20-minute interview with Jerry sometime this weekend, although be warned: It’s mostly just a couple of cork dorks shooting the shit about microclimates and Super Tuscans. Although I did manage to squeeze in a few DEVO-related questions at the end.
I also got to chat with Mark Mothersbaugh, although no transcript of that conversation is forthcoming because I’d already drunk a lot of wine by then. I will tell you this, though: When I complimented him on his glasses, he replied, “September!” At first I thought that was the name of the company that makes them, but no, that’s when they’ll be made available to the general public. They’re Mothersbaugh’s own design. “It’s actually really easy to get your own frames manufactured,” he said (and I’m paraphrasing here because, again, I was slightly tipsy and forgot to turn on my recorder). “You just have to agree to let the manufacturer keep all the money.”
So anyway, yeah, more on this little career highlight soon.
Exciting news for hardcore DEVO fans: The pioneers of devolved rock have just announced a 10-city tour that will focus on their early, experimental, pre-Are We Not Men?-era music. They’re calling it, appropriately enough, the “Hardcore DEVO Live” tour and dedicating to the memory of Robert “Bob 2″ Casale, who passed away earlier this year. A portion of the tour profits will even go towards Bob 2′s family—so come prepared to load up on DEVO merch.
Tickets for the tour (full dates below) go on sale in most cities tomorrow (Friday, Apr. 4th). It looks like they might be releasing pricier VIP tickets first, but they could be worth the $100+ price tag; they’ll get you a meet-and-greet with the band and first crack at the merch, which promises to include some limited-edition photo prints from the band’s 1974-1977 period. For ticket purchasing links and other details, hit up ClubDevo.com.
Given the tour’s ’74-’77 time frame, the set list should include all sort of lost nuggets and rarities—including, hopefully, this one:
Here are the Hardcore DEVO Live dates. Hope to see y’all at the L.A. show!
June 18 – Baltimore, MD – Rams Head
June 19 – NYC – Best Buy Theater
June 21 – St. Charles, IL – Arcada Theatre
June 23 – Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall
June 25 – Seattle, WA – Neptune
June 26 – Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom
June 28 – Oakland, CA – Fox Theatre
June 29 – Los Angeles, CA – Wiltern Theatre
June 30 – Solana Beach, CA – Belly Up
July 2 – Austin, TX – ACL/Moody Theatre
Anyone who reads this blog probably knows this by now, but we lost another member of DEVO this week. Bob Casale, one of the band’s founding members, died Monday of heart failure at the age of 61. His death comes less than a year after former DEVO drummer Alan Myers died of cancer. Yeah, it’s been a rough couple of years for DEVO and their fans.
Casale played guitar and keyboards and was known as “Bob2″ because guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh was “Bob1.” Here’s what his brother, DEVO co-founder Gerald Casale, said about Bob2 on the band’s website:
As an original member of Devo, Bob Casale was there in the trenches with me from the beginning.
He was my level-headed brother, a solid performer and talented audio engineer, always giving more than he got.
He was excited about the possibility of Mark Mothersbaugh allowing Devo to play shows again.
His sudden death from conditions that lead to heart failure came as a total shock to us all.
Added DEVO frontman Mark Mothersbaugh:
We are shocked and saddened by Bob Casale’s passing. He not only was integral in DEVO’s sound, he worked over twenty years at Mutato, collaborating with me on sixty or seventy films and television shows, not to mention countless commercials and many video games.
Bob was instrumental in creating the sound of projects as varied as Rugrats and Wes Anderson’s films. He was a great friend. I will miss him greatly.
I know we’re usually a bunch of snarky snarkheads on this blog, but not this week. Our hearts go out to everyone in the DEVO family.
Let’s play this post our with some live DEVO circa 1979. It really sucks that two of the five guys in this clip are no longer with us.
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.