Can robots trip balls? We’re about to find out. Captured! By the Robots, the world’s greatest Journey-covering nearly-all-robot band, is heading out on tour this April and May, and they’re promising a mind and/or CPU-expanding show the likes of which we sad little meat puppets have never seen. There will be baby eating. There will be dildo trombones. There may or may not be some unicorn riding. Or maybe there will baby riding and unicorn eating. You don’t know, and neither do we. All we can do is tell you the dates.
4/17/2013 Slabtown Portland
4/18/2013 Chop Suey Seattle
4/19/2013 The Palace Missoula
4/20/2013 The Shredder Boise
4/21/2013 Urban Lounge Salt Lake City
4/24/2013 3 Kings Tavern Denver
4/26/2013 The Brick Kansas City
4/27/2013 Triple Rock Minneapolis
4/28/2013 The Aquarium Fargo
5/1/2013 JD’s Bar Green Bay
5/2/2013 The Frequency Madison
5/3/2013 Cactus Club Milwaukee
5/4/2013 Martyrs Chicago
5/5/2013 House Cafe Dekalb
5/7/2013 TBA Marshall
5/8/2013 Mac s Bar Lansing
5/9/2013 Blind Pig Ann Arbor
5/10/2013 Grog Shop Cleveland Heights
5/11/2013 The Note West Chester
5/12/2013 Chameleon Club Lancaster
5/15/2013 The Hideaway Johnson City
5/16/2013 Milestone Club Charlotte
5/17/2013 The Jinx Savannah
5/18/2013 The Earl Atlanta
5/22/2013 Artmosphere Lafayette
5/23/2013 TBA Austin
5/24/2013 Double Wide Dallas
5/25/2013 Rubber Gloves Denton
5/28/2013 LAUNCH PAD Albuquerque
5/30/2013 Rhythm Room Phoenix
5/31/2013 TBA San Diego
6/1/2013 TBA Los Angeles
I’ll repeat here what I already told C!BR on their Facebook page: When you gearheads come to L.A. (and you better, godammit), you should play The Smell. That place is awesome. Bring a few robot floor fans, though. Otherwise you’ll probably blow a gasket when the temperature hits 120 and the walls start sweating.
We’ll leave you with a behind-the-scenes video of C!BR drummer DRMBOT0110 stress testing his double kick-drum. If you’re a drummer in a death metal band, you might wanna start looking for other work.
It’s yet another first here at Weird Band HQ: This week, two artists will share the title of Weird Band of the Week. It seems only fitting, since Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer and Professor Elemental were finally able to quash their long-running feud and agree to share the top of the chap-hop heap.
Let’s back up a bit. “Chap-hop” is a term that, as far as we can tell, was originally coined by Mr. B (real name: Jim Burke), a London rapper who adopted the trappings of the British “Chappist” movement, a subculture devoted to the more genteel ways of Downtown Abbey-era England, complete with lots of tweed, liberal use of the word “jolly” and well-manicured facial hair. By combining dandyish style (and an adorably retro instrument called the banjolele) with the rhymes, beats and cocksure attitude of hip-hop, Mr. B created a whole new subgenre of music. Or did he?
This is where it gets interesting. Because you see, before Mr. B ever dropped a rhyme about his watch fob, another chap in nearby Brighton by the name of Professor Elemental (real name: Paul Alborough) was mixing rap with Edwardian swag on songs like “Cup of Brown Joy,” an ode to tea drinking whose loopy, low-budget video has racked up 1.5 million views on YouTube, making it a chap-hop anthem on par with, say, “Gin & Juice.”
Although Professor Elemental initially identified himself as a “steampunk mad scientist” (you can tell he’s steampunk because he sometimes wears goggles on his pith helmet) rather than a practitioner of chap-hop, it wasn’t long before he discovered the existence of Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer and began drawing battle lines. “I can’t walk down the street these days without being mistaken for Mr. B, or without folk asking if I am going to battle the cad,” he said in an interview with The Chap, the scene’s magazine of record. In 2010, two years after both chap rappers first rose to prominence, he released a song and video called “Fighting Trousers” that called out Mr. B in no uncertain terms.
Mr. B eventually responded with his own shot across the bow, a capital little brag track called “Just Like a Chap.” But by this point, the battle was all in good fun, as you’ll see towards the end when Professor E himself makes a good-natured cameo.
Anyone wishing to further weigh the relative merits of chap-hop’s two leading lights should peruse footage from this 2011 “chap-off.”
Although we do find Professor Elemental’s Jules Verne-inspired zaniness entertaining, and although he certainly meets the criteria for weirdness set out by our esteemed blog (the fellow has a gorilla butler named Geoffrey for a sidekick, by Jove), we tend to find Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer a more satisfyingly polished performer. Maybe it’s the banjolele that gives him his edge. Or this video. Or the fact that, unlike Professor E, he seems to know how to use a straight razor.
It’s worth noting that Mr. B and Prof E have inspired a whole chap-hop movement, and there’s now a host of other artists busting rhymes like it’s 1899: Poplock Holmes, Class Rhymes and Reginald Pikedevant, Esquire, to name only a few. At this rate, chap-hop seems poised to outlast the post-Downtown Abbey acting career of that fool who played Matthew Crawley. Seriously, why would anyone quit the best show ever on British television? What a cad.
P.S. We almost forgot to thank readers Wallicoth and Charm Man for introducing us to the joys of chap-hop. Good show, gents!
- Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer official site
- Professor Elemental official site
- The Chap-Hop Shop (Mr. B’s online store)
- Professor Elemental on Bandcamp
- Professor Elemental on Facebook
- Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer on Facebook
- Mr. B on Tumblr
- “In ‘Chap-Hop,’ Gentlemen Rappers Bust Rhymes About Tea, Cricket” (good article about chap-hop from, of all places, the Wall Street Journal)
Hey, American weirdos: Didja vote this week? If you voted in Florida, I bet you’re pissed, huh? All that standing in line and your state didn’t even count. Ain’t democracy a bitch?
Here at Weird Band HQ, we did some vote tallying of our own this week, and in our latest Facebook poll, Your Fuzzy Friends played Obama to everyone else’s Romney (and at least one band’s Gary Johnson), kicking ass and taking names en route to a totally adorable victory. Why adorable? Because aside from one lone human member, Lee Grutman (plus behind-the-scenes synth dude Kelly Shane), Your Fuzzy Friends is a band comprised entirely of hand puppets. Fuzzy ones. Hence the name, we presume…although Grutman looks a little fuzzy himself.
YFF are from Charlotte, North Carolina, or thereabouts, and feature a mustachioed unicorn named Mono, a tuxedo cat named Thomas (pronounced Thomasse, according to the website) and a porcupine named Quill Prickley. I’m gonna call their music nerdtastic electro-pop. I guess Thomas would disagree since he’s a self-proclaimed hipster, but they just dressed up as DEVO for Halloween. So call me when you dress up as Grizzly Bear and I’ll reconsider the whole hipster/nerd thing, OK, Thomas?
Your Fuzzy Friends just released their very first music video, the first of an eight-week series of videos all shot for $5. Let’s have a look, shall we?
I know you were probably thinking, “Huh, I wonder where that $5 went.” Then, bam! Mustache Belly shows up. I’m guessing it was probably about two bucks for the fake ‘stache and about three bucks worth of Pabst to get Mustache Belly loosened up. Clearly it was money well spent.
(P.S. If you’re wondering where you can score yourself a $5 dollar ‘stache dance, hit up Fiverr.com. It’s like the ass end of Craig’s List up in there, and I mean that in the best possible way.)
(P.P.S. For some fucking reason, there appears to be not a single video of Your Fuzzy Friends in concert anywhere. Get on it, Internet!)
(P.P.P.S. Go vote in our latest Facebook poll, will ya? These bands don’t pick themselves.)
So congrats of making the Weird List, Fuzzies! And keep those $5 videos coming. I’m sure we’ll post a few more somewhere down the line.
This week’s weird act was suggested by reader jlrake, who wrote in with all sorts of worthy weirdo contenders. We’re going with Gary S. Paxton because he’s responsible for one of the most
popular overplayed Halloween songs of all time and a catchy little tune called “Vote Em Out Boogie,” both of which seemed pretty apropos for this week. If only he’d written a song about hurricanes, we’d be hitting the timeliness trifecta.
Throughout his 40-plus year career, Paxton has been a master of the novelty song. His very first hit, “Alley Oop,” was a Coasters-style R&B goof about a caveman from a popular comic strip, recorded with fellow nutjob Kim Fowley and a thrown-together group called The Hollywood Argyles. He followed that up with the revered/reviled Halloween party staple, “Monster Mash,” which he produced with singer Bobby “Boris” Pickett in 1962. But surprisingly, his music really took a turn for the weird after he converted to Christianity in 1970. His early Jesus stuff was fairly conventional, easy-listening ’70s gospel—like his most successful Christian song, the oft-covered “He Was There All the Time.” But his Amish-on-steroids facial hair was a clue that the dude behind “Alley Oop” and “Monster Mash” was, well, there all the time.
That dude—the Paxton who would eventually start wearing, y’know, gold boots and masks with his initials on them—really busted out on his second gospel album, More From the Astonishing, Outrageous, Amazing, Incredible, Unbelievable Gary S. Paxton (a sequel, obviously, to The Astonishing, Outrageous, Amazing, Incredible, Unbelievable, Different World of Gary S. Paxton). Alongside more conventional Bible-belt fodder like “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” were such immortal Paxton originals as “Jesus Is My Lawyer in Heaven,” “When the Meat Wagon Comes for You” and my personal favorite, “There Goes a Cigar Smoking a Man.” If Bible Camp had been more like this, I might have gone for more than one weekend.
Paxton’s next album, Terminally Weird/But Godly Right, further cemented his status as sort of a Christian cross (Jesus pun!) between Randy Newman and Wavy Gravy: a lovable but irascible old hippie writing catchy little songs that were easy to dismiss as silly but full of sly social satire to anyone who was paying attention. You can listen to excerpts of the whole thing on The Pax’s website. We recommend starting with “Fat, Fat Christians.”
A bizarre and tragic event nearly ended Paxton’s life in 1980. He was living in Nashville at the time and producing a lot of country artists. Depending on which version of the story you believe (Paxton’s, or that of his current wife, Vicki Sue Roberts), Paxton was shot three or five times by two hitmen hired to kill him over a contract dispute with a country singer he was working with. He survived, only to run into troubles with the IRS and develop a near-fatal case of hepatitis C. Oh, and he might have also had an affair with Tammy Faye Bakker. So the ’80s were a particularly odd time for The Paxman.
Since 1999, Paxton has lived in Branson, Missouri with Roberts, where he by all accounts (well, his and Vicki’s) keeps a fairly low profile. He can’t perform any more because of his health problems, but that hasn’t stopped him from churning out a steady stream of increasingly bizarre novelty songs, including “When I Die Just Bury Me at Wal-Mart” and “Frankenclone” (The Pax does house music!). He also does the occasional conservative wingnut screed, but he’s old and white and lives in Missouri, so we’ll let that slide.
So Happy Halloween and Happy Almost-Election Day, My Gary S. “Monster Mash/Obamascare” Paxton! We hope you’re still keeping it weird in Branson, even if we also hope “Vote ‘Em Out Boogie” only applies to the Tea Party and not our boy Barack. He’s not perfect, but Romney and Ryan scare the shit out of us.
Most of Paxton’s weirdest stuff sadly is unavailable on YouTube, but we did rather enjoy the zany lyrics (though not, it must be noted, the gratuitous use of gruesome Holocaust imagery—sorry about that part) of this little pro-gun ditty. You’re totally right, Gary, no handgun ever drove itself to a schoolyard. All inanimate objects are inherently harmless! C4 and hand grenades for everyone! And anyone who disagrees is Hitler.
You know what automatically makes just about anything cooler? Robots, that’s what. By that measure, Captured! by Robots (no relation, as far as we know, to Panic! at the Disco) is the coolest band on the planet. There’s only one human in this nine-member band, and he’s a whiny douchebag in a gimp mask with fake intestines hanging over his beer gut. Whereas the guitar player, GTRBOT666, is like eight feet tall and plays a double-neck Flying V combination guitar and bass. Because shit, why not? He’s a fucking robot. They can vacuum our carpets and assemble our automobiles. How hard can it be for them to play three-chord hesher bait?
Actually, the robots aren’t really the driving force behind Captured! by Robots. It’s that lone whiny human (but we had you going for a second there, didn’t we?). The joke perpetuated by Jay Vance, aka JBOT, is that he started building robot bandmates because he was sick of his flesh and blood ones…but then the robots rose up and enslaved him, and now they run the band. There’s a cautionary tale in there somewhere, but we’re not sure if it’s “Stick to your human band” or “Skip the robots and taking up DJing.”
Anyway, here’s a clip of C!bR’s live show, which is really the main attraction here. Musically, they’re in no danger of replacing us meat puppets. Although their “Don’t Stop Believin’” cover ain’t half bad. (By the way, high-fives to reader Aaron for suggesting these guys. Hold on to that feeling, Aaron!)
Happy Friday, kids! What say we get the weekend started with a fresh Weirdify playlist? This week’s theme: novelty songs.
Now in a way, nearly everything we’ve ever posted on TWBITW is a novelty song. But more precisely, a novelty song is any tune that’s more about making the folks laugh than it is about making any lasting artistic impression. Whether it’s a one-off by an otherwise serious (or at least semi-serious) band, or one of many from a master of the form (Barnes & Barnes, we bow down), a good novelty song should exist in its own little universe, totally apart from any considerations of what’s hip or trendy or even in good taste.
Also—and this may be a totally arbitrary distinction, but it feels important to me—novelty songs and comedy songs are not quite the same thing. This goes back to the “own little universe” thing: Comedy songs are usually created in response to or in parody of something, but novelty songs stand on their own. Also, novelty is weirder than comedy, I think. So no Lonely Island, no “Weird Al,” no Flight of the Conchords, not even any Tom Lehrer, excellent though all those artists are. They just don’t quite fit with the rest of this playlist.
OK, Jake says I should shut up now and get on with the music. So fire up the ol’ Spotify and let’s get novel:
1. Lonzo and Oscar, “I’m My Own Grandpa.” I decided to class things up around here a little and start with one of the classics. Lonzo and Oscar were a jokey country duo who scored big in 1947 with this, their one and only hit. Side note: This song was performed on the first season of The Muppet Show in 1976. Even after the Civil Rights era, incest jokes and making fun of hillbillies were still considered good family entertainment.
2. Ween, “Piss Up a Rope.” Gene and Dean Ween mostly played it straight on their Nashville album, 12 Golden Country Greats, but fortunately they decided to have a little fun with this boot-scootin’ kiss-off to a woman who “takes all my money and leaves me no smokes.” Who needs that kind of ag?
3. The Tiger Lillies, “Piss on Your Grave.” While we’re on the subject of pissing…
4. Evelyn Evelyn, “Elephant Elephant.” Amanda Palmer, one half of this fake-Siamese-twin duo, just raised a million bucks on Kickstarter. That’ll buy a lot of elephant feed. Is there such a thing as elephant feed? Anyway, Palmer definitely ain’t singin’ the…
5. The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, “Credit Card Blues.” It’s an anthem for our times, really.
6. Red Shadow, the Economics Rock n Roll Band, “Gone, Gone, Gone.” As is this. Actually, this song is from the 1970s, when ripping off the Beach Boys was probably seen as “edgy.” Speaking truth to power was so much more adorable back then.
7. Wild Man Fischer, “Flaming Carrot Theme Song.” Did you know Frank Zappa’s semi-homeless protege once wrote a theme song for the Flaming Carrot comic book? Us neither, till we started researching this playlist. But we’re glad he did.
8. Klaus Nomi, “Rubber Band Laser.” Even by the bizarre standards of New Wave’s greatest counter-tenor, this track from his unfinished opera, Za Bakdaz, is pretty out there.
9. The Zambonis, “Zamboni Race in Outer Space.” It’s about drag racing ice-resurfacing machines—in space. Any questions? Too bad, we’re moving on anyway…
10. The Emotron, “Drink a Beer for Me.” A heartwarming song about one man’s love affair with beer.
11. Fred Schneider, “Monster.” Every time B-52′s frontman Schneider opens his mouth, it’s a novelty song. This one is especially silly though. Spoiler alert: It’s not actually about his penis.
12. Barnes & Barnes, “Boogie Woogie Amputee.” This duo is deservedly famous for their classic novelty tune, “Fish Heads.” But did you know they also recorded this totally awesome and slightly offensive ode to a girl who likes to go out dancing and “shake her stump”? Well, now you do. You’re welcome.
13. Twink, “Tiny Footsteps.” Toy pianos and squeeze toys gettin’ down with their bad selves. Fact: If you play this for dogs and/or babies, they will totally lose their shit.
14. Tiny Tim, “I Got You Babe.” If you hear the words “novelty song” and don’t immediately think of Tiny Tim, there might be something wrong with you.
15. Crispin Glover, “Clowny Clown Clown.” Yes, this creepiest actor this side of Gary Busey released an album in 1989—produced by Barnes & Barnes, no less. It’s called—let me make sure I’ve got this right—The Big Problem ≠ The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be. There was even once a phone number you could call if you thought you had figured out The Solution, but sadly, it’s been disconnected, along with Glover’s career. These things happen.
16. Jim’s Big Ego, “Bite Me (Hard).” Back when I lived in Boston, Jim Infantino and his band Jim’s Big Ego were one of the city’s most entertaining local acts. Most of his stuff is more clever than this, but for some reason that “Should I change my whole way of being?” line gets me every time.
17. The Upper Crust, “Little Lord Fauntleroy.” An AC/DC-style tribute to that really stupid children’s book your grandmother gave you for your eighth birthday. No? Just me? OK, moving on…
18. Schwarzenator, “Conan: The Destroyer.” An Iron Maiden-style tribute to the least necessary sequel of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career. More unnecessary than Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, you ask? I say yes and I stand by that opinion. Bring it, film nerds.
19. Rasputina, “My Captivity by Savages.” A dramatic reading of a 19th century bodice ripper about a poor blonde settler girl enslaved by Injuns. See, kids? Your local library can be fun.
20. Slim Galliard, “Fuck Off (The Dirty Rooster).” A classic novelty platter from the man best-known for “Flat Foot Floogie (With the Floy-Floy)” and for making up a fake language called “vout” that mostly seems to have been a way to get dirty words past the radio censors. Another version of this song called “Chicken Rhythm” actually turned up on a compilation called Jazz for Kids. So yes, parents who play Jazz for Kids, you are subliminally telling your children to fuck off. Just thought you should know.
21. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, “Constipation Blues.” Screamin’ Jay is, of course, the man behind “I Put a Spell on You.” But his other crowning gift to popular culture has to be this epic 1970 ode to taking a long, slow, painful dump. Stay with it till about the three-minute mark…that’s when he really start squeezing out greatness. (Shout-out to Bobo Golem Soylent-Greenberg for reminding us about this track and about the existence of Slim Galliard. You, Bobo, are a gentleman and a scholar!)
Hope you enjoyed this week’s playlist.
Finally, a rock band for the one percent! The Upper Crust are an AC/DC-loving band from Boston who perform their swaggering cock-rock (or “rocque and roll,” as they like to call it) dressed in the powdered wigs, buckled shoes and ruffled finery of 18th century French aristocrats. They stay rigorously in character throughout, sneering at the “foul congregation” of their plebeian fans and raising their pinkie fingers between songs in a foppish variation of the classic devil horns gesture. It’s the Ancien Régime by way of Aerosmith, Bon Scott in breeches. And like a lot of our favorite super-gimmicky bands, it’s a great example of a silly, one-note idea run so far into the ground it’s struck a gusher of some sticky black substance resembling genius.
The main madman behind The Upper Crust is Nat Freedberg, aka Lord Bendover, who’s been toiling away in various semi-obscure (and completely obscure) Boston bands since the ’80s. (This article gives some good background.) He started The Upper Crust in 1995 with a lineup that’s undergone surprisingly few changes since: A third guitarist, Lord Rockingham, dropped out fairly early, and they swapped out bassists at some point, but second singer/guitarist the Duc D’Istortion (“a student of the manly art of fisticuffs,” according to his official bio) and drummer Jackie Kickassis (an “effervescent personage” with a fondness for “the verses of the ancient homosexual poets”) have been with the group since day one. Most non-joke bands would kill for that kind of continuity.
The Upper Crust have released three original studio LPs, a live album, and a “greatest hits” collection, Cream of the Crust. The track titles alone are worth the price of admission: “Once More Into the Breeches,” “We’re Finished With Finishing School,” “Come Hither Fair Youth,” a live DVD called Horse & Buggery. As far as we can tell, they haven’t done much since releasing their last album, Revenge for Imagined Slights, in 2009. The only event listed on their official website (by their faithful manservant, Bumbles) is a benefit concert that happened back in April. “It is not sheer greed that drives them as usual,” Bumbles writes, in a commoner’s fumbling attempt to mimic the arch wit of his lordships. Oh, I bet you tasted the lash for that impertinent remark, Bumbles!
We would be remiss not to include a huzzah here for Rico Gagliano, co-host of public radio show/podcast The Dinner Party, who introduced us to The Upper Crust when I was a guest on his show back in February. (What do you mean you missed it? For shame. Lucky for you there’s an Internet now for archiving such things.)
Here’s the fuzzy but still pretty awesome video for one of The Upper Crust’s signature tunes, “Let the Eat Rock,” originally released circa 1995. Keep an eye out for the coal-fired guitar amp. These dudes were steam punks before steam punk even existed.