I’m not gonna lie: When Jake and I first started this blog, it was a full-on sausage party. For about the first year or so, I think pretty much the only female presence on the entire site was Miss Pussycat. But chicks like weirdin’ it up as much the boys do, and we’re finally taking baby steps towards some semblance of equal gender time with recent Weirdos of the Week like Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin and Miss Von Trapp. Sorry it took us awhile, ladies.
We’re continuing our female-friendly trend this week with the long-overdue addition of Iowa’s craziest product this side of the hot beef sundae: Leslie Hall, the queen of bejeweled sweaters, gold spandex jumpsuits, high-STER-ical dance videos and geeky electro/hip-hop party jams as sleek and stylin’ as the aforementioned gold spandex jumpsuits.
Hall became a minor Internet celebrity not, at first, with her music, but with her sweater collection: an online “Gem Sweater Museum” that went viral back around the time people started saying things like “go viral.” In an NPR interview, she later claimed that the music began as a side project to pay off her bandwidth overage charges: “I’ll put out a hip-hop album, sell CDs, get rich and famous, and this bill will go away.” Her first album, released in 2005, was called Gold Pants because, according to another interview, “65% of the comments on my [Gem Sweater Museum website] were about my gold pants.”
Amazingly, working with just GarageBand and, as far as we’ve been able to learn, no real musical training (she actually has a fine art background), Hall has since pumped out five albums’ worth of cheeky, increasingly polished dance pop, over which she raps and/or sings about dancing, her sweaters, crafting, her pants, dancing, and how awesome she is. And, one time, killing zombies. But mostly about dancing.
With her chunky glasses and chunkier physique, Hall is like the anti-Katy Perry—a shiny gold beacon of the uncool-as-cool, a reminder to us all that no matter what you look like, all it takes to be fabulous is the right attitude and maybe a good dance move or two. And a gem-covered sweater never hurts, either.
P.S. A big ol’ sloppy thank-you to reader Susan Molnar for recently introducing us to the wonders of Leslie Hall, which we had somehow managed to miss previously. Clearly, we need to get out more. Or maybe we need to get out less—and spend more time on YouTube.
P.P.S. Banner photo of Leslie and her white tiger sidekicks by Kai Chan, lifted from this article.
Man, I love our Facebook polls. If it was up to me, we’d do one every week, but my partner in crime Andy is a fucking control freak so we only do them every month or so. The rest of the time, we get to pick the bands. But honestly, you guys out there in Readerland kinda do a better job at it.
Case in point: This month’s poll winner, a one-man/one-doll band from Vermont called Caring Babies. Actually, this is the second winning band in the past few polls that features inanimate objects as band members. Your Fuzzy Friends, who we featured in November, are a one-man/three-animal-hand-puppets band. We should find a few more and organize a festival. We could call it Fluffstock or some shit.
The human member of Caring Babies is apparently a dude named Matt Mazur who sings like David Byrne and, as you can see, has excellent taste in sweaters. He had this to say about being our Weird Band of the Week: “I will wait as patiently as I can for this article, but I am doing some dances because it’s cool and because I’m excited.” Well, wait no more, Matt! But keep doing those dance moves anyway, because judging from your live show, you need all the practice you can get. (I kid! If it wasn’t for spazzy white-guy dance moves, this whole blog wouldn’t exist.)
The non-human member of Caring Babies is a Cabbage Patch-like doll named Redgei. She had nothing to say about being our Weird Band of the Week, but since she’s a doll, she’s probably not real good at writing emails. Then again, she’s credited as playing all the band’s computers, so who knows? Maybe she’s just less impressed with us than Matt is. As she should be.
Caring Babies have been around since 2009 and are from a town in Vermont called Wilder, which is so fucking appropriate I can hardly stand it. Their songs are catchy little synth ditties that mostly seem to be about friends and balloons and generally happy stuff. They also have a song about cell phones, which by their standards gets kinda dark: “Mr. Cell Phone, I thought you were talking to me.” It’s biting social commentary you can spazz-dance to.
For more on Caring Babies, check out their Blogspot or peep the videos below. Oh and go vote in our next poll, OK? I’m pretty sure this one is 100% doll, hand puppet and stuffed-animal free. We try to mix things up.
P.S. We’re taking next week off to go torture our families during the holidays, so this is our last Weird Band of the Week for 2012. All kidding aside, thanks for supporting us so much these past 12 months and get ready for even more weirdness in 2013. We’ve barely scratched the surface, people!
(Photo swiped from Vinton Today)
Summer’s almost here, and you know what they means: Time to grab the kids, strap on the feed bag, and head on down to the county fair to ogle the livestock and scarf down anything that can be cooked in a deep frier. It’s also time for America’s No. 1 detritus-based county-fair-circuit entertainment crew, Vocal Trash, to bring their Glee/Stomp/junkyard song-and-dance extravaganza back on the road.
Actually, judging from their website, Vocal Trash never leave the road these days. They’ve got tour dates for all of 2012 currently posted, from January through November, and they’ll be covering pretty much every corner of America, both literally and figuratively: everything from the 20th annual trade show of the U.S. Composting Council in Austin, Texas, to the Schuylkill County Fair in Summit Haven, Pennsylvania, to the Fairmont Opera House in Fairmont, Minnesota. They don’t list any weddings and bar mitzvahs, but we bet they’re available for those, too, if the price is right.
Here are their remaining 2012 dates (so far) for public events; we omitted the private dates because, as awesome as the can-banging, breakdancing, headset-mic-harmonizing spectacle of a fully operational Vocal Trash show can be, we assume you’re probably not interested in crashing any corporate events Up in the Air-style to see them in action. But hey, if you’re gonna be at WASTECON 2012, Aug. 13-14 in Washington, DC, we can confidently predict that they will be one of the conference highlights.
May 18 – Westlake, TX – Westlake MasterWorks Concert
May 19 – Kaufman, TX – Lost Treasure Found Art, Kaufman Heritage Garden
May 24 – Roanoke, TX – Masterworks Series, at Austin Street Plaza
May 26 – Moses Lake, WA – McCosh Park (Free)
May 27 – Moses Lake, WA – McCosh Park (Free)
June 16 – Council Grove, KS – “Washunga Days Celebration 2012” Council Grove High School Auditorium
June 23 – Vinton, IA – “Party In The Park”, Riverside Park
June 29 – Killeen, TX – Hot Summer Nights Concert Series Killeen Community Center
July 4 – Joshua, TX – Joshua July 4th Celebration 2012 Owl Stadium
July 12 – Plano, TX – Summer Fun Thursday’s The Shops at Willow Bend – Grand Court
July 13 – Cuba, MO – Crawford County Fair Hood Park
July 18 – Chautauqua, NY – Chautauqua Amphitheatre
July 27 – 31 – Cobleskill, NY – Sunshine Fair
Aug 4 – Summit Haven, PA – Schuylkill County Fair
Aug 10-12 – Sioux Falls, SD – Sioux Empire Fair
Aug 21-26 – Rhinebeck, NY – Dutchess County Fair
Sept 6-8 – Hebron, CT – Hebron Harvest Fair
Oct 6 – Dallas, TX – Reverchon Park, 5K Run and Walk One Run: Cancer Support Community
Oct 10-14 – Perry, GA – Georgia National Fair
Nov 9 – Lubbock, TX – Young Leader’s Society Fundraiser Louise Hopkins Underwood Center Firehouse Theater
Nov 10 – Fairmont, MN – Fairmont Opera House
Forgive me if this week’s post is even more rambling and incoherent than usual. I just completed a very early morning transcontinental flight and I’m so jetlagged, I’m starting to talk like Sean Penn in I Am Sam. Then again, being delirious with jetlag might be the perfect mindset for exploring the bizarre pop music footnote that is Tiny Tim.
Born Herbert Khaury in 1932, Tiny Tim became, very briefly, the most celebrated oddball in all of music, thanks to some memorable appearances on the comedy/variety show Laugh-In in 1968. With his gawky stage presence, comically miniscule ukulele (contrary to his stage name, he was rather a hulking fellow), and warbling falsetto, Tiny was an unlikely star—but something about his guileless interpretations of old American songbook warhorses like “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” and his signature tune, “Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips,” struck a chord with middle America. He became a regular fixture not only on Laugh-In but also The Tonight Show, where Johnny Carson teased out enough personal details (five showers a day, wore ladies’ cosmetics, openly had a thing for pretty underage girls, which he referred to as “classics”) to finally convince viewers that he was not some elaborate put-on, but a genuine weirdo.
On his first Laugh-In appearance, Tiny was introduced by the show’s droll, chain-smoking hosts, Rowan and Martin, as both an undiscovered diamond in the rough and “the toast of Greenwich Village.” Both things were true, in a way. After years of taking any gig he could in every New York dive under a variety of stage names (including Darry Dover, Emmett Swink, Judas K. Foxglove and “Larry Love, The Human Canary,” when he briefly appeared as part of a freak show), Tim finally hit the big time when he was “discovered” at a hip nightclub called The Scene. By the time he made his first Laugh-In appearance, he had already released his first album, God Bless Tiny Tim, on Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Records label. It contained his signature “Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips,” but the album’s most memorable moment is probably a cover of “I Got You, Babe,” on which Tiny sings both Sonny and Cher’s parts in a performance that’s simultaneously virtuosic and ridiculous.
Like all true outsiders, Tiny Tim was not destined for lasting stardom. He and his music were just too “far out” for the mainstream squares and too old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy for the hippie rock ‘n’ roll types. His jump-the-shark moment came in December of 1969, when he married his 17-year-old sweetheart, Victoria Mae Budinger, aka “Miss Vicki,” on an episode of The Tonight Show that is reputed to be the second most-watched TV program of the ’60s (21.4 million viewers) after the moon landing. Apart from the bride’s age, the ceremony is actually kinda boring by today’s Springer/Kardashian standards, but there was still a certain freak-show aspect to the whole thing that eclipsed Tiny’s music—especially when the couple revealed that they planned to sleep in separate rooms and even dine apart because of the groom’s phobia of eating in the presence of others.
By the late ’70s, Tiny Tim was divorced (though he later remarried, twice), dropped from his label, and reduced to releasing novelty tunes like “Tip-Toe to the Gas Pumps.” In the ’80s and ’90s, he occasionally collaborated with younger artists who admired his work, like (no, really) Camper Van Beethoven—but for the most part, he was remembered (dimly) as a tulip-sniffing, one-hit wonder. In 1996, shortly after the release of his final studio album, Girl (recorded with the aptly named Texas polka-rockers Brave Combo), he suffered a massive heart attack during a performance in Minneapolis and died that same day. He was 64.
Even though it’s probably true that most Laugh-In and Tonight Show viewers were laughing at, not with, Tiny Tim, it would be unfair to dismiss him as the Rebecca Black of his era. There was nothing manufactured or phony about him. His talents were outlandish, but they were genuine; take this amazing, Tom Jones-like version of “Stayin’ Alive,” which starts out a little shaky but eventually turns into a tour de force of vocal elasticity. Not many humans have ever been able to sing in a hairy-chested baritone and a choir-boy falsetto in the same breath. At least not with this much chutzpah.
I could go on defending Tiny Tim’s legacy, but I know I’m preaching to the choir; several readers over the years have suggested we add him to the Weird List, and since he would have turned 80 this week, we figured this was a good time to do it. We’ll leave you with perhaps his most famous performance. If you’ve never seen it before, you’re in for a treat.
- Tiny Tim Memorial Site
- Tiny Tim “official” website (hosted by this company, which apparently now owns the rights to his likeness and some of his music)
- Interview with Tiny Tim expert Justin Martell (much of this post was cribbed from this interview, as well as from Irwin Chusid’s Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music)
Here at TWBITW, we’re always up for supporting a good cause. So when we learned that self-described drag terrorist and “sexually infused sewer of vile shamelessness” Christeene had only three days left on her Kickstarter campaign and was still more than $2,000 short of her goal, we just knew we had to leap into the breach. Even though we were a little afraid of using the word “breach” in a sentence about Christeene.
For those of y’all not familiar: Christeene Vail is the creation of singer/rapper/filmmaker/drag artist Paul Soileau, born at a queer open-mic in Austin about three years ago (Christeene, not Paul—Paul looks to have been born sometime in the late ’70s, though only his makeup technician knows for sure). Paul had performed for years as a more conventional drag queen named Rebecca Havemeyer, but he concocted Christeene because he wanted a persona that was more, in the words of one writer, “quick, destructive and fun—something to leave his audience speechless in less than five minutes.” Mission accomplished!
Christeene is a foul-mouthed, dirty-minded, trailer-trash naif who makes improbably catchy electro-pop with touches of R&B, hip-hop, dubstep and booty bass. She’s sort of what might have happened if Crazy Britney had spent less energy on shaving her head and attacking cars with umbrellas and more on actually making music as provocative as her pantyless bouts with the paparazzi.
Christeene’s performances and amazing, totally NSFW videos (made with filmmaker PJ Ravel under the name Three Dollar Cinema and mostly available on Funny or Die) are aural and visual assaults of gold teeth, smeared lipstick, flashed privates, ass-cheek-spreading backup dancers, and gender-bending songs and raps about ass play (“Bustin’ Brown”), sad hookers (“Tears From My Pussy”) and what we can only assume is old-people sex (“Workin’ on Grandma”). It’s not for the faint-hearted, even though Christeene herself maintains an endearingly childlike, Adam Sandler-ish quality throughout.
Arguably the weirdest—inarguably the most downright nasty—thing Christeene’s ever produced is “Bustin’ Brown,” a song about anal sex (“breakin’ laws in your bee-hind”), with a video that mostly takes place inside a giant colon. But for sheer NSFW hilarity, we have to agree with reader Hirsh, who first brought Christeene to our attention on our Submit a Band page by posting the “Fix My Dick” video along with the that-about-sums-it-up comment, “Mmmm yes.” (Did I mention this video is NSFW? I really, really can’t stress that enough.)
If you enjoyed that, please for the love of Jesus proceed immediately to Christeene’s Kickstarter page and give generously so that her debut album, Waste Up, Kneez Down, may see the light of day. Jake just stole one of my credit cards and gave five bucks, and if that raging homophobe can support this hot mess with someone’s else money, you sure as shit can, too. (I kid. Jake’s not a homophobe. He just gets squeamish about hairy guys in thongs.)
[Update: Well, shit. Christeene just hit her $10,000 Kickstarter goal with 46 hours to go—and barely 24 hours after we first wrote this post. Y'all just got the Weird Band Bump, Christeene! Congrats.]
As we gear up for another round of dysfunctional holiday get-togethers with our respective fam-damnlies, Jake and I would like to take a moment to reflect back with gratitude on all that 2011 brought us here at TWBITW. This was the year in which we had our highest traffic day ever; in which our average monthly traffic nearly doubled; in which we discovered Here Come the Mummies and witch house; in which we got mentioned by The Onion (OK, it was really just the Denver/Boulder AV Club, but close enough); and in which we got to see Peelander-Z in the costumed, squid-kicking flesh. Oh, and somehow I managed to find time to get married. (Jake is still saving himself for the right girl and/or vaginally equipped life form.) It was a pretty great year.
Most importantly, we got a shit-ton of band suggestions, comments, emails, Facebook likes and ego-stroking gestures of goodwill from you, our readers. So thanks for all that. You are the rum in our eggnog.
We’re going to enjoy a little down time for the remainder of 2011, but we’ll be back in 2012, bright-tailed, bushy-eyed and ready to unleash more weirdness upon the world. And we’ll be making some changes to expand the scope (and hopefully the readership) of this site. So stay tuned, ’cause it’s about to go down like Foxy Brown. Or something like that.
In the meantime, we’ll leave you with our favorite Christmas-themed weird band: The Superions. They surfaced last year with an album called Destination…Christmas! that basically sounds like an even campier version of the B-52′s…which makes sense, given that the head Superion is the B-52′s’ shouter-in-chief, Fred Schneider. Apparently they also do a few non-holiday-related songs, too, but we prefer to think of them as Schneider’s secret gay plot to forever associate Christmas with hunky shirtless dudes dancing with fruitcakes. Enjoy your holidays!
P.S. They also have a Fruitcake app, which you can purchase for 99 cents here. We haven’t tried it yet, but we’re guessing it does not contain actual fruitcake recipes.
Today’s weird band…or rather, weird artiste…was suggested by a reader named Aaron, who notes that New Wave opera singer Klaus Nomi was “most defiantly a awesome weird guy.” True dat, Aaron! Even if you meant to say “definitely,” there was also something defiantly weird about Mr. Nomi, too.
Klaus Nomi was an opera-obsessed gay kid from Bavaria, which is sort of the German equivalent of being from Alabama. He moved to Berlin as a teenager to attend a music conservatory and work at the Deutsche Oper where, legend has it, he gave impromptu concerts for his fellow ushers while they were sweeping up after the shows. But he didn’t really fit in with either the Berlin opera community or the gay nightclub scene (which wasn’t used to drag queens singing arias), so like many of the world’s great freaks, he finally washed up in New York City. The year was 1972.
By 1978, Nomi was finally making a name for himself in the East Village art scene, performing arias in a melodramatic counter-tenor and even more melodramatic costumes, engulfed in smoke bombs and sci-fi sound effects. His reputation eventually caught the ear of David Bowie, who invited Nomi and one of his backup singers, Joey Arias, to perform with him on Saturday Night Live in 1979. You can watch clips of the performances over on this site, and marvel at how much tamer pop music is these days (yes, even you, Lady Gaga).
The SNL appearance changed Nomi’s life. Not only did he borrow the oversized plastic tuxedo look Bowie sported and make it his signature outfit, he also scored a record deal and released two albums, Klaus Nomi (1981) and Simple Man (1982), before his AIDS-related death in 1983. He was
Nomi’s music was a bizarre and totally unique mix of original pop tunes done in a campy, New Wave style, avant-garde covers of oldies like Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” and Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me,” and operatic pieces–his set closer was an aria from the 19th century French opera Samson and Delilah. You could call him a trail-blazer, but really, no one’s quite followed the trail he blazed. Everyone from Morrissey to Jean Paul Gaultier has acknowledged him as an influence, but really, there just ain’t that many pop/New Wave opera singers in the world. Klaus Nomi was probably a one-time deal.
Here’s a clip of him performing his most famous tune, “Nomi Song,” on French TV. Purists might prefer the original “Nomi Song” video, but the picture and sound quality are a little better on this version.
- Klaus Nomi ZABAKDAZ (official site for posthumous Nomi album, Za Bakdaz)
- Klaus Nomi on MySpace (unofficial)
- The Nomi Song (official site for Klaus Nomi documentary, released in 2004)
- The Klaus Nomi Tribute Page (fan site)
- Klaus Nomi Keys of Life (fan site)
- A weird little Klaus Nomi Flash animation tribute site
What do you get when you cross Stomp, Rockapella, and the kind of highly enthusiastic but somewhat amateurish cover bands you see at B-list state fairs in places like Iowa and Delaware? You get Vocal Trash, a band that combines a cappella, found-object percussion, tap dancing, trumpet solos and, oh, let’s just throw a little break-dancing in there, shall we? I mean, why the hell not?
Vocal Trash was started about 10 years by a guy from West Texas named Steve Linder, who judging from the amount of eyeliner he wears probably did not fit in with the other kids in the Lone Star State. The group was originally pretty much just a cross between show choir and banging on trash cans—”Glee with a kick!” as the press materials proclaim. There was something goofy and white-trash but undeniably awesome about them, especially when they unleashed their junkyard swag on the confused but obviously entranced masses on the state and county fair circuit:
More recently, the band has slicked up its stage show by adding more instruments, choreographed dance moves and a very Stomp-like stage set—all of which can seen in this somewhat depressing promotional video. Apparently they do lots of corporate events and theme parks and such these days, which explains the snazzier production values and the inclusion of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” in their set list.
And hey, we get it—they’ve been doing this for 10 years, and at a certain point, if the quirky junkyard show band shtick isn’t landing you those major corporate gigs, you lose the fat dude with the biker mustache and bring in the break-dancers. But we still shed a tear for the demise of the rag-tag group in this no-budget video, which looks like it was shot in haste before they were chased off by the scrapyard Rottweilers:
(Photo originally appeared in Details magazine, 1991; article available here)
Today’s band was suggested by a reader from Belgium (worldwide, baby!) named Steve V., and it may surprise some of our American readers. Here in the States, The KLF are mainly remembered (if they ‘re remembered at all), as just another of that pack of seemingly indistinguishable bands who cashed in on that weird moment around 1990 or so when house music was actually getting played on the radio. But trust us, these guys were not in the same league as MARRS and C+C Music Factory. They may as well not even have come from the same planet.
The KLF originally started as a British hip-hop group called the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, then morphed briefly into a deliberately lame proto-house group called The Timelords, whose one and only single, “Doctorin’ the Tardis,” was a piss-take of pop hits that, perhaps inevitably, itself became a massive pop hit. A mash-up of the Doctor Who theme with Sweet’s “Blockbuster!” and Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll Part Two,” “Doctorin’ the Tardis” went to No. 1 in the UK in 1988 and reportedly sold over one million copies. Its success inspired the Timelords/KLF duo, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, to write a book called The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way), which dispensed such we’re-kidding-but-not-really advice as “if in a band, quit” and “watch Top of the Pops religiously.” (The book is out of print but you can read most of it online here—or shell out $89 to a greedy Amazon reseller here.)
Drummond and Cauty probably could’ve scored a spot here on TWBITW as The Timelords solely on the basis of “Doctorin’ the Tardis” (and its video, which is one of the most hilariously amateurish artifacts of ’80s pop music), but they didn’t stop there. Instead, they reinvented themselves yet again as The KLF, an acid house group that specialized in what Drummond (aka King Boy D) called “pure dance music, without any reference points.” The KLF went on to become one of the most successful dance acts of the era, releasing a string of increasingly bizarre Top 10 hits in 1990 and 1991 that combined elements of acid house, rock, pop, hip-hop, gospel, ambient electronica and even country. (Their last single, “Justified and Ancient (Stand by the JAMs),” featured guest vocals by Tammy Wynette.) They called it, a bit cheekily, “stadium house”—and they were indeed successful enough with it to fill their fair share of stadiums.
It seemed The KLF could do no wrong. Until Drummond and Cauty got bored with their success and, in one spectacular public gesture, chucked it all.
In February of 1992, The KLF were scheduled to perform at the BRIT Awards, England’s answer to the Grammys. Instead of their usual rap/rave stage show, Drummond and Cauty brought in a punk/grindcore band called Extreme Noise Terror to play a thrashed-out version of the KLF hit “3 a.m. Eternal,” which climaxed with Drummond, grinning and supporting himself on a crutch, breaking out a machine gun and firing blanks over the heads of the stunned audience. As the band left the stage, an announcer declared, “The KLF have left the music business.” Later that night, The KLF left a dead sheep at a BRIT Awards after-party with a sign hung around its neck reading, “I died for you—bon appetit.”
Not content to stop there, Drummond and Cauty took the almost unheard-of step of deleting their entire back catalog. All albums and singles by The KLF, The Timelords and the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu remain out of print in the U.K.—although last we checked, The KLF’s final album, The White Room, is still available in the U.S., presumably because the duo’s contract with their American label, Arista, didn’t allow for catalog deletion. (But Arista’s parent company, Sony, just folded Arista into RCA Records, so it will be interesting to see if White Room stays in print.)
But wait! Drummond and Cauty took it a step further still. Still flush with cash from their days as pop hitmakers, they decided to take one million pounds in cash, nail it to a picture frame, then shop it around to various art galleries under the title Nailed to the Wall. Then, when no gallery would agree to show the work, they took their million quid to a remote Scottish island and burned it—all of it, in £50 notes—in a fireplace, filming the whole thing. The film they made about the whole project—including the creation of the K Foundation, a satirical arts foundation that also awarded £40,000 to the “worst artist of the year”—is called Watch The K Foundation Burn a Million Quid and can be viewed in its entirety on Google Video. It’s a pretty fascinating document. (The burning starts at around the 13:45 mark.)
We could go on about these guys: How they came out of retirement in 1997 in old-man makeup and motorized wheelchairs, giving a single performance of a remixed version of one of their old songs titled “Fuck the Millennium.” How they invited a bunch of journalists out to the island of Jura (the same island where they later burned their million quid) and made them all dress in ceremonial robes so they could film an elaborate ritual centered around a burning wicker man and called the whole thing The Rites of Mu. How they once traveled to Sweden hoping to persuade ABBA to let them keep an uncleared sample on their debut album, 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?). (ABBA refused to meet with them and insisted that the album be withdrawn from sale—Drummond and Cauty, ever the pyros, burned a bunch of copies of that record, too.)
But really, we think nothing sums up how completely mental these guys were than this video for “America: What Time Is Love?” It’s got everything: Vikings! Rappers! Stadium house beats! Shredding guitars! The lead singer from Deep Purple! Yes, there really was a time in pop music history when this song could go Top 10 in eight countries.
- The KLF WebRing
- Library of Mu (archive of KLF-related articles and documents)*
- The KLF on MySpace (unofficial site)
- The Mu-Museum (fan site)
- Penkiln Burn (Bill Drummond-related arts site)
- The17 (Bill Drummond current musical project)
- Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid (full film)
*Note: The Library of Mu domain name expired the day we published this. It’s a conspiracy! Which would sort of make sense, because The KLF loved conspiracies. They were big fans of The Illuminatus Trilogy.
One of the many things that sucks about American pop music is that if you’re not pretty or stylish–or preferably both–the Powers That Be won’t give you the time of day. We’ll let Kim fucking Kardashian declare herself a recording artist, but unless you’re model material, sorry–KIIS-FM will never play your single. Too bad for you, Beth Ditto.
Now, obviously, European pop stars can be stylish, too…they just aren’t so hung up on it all the time. And occasionally, they’re pretty much the opposite of stylish. Which is why the first we saw this band from Sweden called The Amplifetes, we practically crapped ourselves. These guys are making the most shamelessly catchy pop music this side of Katy Perry, and yet their lead singer looks like a cross between Jerry Garcia and our English lit professor at Wesleyan. Awesome.
We don’t know a whole lot about The Amplifetes because they haven’t really broken in America yet–and sadly, they probably never will. Most of what’s floating around online about them seems to have been written in either Swedish or French–or it’s just endless copy-paste jobs on their official English bio, which has even been reprinted verbatim on the band’s Wikipedia page. The bio says they’re a team of four “accomplished songwriters and producers,” although “accomplished” is a relative term in a country that churns out hitmaking producers like IKEA churns out dorm furniture. Henrik Jonback has the most impressive résumé, boasting a couple of credits on Britney Spears’ Blackout and Kelis’ Kelis Was Here; Henrik Korpi has worked with Geri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell and Dannii “Kylie’s less talented sister” Minogue; Tommy Spaanheden has produced a handful of breakbeat and club tracks; and Peter Ågren, the band’s fantastically frumpy lead singer, wrote a tune for Estonian pop tartlet Kerli. So these guys ain’t exactly Bloodshy & Avant.
And yet…there’s something undeniably infectious about The Amplifetes’ music, and something undeniably fabulous about the way they totally own their awkward Scandinavian swag. Especially in this video for their latest single, “Blinded by the Moonlight,” which features timorous white-boy dance moves, superfluous sci-fi interludes, gratuitous shirtlessness, and the single greatest rushing-back-up-to-the-mic-after-the-instrumental-break move since…well, okay, it’s not really the single greatest anything, but it’s at the 2:55 mark and it’s adorable.