If you left any Flaming Lips fans off your Christmas list, there’s still time to get them a cool stocking stuffer: a blue seven-inch vinyl release of the band’s second demo from way back in 1983, when they were just another scruffy post-punk college-rock band with a shouty lead singer (Wayne Coyne’s brother Mark, who left the group in 1985). The untitled four-song demo was originally recorded on cassette tape and has never been previously released to the public. Only 2,000 copies of the blue vinyl were released, all on Dec. 24th to independent record stores. Our friends over at The Future Heart have diligently assembled a list, via Twitter, of which stores still had copies left as of yesterday. There are also apparently still some copies of the Lips’ first EP floating around green vinyl, as well.
Wanna listen before you buy? Of course you do. It’s an on-demand world. So here, feast your ears on what the press release aptly describes as the Lips’ early “primitive shambolic drug-damaged punk-pop.” These first two tracks are called “The Flaming Lips Theme Song 1983″ and “The Future Is Gone”:
And here’s “Underground Pharmacist” and “Real Fast Words.” Dig that walking bassline from Michael Ivins.
You know that long hiatus we just took? It gave Jake and me some much-needed time to do a little soul searching. I reconnected with my inner child, Jake reconnected with his inner hippie, and we both reconnected with our punk-rock roots. Okay, Jake reconnected with his punk-rock roots; I broke out my old Pink Floyd records. But somehow, both of those things led us back to another classic weird band we’ve neglected for far too long: the Butthole Surfers.
From about 1985 to 1989, the Butthole Surfers had one of the craziest live shows of any band on the planet. Their lead singer, the eternally manic Gibby Haynes, wore dresses and played squealing saxophone riffs and shouted lyrics into a megaphone. Next to him stood an upside-down cymbal filled with lighter fluid; he would set it—and often, his hand—on fire. Guitarist Paul Leary writhed around the stage like a man possessed. Two identical-looking drummers played standing up, sometimes in perfect unison and sometimes it utter cacophony. Kathleen Lynch, the band’s infamous “naked dancer,” struck spastic poses in time to a strobe light, covered in lurid body paint. Behind the band, overlapping 16-millmeter films layered disturbing and incongruous images atop one another, like a graphic penis reconstruction medical video and, according to one account, “people with Down’s syndrome dancing in top hats and tails.” The whole thing was designed to freak the shit out of the audience, and it usually worked. Here, for example, is drummer Teresa Taylor, aka Teresa Nervosa, describing the Surfers’ shows circa 1985 (from this excellent oral history of the band):
Gibby in those days would take condoms filled with colored dye and put those in his pants so that at some point they would burst and it would look very bloody. He would change clothes onstage during the set a lot. Then he went and bought the first vocal effect and that was a big deal. We had strobe lights, $10 strobe lights, and then we bought a 16-millimeter projector, because we started to make more money. Everything was invested back into the band, so we could have a better show, better sound. Later we got another projector and showed two 16-millimeter films overlapping. The full-on shows would make people puke and scream and run out, that kind of thing. It was what we’d always wanted.
Happily, a ton of video from this era exists on YouTube—much of it lifted from Blind Eye Sees All, a concert film the band shot in Detroit in 1985, but plenty of clips from later years, as well (which is a good thing, because Lynch didn’t add her naked dancing to the band’s spectacle until 1986). Less happily, the quality of most of these videos is shitty, and even under the best of circumstances, an ’80s B-hole Surfers show was almost impossible to film. This is one of the better clips we could find and you still really can’t see anything until 40 second into it:
I’ve somehow neglected to mention the music up to this point, which is stupid because the music was generally every bit as crazy as the stage show. Early on, the Surfers were part of the punk scene, and their live performances definitely owed a debt to the Sex Pistols and the Dead Kennedys. But in the studio, they were on their own trip from day one. Here, for example, is a track off their first full-length album, 1984′s Psychic… Powerless… Another Man’s Sac, which owes as much to The Residents or Captain Beefheart as it does to hardcore punk:
Back in ’84, Gibby Haynes achieved his distorted, menacing vocals mostly just by singing by through a megaphone or a toilet paper roll, but over the years he added various electronic effects, until he finally had an entire rack of processors that came be known as “Gibbytronix.” You can’t actually see Gibby in this 1991 video, but you can hear Gibbytronix in full effect:
Over the course of the ’90s, the Surfers devolved into a tamer, “alternative rock” incarnation of their former selves. Kurt Cobain name-checked them as an influence (he and Courtney Love met at a Butthole Surfers show), which helped the band land a major-label deal at Capitol Records in 1992. They even got John Paul fucking Jones (yes, the Led Zeppelin guy) to produce their first record for Capitol, the intriguingly titled but disappointingly polished Independent Worm Saloon. By the time they scored their biggest hit, 1996′s “Pepper,” they were starting to sound kinda like Weezer. But hey, if aging psychedelic noise punks can’t cash out in America, what hope is there for the rest of us? And to their credit, they still play the old weird shit to this day, albeit as a stripped-down four piece with fewer visual effects and naked dancers.
I’ve really only scratched the surface of all that was weird about the Butthole Surfers; if I wanted to, I could go on all night. In their early days, they changed the band name for every show: Ashtray Babyheads, the Right to Eat Fred Astaire’s Asshole, the Dick Gas Five. Their classic 1988 album Hairway to Steven was released with cartoons for each song in place of titles. Fans later deciphered the song titles based on live set lists; the song represented by a rabbit dancing on top of a dead fish turned out to be called “Julio Iglesias.”
But instead of cataloging their every bit of chicanery, I’ll just leave you with a short 1988 film called Bar-B-Que Movie, which starred all six then-members of the band (Gibby, Leary, bassist Jeff Pinkus, drummers King Coffey and Teresa Nervosa, and dancer Kathleen Lynch) and was directed by, of all people, Alex Winter, the actor best known as the not-Keanu guy from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It’s a spoof of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and…well, just fucking watch it, OK? You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll never look at your cast-iron frying pan the same way again. There’s a full-on recreation of the Surfers’ stage show about seven minutes in. Enjoy.
- Butthole Surfers official site
- Butthole Surfers catalog on Amazon.com
- The Anal Obsession (fan catalog of every Butthole Surfers show ever, or damn close to it, with set lists)
- Feeding the Fish: An Oral History of the Butthole Surfers (based on Spin magazine interviews circa 1996)
- Butthole Surfers: The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave (a remembrance of ’80s Surfers gigs by Richard Metzger of Dangerous Minds)
- Butthole Surfers on MySpace (because why the hell not?)
We had our own little British Invasion here at Weird Band HQ last week. Not only did steampunk Brits BB BlackDog win our latest Weird Band Poll, another English act named Ben & Amy finished a strong 3rd. The lone American act in the poll, Fartbarf, finished dead last. What is wrong with you people? Do you hate farting, barfing and America? Sometimes I don’t recognize this country anymore.
But anyway, yes, BB BlackDog crushed the competition fair and square, so they earn Weird Band of the Week honors. And they are indeed a pretty fucking weird band, though not for the obvious reasons. I mean, if they were just another WWI-fighter-pilot-goggles-wearing steampunk act, we would pass them by with a resounding “meh.” There’s entire fucking conventions of bands like that now. But here’s what’s awesome about BB BlackDog: The visuals don’t match the music. At all. It’s like if Slipknot came out onstage and starting singing One Direction songs. Except way less sucky than that.
So yeah, when you first look at BB BlackDog, you probably assume they’re going to break into a John Philip Sousa march, or maybe a little ragtime, or they might get really crazy and bust out the chap-hop. Wrong! BB BlackDog play good old-fashioned bluesy psychedelic/stoner rock. And they do it in full steampunk regalia, with belly dancers and shit.
Here are some other interesting factoids about BB Black Dog. They’ve been doing this since 2007. They’ve written 76 original songs. They don’t have a guitar player…lead singer Dale Rowles plays “lead bass,”
John Ferguson Mike Bower plays rhythm bass, and Axel Boldt plays the drums as hard as anyone can without the pink boa flying off his black leather cowboy hat. They list Black Sabbath, Prince, Pink Floyd and death metal among their influences. They have an album called No One that you can buy from (duh) Steampunk Records…or from Amazon.com if you prefer to pay in U.S. scrilla. One of their members is German. Oh and they seem to occasionally feature a fourth member who dresses up like their namesake “Black Dog”…although honestly, he looks more like some kind of steampunk gimp who just escaped from an H.P. Lovecraft-themed sex dungeon. Which actually makes sense, because they have a song called “Gimp.”
If you clicked that last link, you saw that as recently as 2009, BB BlackDog was pretty much just another scruffy stoner-rock bar band…albeit one with a vaguely old-timey burlesque dancer. Apparently, they’re recent converts to the whole steampunk thing. I guess you could argue that this makes them steampunk carpet-baggers or something, except I’m pretty sure there needs to be a carpet worth bagging for that to make any sense. It’s not like everyone’s riding the steampunk gravy train to major label deals and Bud Light endorsements. The likelier explanation is just that they stumbled across the steampunk scene and went, “Hey, this is fucking cool! Let’s join in!” Just because they didn’t swap out the basses for banjoleles doesn’t mean they’re not totally into it.
BB BlackDog have a ton of live videos on YouTube, and many of them are definitely worth checking out. But it was this video for the track “What You Need” that I’m pretty sure scored them a win in our Weird Band Poll. What’s more steampunk than a motorized shopping cart? Lots, but who cares? Motorized shopping carts are awesome.
Well, we sat out Comic-Con again this year. I haven’t been too heavily into nerd culture since the ’80s and Jake’s afraid of crowds (although when he heard there was a Breaking Bad panel, he almost downed half a bottle of Xanax and went anyway). But it turns out we missed out on more than just a chance to conquer Jake’s agoraphobia and ogle cute nerd girls in Catwoman suits. We also missed out on a chance to buy Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne’s first-ever comic book! (Except we didn’t, because it’s still available online. But it debuted at Comic-Con, so anyone who bought it there definitely has nerd bragging rights over the rest of us.)
Wayne’s been on a bit of a naked kick lately, so it should come as no surprise that The Sun Is Sick gets the nudity (and giant eyeballs, another running theme of his of late) rolling right on the cover. Inside, readers can expect to find 40 psychedelic pages illustrated by Coyne himself, telling the trippy tale of a blind princess who gives birth to, well, a giant eyeball. Hilarity ensues!
Lest the cover art and Coyne’s boundary-pushing reputation not be enough to clue you in, the press release helpfully notes: “WARNING!! The Sun Is Sick may be a comic book but make no mistake; this is not suitable for children and depending on what sort of person you are, it may not be suitable for some of you non-children either. If you have doubts at this moment then The Sun Is Sick is not for you.” Okay, press release writer person, you’ve convinced us. We’ll go back to our Nancy Drew mags.
If you want to learn more about The Sun Is Sick, may we direct your attention to this interview Coyne recently gave with The Huffington Post, which also includes a peek at some of Coyne’s child-like yet evocative drawings, which feature aliens tripping balls on some kind of blue goo called Virgo 2151. (Now sure to be the nickname of at least some of the LSD circulating at Bonnaroo 2014.)
That Wayne Coyne’s a busy guy; in addition to releasing comic books, he’s still on an extended tour with the Lips, promoting their latest album, The Terror. Dates after the jump; meanwhile, here’s the latest video from The Terror, for the harrowing (or patience-testing, depending on your point of view) track, “Turning Violent,” on which Coyne takes a much-deserved breather and hands over most of the vocal duties to Steven Drozd.
Flaming Lips summer/fall tour dates:
07/25 Salt Lake City, UT – Twilight Concert Series, Pioneer Park
07/27 Troutdale, OR – McMenamins Edgefield
07/28 Seattle, WA – Capitol Hill Block Party
07/30 Reno, NV – Grand Sierra Resort & Casino
07/31 Costa Mesa, CA – The Pacific Amphitheatre
08/01 Las Vegas, NV – Bud Light Music First, House of Blues
08/17 Omaha, NE – Maha Maha Festival
09/06 Isle Of Wight, UK – Bestival
09/07 Stekene, Belgium – Crammerock Festival
09/30 Boston, MA – Agganis Arena (w/ Tame Impala)
10/01 New York, NY – Terminal 5 (w/ Tame Impala)
10/02 New York, NY – Terminal 5 (w/ Tame Impala)
10/03 Philadelphia, PA – Penn’s Landing, Festival Pier (w/ Tame Impala)
10/04 Columbia, MD – Merriweather Post Pavilion (w/ Tame Impala)
10/21 Tokyo, Japan – Blitz
10/22 Tokyo, Japan – Blitz
10/23 Osaka, Japan – Hatch
10/24 Nagoya, Japan – Club Diamond Hall
OK, this time it’s true (no, really): Polyphonic Spree album coming in August, not May. Also, tour dates!
Hey, remember how we told you awhile back that The Polyphonic Spree would be releasing their new album, Yes, It’s True, in May? And hey, notice how it’s not May anymore? Well, turns out Spree frontman Tim DeLaughter may have been a little overly optimistic about when he could deliver his chamber-pop army’s next opus. But hey, “overly optimistic” sort of describes DeLaughter’s entire M.O., so we’ll let it slide.
Anyway, the new no-really-we-mean-it-this-time release date for Yes, It’s True is August 6th, so look for a review of it in these virtual pages sometime around that date—or as soon as Jake and I can tear ourselves away from the blissful euphoria of the Spree’s latest superhappyawesometime sound bath.
In other Spree news, the band is on tour as we speak, and we highly recommend checking them out. Revisit our review of their holiday show (complete with lots of shaky Instagram pics) for a sample of positive-vibe onslaught that awaits you at a Spree concert. They might not have Santa Claus with them this time around, but you never know.
The Polyphonic Spree 2013 Tour Dates:
6/28 — Minneapolis, MN @ Varsity Theater
6/29 — Kansas City, KS @ Kanrocksas
7/01 — Chicago, IL @ Park West
7/02 — Muskegon, MI @ Coast West Music Festival
7/05 — Philadelphia, PA @ Theater of The Living Arts
7/06 — Washington, DC @ Sixth & I Historic Synagogue
7/08 — Allston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
7/09 — Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
7/10 — New York, NY @ The Bowery Ballroom
7/26 — Ansan, South Korea @ Ansan Valley Rock Festival in South Korea
7/27 — Byron Bay, Australia @ Splendour In The Grass
8/04 — Dorset, UK @ Camp Bestival
8/09 — Dallas, TX @ Granada Theater
8/11 — Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
8/12 — Salt Lake City, UT @ The State Room
8/15 — Seattle, WA @ Neumos
8/16 — Vancouver, BC @ Venue Nightclub
8/17 — Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
8/19 — San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel
8/20 — Santa Ana, CA @ Observatory
8/22 — Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey
8/23 — San Diego, CA @ House of Blues
8/26 — Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress
8/27 — Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
8/29 — Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s
9/07 — Isle of Wight, UK @ Bestival
A few weeks ago, we got an email that began: “Please allow me to introduce myself! My name is TODD TAMANEND CLARK, and I am notorious for having made the weirdest album of all time.” Jaded fuckers that we are, we proceeded to ignore this email for the next two weeks, because when people write to us claiming to have recorded the “weirdest album of all time,” they usually sound more like this.
But eventually, we did get around to checking out Mr. Clark and his allegedly weird oeuvre, including Nova Psychedelia, the collection of tracks from the first decade of his career (1975-1985) that stands as (allegedly) the weirdest set of music ever assembled in one package. And while we’re not gonna crown him Weirdest Artist of All Time just yet, we gotta admit: Todd Tamanend Clark, you are one weird dude.
Here’s Todd’s story as best as we’ve been able to piece it together from various sources, including the man himself, a brief Facebook bio, and a rapturous (but, according to Clark, somewhat inaccurate) review of some of his early work by none other than Julian Cope. He was born in 1952 in Greensboro, Pennsylvania, a small town near the West Virginia border, where he continues to live to this day. A poet, singer and musician, he released his first album under the name The Stars in 1975, then joined a Pennsylvania band called The Eyes and put out an excellently titled release called New Gods: Aardvark thru Zymurgy (sometimes mistakenly credited to a non-existent band called New Gods, though for reasons obvious to those few who’ve ever been lucky to get their hands on an original copy).
During the Stars/Eyes period, Clark’s music was still heavily influenced by the ’60s psychedelic rock of Hendrix, the Doors, the Electric Prunes (who he covered) and especially the United States of America, one of the first bands to use early synthesizers in a psych-rock context. But he was also clearly attuned to the newer, harsher sounds of early punk, and would go on to collaborate with people like The Dead Boys’ Stiv Bators and Cheetah Chrome. Later, in the early ’80s, he dove more deeply into full-blown experimental rock, taking equal inspiration from bands like Pere Ubu (another occasional collaborator) and the works of sci-fi and stream-of-consciousness writers like Harlan Ellison and William S. Burroughs. And yeah, he also collaborated with Burroughs, too. For a smalltown boy from western Pennsylvania, the guy got around.
For awhile there, Clark appeared to be well on his way to, if not fame, at least a sizable cult following. But something seems to have happened between the late ’80s and now that caused Clark to drop even further off the radar than he already was. Maybe his combined interests in his Native American roots (he added the Indian “Tamanend” to his name sometime in the ’80s) and vintage synthesizers (he’s an endorsed Moog Music artist) was too much for most listeners to handle. Or maybe he just didn’t release much music; there seems to be a gap in his catalog between 1984′s Into the Vision (the album that features the aforementioned Burroughs collab, as well as appearances by some of the Pere Ubu and Dead Boys guys) and 2000′s Owls in Obsidian, the first in a trilogy of instrumental tribal-prog-synth-rock explorations that also includes Staff, Mask, Rattle (2002) and Monongahela Riverrun (2004). Todd offered to proofread this article for us for “factual errors,” so hopefully he can either enlighten us.
[Update: Todd did enlighten us. Here's what he wrote: "What I did during the recording gap... After Into The Vision, there was a vinyl single in 1985 ('Flame Over Philadelphia' b/w 'Oceans Of She') which along with my 1980 single ('Secret Sinema' b/w 'Nightlife Of The New Gods') were my college radio hits, the most commercial I ever got. I released no new recordings during the years 1986-1999, although I continued to compose music and play occasional concerts. During that time, I went to graduate school and was a devoted father to my (at that time) five children. (I've since had another son who is now thirteen.) I also immersed myself more deeply into Haudenosaunee and Lenape culture, as well as networked with indigenous activists from other native nations." So there you have it.]
More recently, Clark’s been hard at work on his first vocal album in years, a magnum opus called Dancing Through the Side Worlds. Based on this one interview we found, it was originally slated to come out in 2008 as a four-CD set, but based on our latest email transmission from T.T. Clark himself, it’s now due to arrive in November of this year, just in time for Native American Heritage Month. “If you can imagine Iggy Pop backed by Skinny Puppy and Adrian Belew doing a cyberpunk re-make of Forever Changes with new lyrics by William Burroughs and production by Trent Reznor, you will be somewhere in the aesthetic ballpark of this album,” Todd tell us. OK, then!
Clark’s body of work encompasses so many styles and genres that it’s impossible to cover all of it here, but we’ll skim the surface as best we can. Let’s start with some of his ’70s basement psych-rock stuff, from Aardvark thru Zymurgy:
Then fast-forward to 1984 and Into the Vision, on which he sounds vaguely like Jim Morrison fronting The Residents:
And finally, here’s an extended taste of the Native American-influenced prog-synth freakery he was getting up to circa 2001, with one of his kids, X Tecumseh Clark, playing some of the synths. (Yes, he has a kid named X Tecumseh. And another named Shaman Manitou.) (Bonus fun fact: X Tecumseh is the cover boy for Crystal Castles’ 2010 album.)
So here’s hoping we can do our small part in broadening the audience of this truly original oddball. And here’s hoping he really does release his next album in November as promised, because we cannot wait to break out the thesaurus and the review the hell out of it.
You know how the last Flaming Lips video, for “Ashes in the Air,” featured an alien with an eyeball for a head and lots of dead naked people? Well, their latest clip features no aliens or death, but it’s pretty much just one big ol’ nakedfest. It’s for “You Lust,” a 13-minute epic of their latest album, The Terror. Thankfully it’s been edited down to more like four minutes for the video, because four minutes is about as much flaccid penis close-ups as I can stand. Watch and you’ll see what I mean. (Heads-up: NSFW on account of it being a nakedfest and all.)
Classic Frank Zappa albums “Freak Out!” and “Over-Nite Sensation” getting the deluxe vinyl reissue treatment
Since regaining the rights to Frank Zappa‘s vast catalog, his heirs over at Zappa Records and Zappa Family Trust have wasted no time in finding new and creative ways to get his music out into the marketplace. Some moves, like selling CDs with a distribution license for $1,000 a pop, have struck us as a bit ill-conceived. But they’ve also put out some cool unreleased material and finally made his stuff available on iTunes, a long overdue boon to those of us who still quaintly insist of paying to download music instead of just listening to Pandora all day.
Even more quaintly, some of us still listen to music on big black pieces of vinyl—and now Zappa Records has those folks covered, too. Next month, they’ll be reissuing two classic Zappa albums on collector’s quality 180-gram vinyl: Freak Out!, the groundbreaking debut from Zappa’s band The Mothers of Invention, and another Mothers mind-bender, 1973′s Over-Nite Sensation, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Damn, I feel old just typing that.
No word yet on the exact release date of these suckers, but keep an eye on the somewhat bewildering Zappa.com site for (hopefully) more info soon. Meantime, let’s play out this post with a golden Frank oldie from Freak Out!, shall we?
Even though it features an alien with a giant eyeball for a head, a baby with a man’s face, and lots of blood-soaked naked people huddled around mutilated corpses, the most perverse thing about the new Flaming Lips video might be that it’s for a song that isn’t even on their latest album, The Terror, which comes out this month. Instead, it’s a fan favorite from last year’s collaborative album, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, featuring folkie falsetto hero Bon Iver on vocals. Has no one explained promotion to these people? (I’m kidding, of course: head Lip Wayne Coyne might be the shrewdest self-promoter of any artist we’ve ever covered.)
In another perverse move, the Lips’ label, Warner Bros., has decided to release The Terror in the U.K. on April 1st but delay its Stateside arrival until April 16th. Why, Warner Bros., why? It’s like you’re daring us to illegally download it. (I’m kidding, of course: We here at TWBITW do not condone online piracy or illegal sharing of copyrighted material in any form. Stay in school, kids!)
Anyway, here’s “Ashes in the Air” in all its bizarro glory. I’ll resist the urge to give away the surprise ending, but I will say this: If you’re easily grossed out, you should totally post a video of yourself watching it.
Remember, kids: All good things come to those who Kickstart. Because we kicked down 15 bones to the Polyphonic Spree for their Kickstarter campaign, we get to hear the album we helped to fund before the general public does. They even just sent us an advance download of two tracks! Really, they’re giving more to us than we ever did to them. We feel all warm and fuzzy about it.
We’re not sure when exactly we’ll receive our very own CD copy (old school!) of Yes, It’s True, but the masses get to hear it on May 28. Sometime after that, we’ll all finally get to see the Polyphonic Spree concert film Kickstarter helped fund, too. Basically, 2013 is gonna be The Year of the Spree.
The Yes, It’s True tracklist is below. They sent us a copy of album opener “You Don’t Know Me” and while we can’t share it here (cuz that would be cheating*), we can tell you it’s trippy and anthemic and a shade or two darker than we’ve come to expect from the Spree. In other words, it’s awesome. They also sent us a non-album track called “You Plus Me” that we’re sorely tempted to post so we can put to rest once and for all any lingering debate over whether Tim DeLaughter’s merry band of Texas hippies is really all that “weird.” But we’ll resist. Put it this way: It’s basically nine minutes of abstract whooshes and reverb-soaked horns and kind of sounds like this one time at band camp when I tried to simultaneously huff nitrous and play “When the Saints Go Marching In.” (Kidding! I was never in band camp.)
1) You Don’t Know Me
2) Popular By Design
3) Hold Yourself Up
4) Carefully Try
5) You’re Golden
6) Heart Talk
7) Blurry Up The Lines
8) Let Them Be
9) Raise Your Head
10) What Would You Do?
*Turns out you can listen to it on Consequence of Sound. No cheating required!