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.
(Note: Banner photo lifted from the website of Judd’s Hill Winery, a Jewish-owned winery in Napa, which we hear is very nice this time of year.)
Of the various orders and species of weird bands, one of our favorites is the Band Dedicated Beyond All Reason to an Incredibly Specific Joke. These can’t be one-and-done bands; they’ve got to release album after fucking album, for years and years and years, all based around the exact same premise. Within this little subcategory, you’ve got your Zambonis (all songs about hockey), your Beatallica (all Beatles/Metallica mashups) and your Previously on Lost (all songs based on the TV show Lost). Today, we are happy to add to the Weird List another Band Dedicated Beyond All Reason to an Incredibly Specific Joke: Meshugga Beach Party, a Jewish surf-rock band from San Francisco. “Meshugga,” for those of y’all who aren’t part of the tribe, means “crazy” in Yiddish, so these farkakte bastards live up to their billing. They’ve been mixing “Hava Nagila” with “Miserlou” since 2003. 2003! The only thing I’ve been doing consistently since 2003 is disappointing my parents.
But, I hear you say, gimmicks schmimmicks: How’s the music? Well, I gotta tell you, it’s ain’t half bad. Head meshuggener Mel Waldolf has been playing surf-rock for 20 years and even composed music for Spongebob Squarepants and My Favorite Martian, so he knows his way around a twangy solo. And the rest of the band can rip the curl right with him. (Is that how surfers talk? I’m neither Jewish nor a surfer, so I’m flying by the seat of my tuchas here.)
As previously mentioned, Meshugga Beach Party have been around for over a decade, so they’ve released a ton of music, including a Hanukkah album because hey, everybody loves that “Dreidel, Dreidel” song, right? Their other titles include Let’s Go Shlepping! and Twenty Songs of the Chosen Surfers. Most are available via their website, at prices that won’t make you plotz.
By the way, lest there by any confusion: Meshugga Beach Party is in no way affiliated with these guys. That’s a different and much more goyim kind of weird band. Although I’m sure they call their mothers every week, too.
We’ll leave you with MBP’s most famous track, which is indeed a mashup of that song people play even at non-Jewish weddings as an excuse to carry the bride and groom around on chairs, and the Dick Dale track made famous by the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.
I was never much of a Star Trek fan. It’s OK; I don’t expect you to believe me. Anyone nerdy enough to start this blog must’ve gone trick-or-treating as Spock at least once, right? But it’s true. I was always more into Battlestar Galactica.
Because I’m not a Star Trek fan, I can’t really tell you which episodes of The Next Generation they cobbled together and digitally altered to make the video below for Friendly Rich’s “Sausage Samba.” But I can tell you this: The results are brilliant. The song’s pretty great, too.
In case you’re not familiar with Friendly Rich: He’s a Canadian comedic singer-songwriter whose biggest claim to fame is composing the music for The Tom Green Show. His band, The Lollipop People, has done shows with fellow weirdos like Amanda Palmer and The Tiger Lillies. “Sausage Samba” is from his latest album, Bountiful, which is due out next month. You can pre-order it from Amazon or via his website.
A big fat sausage cigar goes to reader Eel Namturg for sharing this with us. Thanks, Eel!
Summer’s almost here, and nothing says summer more than beach parties and bar mitzvahs. Or beach mitzvahs. I think we have those in California now. I almost went to one once but I hate getting sand on my prayer shawl.
Anyway, reader Yolojoe just turned us on to the perfect band to book for your next beach mitzvah: Meshugga Beach Party, a Northern California crew who play Dick Dale-style surf rock while dressed in full orthodox finery. Much shredding—and, we can only assume, much schvitzing—ensues.
They’re a kick in the tuchas, right? They’ve put out three albums’ worth of this stuff, believe it or not. You can hear more on their website.
A guy who calls himself Professor B. Miller wrote in to tell us about his band, the Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra. Confusingly, the band does not feature puppets, an orchestra or Satan. But it does feature a robot lead singer, so we were sold.
“Absurd satire?” asks their online press kit. “Experimental performance art? A glimpse in to our robotic future? A novelty act gone too far? Comedy gold? Yes.”
They’re from San Diego and their latest album is called Experiments with Auto-Croon. It’s 13 tracks and features a toy piano cover of “Werewolves of London,” but we’re more into this video for “Frankenstein’s Laundromat,” which features what I can only assume are members of Here Come the Mummies. After a few sweaty funk-rock shows, those mummy bandages are in serious need of a rinse.
Today’s weirdness comes to us from our pals at Yeah We Know It Sucks and their marathon all-Mark weekend. One of the bits of Internet detritus they salvaged from the Mark pile was this delightful little novelty tune from one Mark Lowry, a Christian comedian from Texas. I know “Christian comedian” sounds an oxymoron, and when you throw in “from Texas” it’s basically its own punchline. But whatever god you may or may not pray to, Mark Lowry is a funny f…ellow. I was going to use another word, but since he’s a nice Christian boy, I’ll save the sailor talk for the next post.
If you liked that, there’s more where it came from on Mark’s 1995 DVD, Remotely Controlled, whose cover proves that by 1995, even white dudes from Texas had shirt collections inspired by The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
One of our favorite new readers, Josh Gold, introduced us to this week’s band with the immortal words, “I think you’d enjoy them though I don’t get too much enjoyment from them.” You know us so well, Josh. What to others is aural diarrhea, to us is a melodious eargasm. Well, in the case of Baboon Torture Division, “eargasm” might be overstating it a bit. “Long, satisfying sound dump” is probably more accurate.
BTD is a duo from Vancouver made up of one guitar/singer/synth player/Ronald McDonald commemorative plate collector named Steve Biloba and one bass-playing, gas-mask-wearing humanoid called Pocketron XP. They’re also occasionally joined onstage and in videos by Ronald McDonald himself (or a reasonable facsimile thereof), Ronald Reagan (sometimes even two Ronald Reagans) and a guy in a cartoon bear suit who looks like he wandered in from a really creepy children’s party.
They’ve released 10 albums, although many of their “albums” are really just long-form jokes: a 44- minute send-up of ’80s hip-hop and electro called The Breakdance Sesh, an album of cheesy dance pop called Background Music for a Party, and not one, but two pseudo-8-bit albums called Digital Masturbation and Digital Masturbation 2. (Sample track titles: “Fuck Pizza Hut,” “Bowser Is Too Easy to Kill,” and perhaps their greatest achievement, a tender one-minute glitch ballad called “The Last Thing You’d Want to Hear If You Were Jacking Off Your Father While He Watched the Sylvester Stallone Wrist Wrestling Movie.” OK, maybe just the title is their greatest achievement.)
BTD’s twisted sense of humor is perhaps best captured in their two finest video offerings. First up, “Ice Cream Truck Music,” which is literally just five solid minutes wind-up monkeys dancing in front of my college acid dealer’s screen saver. Don’t worry, the music changes more often than the visuals. Way more often, actually.
Next: The kind of amazing “Sexy Times,” a disco/industrial jam that’s actually got a great groove, along with some of the cheesiest office romance lyrics of all time and backup dancers that look like they escaped from Mummenschanz. “I was prepping demos for the 12 o’clock meeting/You were wearing slacks and your nails were green”—finally, a love song us cubicle dwellers can relate to.
So thanks, reader Josh! And yeah, you’re right, we should totally add Sun Ra to the Weird List. One of these days.
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 Downton 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)
- Professor Elemental’s catalog on Amazon.com
- Mr. B’s catalog on Amazon.com