We thought we had already stumbled across the weirdest band in Poland when a reader turned us on to Dick4Dick. Boy were we ever wrong. Turns out that when it comes to weird bands, the Poles roll deep. A reader by the name of Paweł recently dropped his own Polish Weird List on us and we’re still digesting it like a two-foot kielbasa. We’re not even sure where to start at this point, but the “meadow funk” of Laki Lan is as good a place as any.
Laki Lan (or Łąki Łan, if you want to get all Polish about it) is a six-piece from Warsaw or thereabouts. Their name means “meadow field” and they all dress up in goofy costumes evoking various creatures native to said meadows and fields—bugs, mostly, but also the occasional rodent, elf or other adorable woodland fauna. They’ve been around for over a decade and released three albums, but don’t seem to be well-known outside Poland, or at least among us Yanks. About the only things written about them on the Web in English are a brief Wikipedia entry and a fanciful bio on Last.fm that reads, in part:
Once upon a time, somewhere on the meadow near Warsaw, four insects got together and decided to form a music band. They wanted to play, but they didnt know how. After long months of practicing and rehearsing Butterfly, Grasshopper, Bumble-bee and Dragonfly started a psychedelic journey to the big city and thats how the world learned about fantastic live shows giving rare mixture of disco-punk-rock-funkin style of Łąki Łan (meadow field).
I wish we knew more, because there’s clearly some backstory to all the characters. But I don’t think Google translator is up to the task. Here’s how it renders the bio on the band’s website:
Once the leaf jełopianu met six amazing gourmet pollen and nectar …
Mon Kolny, Unruly Bonk hare Cokictokloc, Jesus, Marian, MegaMotyl and little elf named Paprodziad.
Paprodziadowi managed to dig out from his bundle bizarre bottle whose contents then offered all members of the Meadows canopy.
Suddenly, the wind ferocious dust rose into the air, it got dark as in the belly of the track, the birds were silent, flower petals pozwijały and terrible lightning pierced the skies were blue.
Fortunately, there has been nothing more than rain that soaked the wings and doublets.
So they returned to his true fungus, took out instruments and played ŁąkiFunka …
Actually, you know what? I take it back. That’s all I need to know about these guys.
In Poland, Laki Lan are most famous for their rousing live shows, which do indeed look like a funky good time. The band’s music is a highly danceable mish-mash of punk, funk, rock, house, disco and even drum ‘n’ bass. It occasionally gets a little weird, but mostly it’s just high-energy and fun, like this track called “Propaganda,” which based on the video I guess is about one of those girls with so much shit in her purse she gets sucked into an alternate universe just looking for her keys.
But Laki Lan doesn’t get any weirder than “Big Baton,” the clip our buddy Paweł sent us. They’re like the Red Hot Chili Peppers back when they had a sense of humor! And better outfits.
Oh and given what time of year it is, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this earlier, punkier Laki Lan video:
Even if you’re not a fan of the mumble-mouthed funk-rock Les Claypool turns out with Primus, you gotta admit the man has chops. Few humans have ever slapped a bass guitar with more frenetic precision. So what happens when you take away Claypool’s electric bass guitar and replace it with an acoustic resonator bass guitar? Well, basically you get an acoustic version of Primus—but hey, if you are a fan, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Claypool’s latest project is the self-explanatorily named Duo de Twang—there’s two of them, and they are indeed twangy. The other half of the Duo is Bryan Kehoe, whom Primus fans may recognize as the guitarist from Claypool’s 2008 mockumentary Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo. Armed only with an acoustic guitar, bass and some stomped percussion, Kehoe and Claypool manage to whip up a pretty good racket, as evidenced by this stripped-down version of “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver.” (If you can’t see the SoundCloud player below, click here.)
Duo de Twang’s debut album, Four Foot Shack, is due out Feb. 4th, 2014 on ATO Records. It’ll be a mix of traditional bluegrass tunes, some Primus and Claypool covers and…wait, “Stayin’ Alive”? Seriously? Looks like the ball’s in your court, Tragedy. Peep the full tracklist after this little video trailer.
“Four Foot Shack” (Les Claypool’s Duo de Twang)
“Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” (Primus)
“Amos Moses” (Jerry Reed)
“Red State Girl” (Les Claypool)
“The Bridge Came Tumblin’ Down” (Stompin’ Tom Connors)
“Boonville Stomp” (Les Claypool)
“Stayin’ Alive” (Bee Gees)
“Rumble of the Diesel” (Les Claypool)
“Pipe Line” (The Chantays)
“Buzzards of Greenhill” (Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade)
“Hendershot” (Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade)
“Man in the Box” (Alice in Chains)
“D’s Diner” (Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade)
“Battle of New Orleans” (Johnny Horton)
“Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” (Primus)
So it being Halloween and all, we were going to make some wacky costumed act our Weird Band of the Week. But then we were going through some old reader comments and a few different folks mentioned Nina Hagen and we said, “You know what? Other acts wear Halloween costumes. Nina Hagen is a Halloween costume.” People have been ripping off her unique style for decades, to the point where some of them (ahem, Lady Gaga) probably aren’t even aware of the original source. So for all you young’uns out there, let’s get acquainted with the so-called Mother of Punk, shall we?
Nina Hagen was born in 1955 in East Berlin, at the height of the Cold War. She was pegged very early in life as an opera prodigy, but she was more interested in pop music. After singing in a more traditional German pop band called Fritzens Dampferband (you can hear one of her early vocals here), she formed a “rock” band called Automobil in 1974. I put “rock” in quotation marks because this was one of their more rockin’ tracks:
The song title translates roughly to “You Forgot the Color Film” and the lyrics are basically all Nina Hagen berating her boyfriend on their vacation for, well, not bringing color film. Apparently it was interpreted at the time as a sly critique of the drabness of East Berlin. Yeah, life behind the Iron Curtain was not fun.
In 1976, she and her parents defected to West Germany, and that’s when the Nina Hagen we all know and love really began to blossom. Inspired by the nascent punk scene on a visit to London, Hagen formed the Nina Hagen Band and began playing a theatrical mix of punk, glam and progressive rock, all punctuated by her increasingly over-the-top, operatic vocals. The music was frankly not all that exciting, but Hagen was developing into an astonishing vocalist and live performer. Here, for example, is the Nina Hagen Band in 1979, performing a track called “Naturträne.” It’s basically one minute of song followed by three minutes of Nina wailing over a bunch of prog-rock noodling, but this woman could wail over a Yanni record and I’d still camp out for tickets.
By the end of ’79, the Nina Hagen Band had already broken up, as Hagen went off to explore wilder musical frontiers as a solo artist. Even in this 1980 clip of her covering “Ziggy Stardust” on Swedish television, the style and attitude she became famous for is pretty much all there: the crazy hair and eye makeup, crazier facial expressions, and positively batshit vocals.
In 1982, Hagen released her first solo album and first album sung entirely in English, NunSexMonkRock. Richard Metzger of Dangerous Minds recently called it the post-punk era’s greatest “unsung masterpiece” and it’s hard to argue with him. From beginning to end, the record sounds like it was flown in from another planet, not exactly punk or glam or New Wave but somehow channeling all those forces into a totally original sound. The best-known track is an anti-heroin anthem called “Smack Jack,” which isn’t the weirdest thing on the album but which features a music video that has to be seen to be believed. Yes, that’s Nina in male cop drag. And Nina singing backup. And another Nina singing the other backup. It’s a Nina-palooza.
Hagen’s done plenty of other weird shit in the years since: One of the most amazingly ’80s videos of all time, “New York New York” (her only real hit here in the U.S.). A Rammstein cover with the Finnish cello-rock band Apocalyptica, which is fitting since Till Lindemann stole many of his vocal affectations from Hagen. She released an album of Hindu devotional chants, with cover art featuring herself dressed up as the goddess Kali. She once told David Letterman about a UFO she saw over Malibu—actually, she told lots of people about UFOs. In more recent years, she’s recorded an album of big band standards, covered Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” and, sadly, lost much of her once-astonishing vocal range. She’s also become a devout Christian, which probably alienated some of her old punk fan base. But she remains as refreshingly kooky and totally original as ever.
We’ll leave you with one of Nina Hagen’s signature cover tunes. Sid Vicious may have punked up “My Way” first, but Nina’s version is untouchable, even after all these years.
P.S. Thanks to readers Singing Grass, Alex and Denny for reminding us to add Nina to the Weird List. Better late than never, right, guys?
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.
If memory serves me…and between advancing middle age and too much Jagermeister, it doesn’t serve me all that well…we’ve never added a band from Poland to The Weird List before. Well, this week, that’s finally gonna change. Meet Dick4Dick, the band you should in no way confuse with the gay porn site of the same name. By the way, this probably goes without saying, but if you’re at work, you probably shouldn’t click that link. Unless you work at a gay porn site, in which case…are they hiring?
Dick4Dick were introduced to us by a reader from Poland named U.Do. I thought everyone there was named stuff like Zbygnyrw and Wyrzcrskntz and other random combinations of consonants, but what do I know? Anyway, U.Do describes Dick4Dick like this: “Known mainly for their performances – stage used to explode during their fetish, glam rocky and extremely funny shows. Most of their songs somehow paraphrases the old hits with a dirty twist.” Intrigued, we checked out the video U.Do sent our way and it was love at first stolen Sabbath hook:
Did you watch all the way to the 1:18 mark? If not, what is wrong with you? Go back and play the whole thing. We’ll wait.
Awesome, right? Why do they suddenly start singing about Chicago ghettos? Who knows? Like all the best weird music, it makes absolutely no sense and totally works, all at the same time. We were hooked.
With a little more digging, we learned that…well, actually, we learned almost nothing, because very little has been written about this band in English. Here’s what we do know: They’ve been around since 2004 and released four albums. At one time, they had five guys, but now they seem to be down to four: Baron Baye, M.Bunio.S, Goodboy Khris, and Great Adaggio. They haven’t released any new music since 2010, but M.Bunio.S and Goodboy Khris have a new electro-disco side project called Dickie Dreams Soundsystem that released some new music via SoundCloud about a year ago.
But details, shmetails. The main attraction here is D4D’s music videos, which are generally just as mind-blowing as “Drink My Kefir,” even when the music skews more towards not-so-mind-blowing ’80s-style power-pop. There’s more than a little Spinal Tap in these guys, or maybe Die Antwoord if Die Antwoord was more into Cheap Trick and Headbangers Ball than The Prodigy and Atlanta hip-hop. Check out the serious wind-machine rock-god posturing in this clip:
They’ve got loads more videos on YouTube, some just as weird, some just kinda odd in that “I guess they think this shit is cool in Poland” sort of way, like this one where the band plays slithery electro-pop in black hoodies in a park while the lead singer menacingly sips a glass of whiskey, and then a bunch of people collapse in crosswalks all over the city for no reason. (Actually that one has an fucking excellent ending, but I’m not gonna give it away here.)
But we’ll leave you with the clip that, based on everything we’ve seen so far, sums up Dick4Dick’s rock-star/goofball swag the best. It’s called “I know, you need my rocknroll” and after you watch it, you will also find yourself needing a really good pair of sweat-resistant wristbands.
This week’s weird band was suggested by an excellently named reader called Adam Whybray. He describes a.P.A.t.T. as sounding “a bit like a glitchy Mr. Bungle cult that formed down the pub.” And while that’s probably as good a description as any of these cheeky Liverpudlians (although it doesn’t contain the word “Liverpudlian,” which is one of those words you should use every chance you get), it really only scratches the surface of what this avant-pop art-school project has achieved in its 15-odd years of existence.
a.P.A.t.T. (what does it stand for? how do you pronounce it? who knows? who cares?) formed in Liverpool in 1997 or 1998. Their early goal, according to their Wikipedia page (which the band links to from their official site, so let’s assume it’s semi-accurate), was to “make, find, imagine, and create ‘secret music,’” by which they seemed to mean music that abandoned traditional song structures and instrumentation. You can hear some of the band’s early stuff on Welcome to a.P.A.t.T. Island – A collection of earlies, which veers sharply between abstract, ambient noise and bursts of spastic, genre-hopping art-pop that reveals some of those Mr. Bungle influences that Adam picked up, as well as an even more direct early influence (and another favorite of ours around here), Cardiacs.
By 2005 or so, the band’s music had become even harder to categorize. On the Fre(e.P), they started doing Girl Talk-like mashups, mixing recognizable pop and classic rock samples with trip-hop beats and trashy club rap, but doing it in a style meant more to be unsettling than party-starting. Check the amazing “Megamix Part 1″ for a taste of what happens when you cram the Jackson 5, Coolio, Portishead and “What a Day for a Daydream” into the same track.
Meanwhile, they were also developing a live soundtrack for the silent-film-era vampire classic, Nosferatu, complete with strings. Because hey, why not?
In 2008, they reinvented themselves yet again, transforming into a Zappa-like prog/jazz/metal/psych-rock orchestra on the epic, 27-track Black & White Mass. Most recently, they released Paul the Record, a split album with a band called Peepholes, then decided to embrace the “playlist on shuffle” mentality of our modern age with Ogadimma, a 14-track set on which no two songs are done in the same style. They’ve also shot videos for all 14 songs; taken collectively, they’re pretty amazing. Here they are, for example, in full-on Prince-meets-Of-Montreal mode:
Now try to remember, as you watch this next video, that this is the same band:
They also cite Ween as one of their influences, which honestly didn’t make sense to me until I heard the casual, tongue-in-cheek virtuosity of the Ogadimma stuff: “Oh, you want to hear us do some ’80s synth-pop? Sure, here you go. No big whoop.” (Among their other listed influences: The Residents, Duran Duran, Captain Beefheart, John Zorn, Slayer, Claude Debussy, ABBA, and The Beatles. Much like a.P.A.t.T.’s actual music, this list simultaneously makes no sense and all the sense in the world.)
You’ll notice up until now that I haven’t mentioned any of a.P.A.t.T.’s members by name. That’s because, quite frankly, I have no idea who these people are. a.P.A.t.T don’t perform wearing masks or anything, but they do (mostly) stick to an all-white costume palette that seems to help them maintain a semi-anonymous quality. That plus, let’s be honest here, a.P.A.t.T. is not the world’s most Google-friendly band name. According to their Wikipedia page, their core members go by the names General MIDI, Field Marshall Stack, Dorothy Wave, Master Fader and The Researcher, but that’s all I know.
We’ll wrap this post up with a clip of a.P.A.t.T’s live show (non-orchestra version), which looks like jolly good fun. That lady keyboard player (Dorothy Wave, we presume) has sure got some sick dance moves.
During his 1989-1991 stint in prison for keeping a female fan chained up in his bedroom and torturing her for several days, rock’s greatest scumfuck GG Allin kept a journal that, amazingly, has never before been published in full. But now Aggronautix, the company that brought you the GG Allin bobblehead, is finally making Allin’s “30 Days in the Hole” available in print, along with a bunch of his prison drawings and letters he traded with fellow psychopaths like John Wayne Gacy. Just in time for beach reading season!
Weighing in at 208 pages, My Prison Walls comes not, as you might expect, printed on toilet paper and wrapped in a shit-stained hazmat bag. No, this baby is a luscious-looking, limited-edition hardcover book, “wrapped in black saifu cloth and decorated/titled in red foil blood stamping.” I’m not even sure what any of that means, but I’m pretty sure I just heard GG vomit in his grave.
Black saifu cloth aside, this is still the Geege we’re talking about, so the book’s contents are not exactly what you’d call your classic coffee table book fodder. You can read a bunch of excerpts over on Vice.com, which reveal that Allin apparently spent most of his time in the clink jerking off, comparing himself to Jesus Christ, and trying to figure out ways to record vocals by telephone for the next Murder Junkies record. He didn’t use the time to read Thoreau and Emerson and contemplate the error of his ways. Hell, the first thing he did after he got out was skip bail to go back on tour.
My Prison Walls is due out in August but you can pre-order it now for the low, low price of $49.95. Yeah, GG would have probably hated the whole thing except the part where you shell out fifty bucks for the privilege of reading about how he got a scab on his dick from wacking it too many times. That part he would have fucking loved.
Nashville doesn’t have a reputation as a hotbed of weird music, but maybe it should. Between Here Come the Mummies, H-Beam and now our latest Weird Band Poll winners, The Chewers, Music City U.S.A. has been flying its freak flag at full mast of late.
The Chewers are Travis Caffrey on (mainly) guitar and Michael Sadler on (mainly) drums, although their songs also feature a lot of programmed sounds and the occasional oddball instrument. (We’re particularly fond of the instrumental track “Don’t Go in the Tent,” which manages to make the usually goofy Siren Whistle sound like it’s coming to suck the breath from your body.) They describe themselves as “two freaks from the woods of West Virginia” and there is definitely a creepy, Deliverance-y quality to their off-kilter tunes, as though a couple of tattooed hillbillies decided to retire early from the bathtub speed trade and form a band based on the Residents and Tom Waits records they found at a yard sale in Wheeling.
But just because they’re hillbillies, don’t mistake them for rubes. There’s a smart, satirical edge to a lot of The Chewers’ best songs, like this two-for-one send-up of organized religion and the pharmaceutical industry (if you can’t see the SoundCloud players below, click here):
Then again, they’re also pretty great at just grunting salaciously, basically turning the first 30 seconds of The Doors’ “Back Door Man” into an entire song:
Finally, here’s a more recent track, “Burn It Down.” The vocals have gotten even weirder, but the music’s gotten groovier, too. We’re digging it.
They also make pretty good videos. Here’s one for “Techno-Slaves,” a track from their latest album, Chuckle Change and Also. We especially like the little saloon-keeper singing trio croaking away in the lower right hand corner.
So congrats on winning our April Weird Band Poll and keeping Nashville weird, guys. And if you see Brad Paisley, please bitch-slap him for us, OK? That “Accidental Racist” song might be the worst thing we’ve ever heard.