Here’s a fun little thing we recently ran across on ClubDevo.com: a Polish film student named Natalia Brożyńska recently completed a short stop-action animated film called “Searching for Devo,” featuring (with the band’s blessing) the demo version of “Blockhead.” The whole thing is beautifully shot and looks like it probably took more hours to do than we’ve spent on this entire blog in four years. Here’s what Gerald Casale had to say about it: “This sincere, labor-intensive, retro stop-action animation piece from a young girl in Poland is the latest proof that music is indeed the universal language. I felt like Devo were anthropomorphized bacteria performing sonic surgery in a Blockhead’s colon.”
We’ve really been slacking on catching the uncategorizable duo Sparks on their “Two Hands, One Mouth” tour. Not only did we skip seeing them at Coachella—a move I don’t regret at all, I might add, because seeing one of your favorite bands at Coachella is like kissing your biggest high school crush through a T-shirt soaked in other people’s sweat—we also totally missed the boat on seeing them perform at the Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which is a gorgeous venue and way less sweaty. (We saw Matmos there earlier this year and it was awesome.) Fortunately, Sparks have decided to be kind to us slackers and return to North America this fall for another round of tour dates.
This time, Ron and Russell Mael have redubbed their “Two Hands, One Mouth” tour and are calling it “The Revenge of Two Hands, One Mouth”—on account of that terrible thing you people did to Sparks on the first “Two Hands, One Mouth” tour. Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about.
Whatever you want to call it, “Two Hands, One Mouth” is just that: Ron Mael’s two hands on keyboards, and Russell Mael’s mouth on vocals. No band, no computers, no pre-recorded backing tracks. Just one of the weirdest and most eclectic catalogs in pop history, whittled down to its bare essentials. Here’s a taste of the format from that Masonic Lodge show we missed; full tour dates after the clip.
The Revenge of Two Hands One Mouth Tour Dates:
10/23: Atlanta, GA @ The Variety Playhouse
10/25: Asheville, NC @ Mountain Oasis Festival
10/27: Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
10/28: New York, NY @ Webster Hall
10/30: Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
11/1: Montreal, QC @ Le National
11/2: Toronto, ON @Lee’s Palace
11/4: Detroit/Pontiac, MI @ Crofoot Ballroom
11/6: Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
11/7: Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
11/8-11/10: Austin, TX @ Fun Fun Fun Fest
11/11: Los Angeles, CA @ Fonda Theatre
I really hope we get to take the people over at Aggronautix out for beers someday, because those guys are frickin’ awesome. Their Throbblehead series sometimes seems like it’s ripped from the pages of this blog: GG Allin, Mojo Nixon, Roky Erickson (OK, Roky’s not on the Weird List yet, but he probably should be). If they come out with an Anklepants Throbblehead, we’ll take that as proof that they’re mining our Weird List for likely candidates to immortalize in polyresin.
The latest entry in Aggronautix’s growing pantheon of weirdo Throbbleheads is none other than DEVO. Based on the classic look from the band’s 1980 “Freedom of Choice” tour, the seven-inch figure sports a bitchin’ keytar and a red Energy Dome hat—which bobbles! To the best of our knowledge, the keytar doesn’t work—but it still looks bitchin’.
The DEVO Throbblehead figures ship in September and only 2,000 are being made, so pre-order yours now. And as if you needed any more convincing, here’s a video starring Gerry Casale and, uh, some other dude, touting the Throbblehead’s many virtues.
We’ve had a rough couple of weeks here at Weird Band HQ, so we were in dire need of some cheering up. And what better way to cheer up than with a little candy-colored, hyper-caffeinated J-pop? In J-Pop-Land, no one ever gets stuck in traffic, the serotonin flows like tap water and fluorescent is the new black. You know your favorite adorable kitten video on YouTube? Cram all five minutes of it down into a three-second animated GIF and you have the perfect visual accompaniment to most J-pop.
All J-pop looks and sounds pretty strange to us Westerners, but the genre’s most freshly minted superstar, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, takes things to a whole new level. She’s sometimes described as Japan’s answer to Lady Gaga, but it would probably be more fair to describe her as the majokko lovechild of Katy Perry and Psy. Like those two, her music tends to be polarizing (you either think it’s adorably catchy pop or annoyingly repetitive drivel), her dance moves tend to be varying degrees of ridiculous, and most importantly, her costumes and music videos tend to be garish eye candy explosions in which the cute, the comical and the grotesque intermingle in all sorts of head-scratchingly unexpected ways. You may prefer to watch Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s videos with the sound turned down, but I bet you’ll watch them all the way through.
Kyary, who’s only 20, got her start as a fashion blogger and model associated with Harajuku, the youthful Japanese clothing style known for its bright colors and obsession with all things “kawaii” (cute). Kyary’s unique spin on Harajuku has always been to inject it with a touch of the bizarre: a rubber shark hat, a demonic painted-on mouth, hair clips with eyeballs on them. “I love grotesque things,” she told one interviewer. “There are so many ‘just cute’ things in the world, so I add grotesque, scary and even shocking materials like eyeballs and brains to balance out the cuteness.”
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is a bona fide superstar in Japan; her first video, “PONPONPON,” has racked up over 50 million views on YouTube, which I’m pretty sure makes her the most popular artist we’ve ever blogged about (sorry, Flaming Lips; you had a good run). But popularity and weirdness are not mutually exclusive; over the course of “PONPONPON,” Kyary dances with a giant floating eyeball, pterodactyls and what appears to be a fat dude in blackface and a pink princess dress. And “PONPONPON” is probably her least eccentric video. In her most recent clip, “Ninjya Re Bang Bang,” she rides a giant carp, dances with cartoon robot mice and vanquishes an evil floating head by turning her arm into a laser cannon, all while wearing what we’re gonna describe as ninja sleepwear. Here, check it out, but be warned: This song will lodge itself in your head for days.
We’ll leave you with “Invader Invader,” which both visually and sonically gets our vote Kyary’s for greatest and weirdest achievement to date. The finger-mustache dance moves, the breakdancing fur monsters, the TV-headed DJ, the completely gratuitous and totally awesome dubstep breakdown…why can’t American pop music be this much fun?
Kyary’s latest album, Nanda Collection—which features “Ninjya Re Bang Bang” and “Invader Invader”—just came out in Japan and the States (not sure about the rest of the world). You can buy the digital U.S. version here.
Sad news from the weird music world this week: Alan Myers, drummer for DEVO during their classic 1976-1985 period, died of brain cancer on Monday at the age of 58. Although DEVO has gone through many drummers over the years—Myers was their third, replacing Jim Mothersbaugh—he’s probably the one you’re thinking of when you picture the band in their signature Energy Dome hats, belting out offbeat New Wave hits like “Whip It” and “Girl U Want.”
We’re late to this wake: A zillion other publications have already published obits and tributes, of which the one from the LA Times’ Randall Roberts is probably our favorite. Current DEVO drummer Josh Freese also summed up Myers’ career quite neatly in a single tweet: “1 of my all time favs. An underrated/brilliant drummer. Such an honor playing his parts w/Devo. Godspeed Human Metronome.”
Myers left DEVO in 1985 after the release of the heavily programmed Shout, saying the band’s increasing use of Fairlights and electronic drums left him feeling uninspired. In the years that followed, he was a regular presence around the L.A. music scene, particularly with Skyline Electric, the band he founded with his wife Christine in 2005. They were actually scheduled to play a show in Chinatown this Friday, but presumably that show has been canceled.
We’ll leave you with a classic DEVO live performance from 1980: “Uncontrollable Urge.” People like to call Alan Myers the “Human Metronome,” but no mere metronome could have rocked this hard through this track’s stop-start rhythms. His precise, propulsive drum patterns were as much a part of the band’s sound as Mark Mothersbaugh’s yelping vocals. When DEVO finally get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—and let’s be optimistic and assume they will be—there should be an empty seat at the table in remembrance of Alan Myers.
We love us some Fabulous Downey Brothers. They’re like DEVO for people with really short attention spans. Case in point: Their latest video (last we checked—I tweet slower than these guys make music videos) is just 42 seconds long. It’s for a song called “Do It Again” and it features some of the sickest dance moves we’ve seen in quite some time. And by “sickest” I mean “it really seems like this person might be about to collapse at any moment.”
In other Fabulous D Bros news, they’re playing a gig in Seattle tomorrow night (we can’t make it, but somebody go and yell “Freebird!” for us) and they have some new costumes that look both wildly impractical and totally fucking awesome. I give those outfits five shows before they’re completely trashed, tops. But what a five shows they’ll be.
I don’t know about you, but after all the shit that went down in April, I could use a little happy action in May. So let’s start the month off on a candy-colored electro-punk note, shall we? Meet Räuberhöhle, the happiest band ever to emerge from Berlin. (Sorry, Einstürzende Neubauten.)
Räuberhöhle, which is German for “Robber’s Cave,” is the brainchild of a tattooed, J-pop-obsessed Kirsten Dunst lookalike called Krawalla Chan. Since 1999, Krawalla has been turning out bleepy, hyper-caffeinated electro-pop over which she sing-shouts like a cross between Kathleen Hanna and an army of rioting Japanese schoolgirls. There are elements of punk, disco, electroclash, chiptune and Japanese synth-pop, none of which would be weird in and of itself, but all of which Krawalla combines in some highly quirky and occasionally brilliant ways. Add to that a live show that often features puppets and a guy in a bear suit (named Bärchin) and you got yourself one unique bundle of ausgezeichnet.
Given Krawalla’s candy-raver/My Little Pony cosplay aesthetic and the fact that many of her songs have titles like “Shake Yr Anus” and “My Heart Bleeps Noisy Beeps,” you’d be forgiven for assuming that Räuberhöhle is just a feelgood party band. But she’s also written an anti-Pope song and has another one titled “The Collective Face Of German Volkszorn” which we’re pretty sure is political even though we’re not actually sure what it’s about. It has lots of spoken-word samples of German people sounding angry, so it must be about something.
Mostly, though, Krawalla writes songs about having fun and feeling good about yourself—especially if you’re a girl or, as she charmingly puts it on her website in broken English, “Gays, women, handicapped. These whole fringe groups… I am down with them as long as the personal level is okay.” Take this awesome video for the song “I’m not part of the shit,” which is all about letting your freak flag fly and not being, well, part of the shit.
But perhaps no video better sums up the fearless wackadoodlery of Räuberhöhle than this clip for “Shake Yr Anus,” in which Krawalla and her furry friends torment mall security and (no, really) fart glitter. Many thanks to reader Irrealidad for sharing this with us a few weeks back. It’s the best thing to happen to anuses since…no, that’s a sentence better left unfinished.
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!
This week’s band is one of several recently suggested to us by the inimitable Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin, who could probably do a way better job than us running this blog if she were so inclined. They’re a French group called Rockets, or sometimes Les Rockets or Roketz or even Silver Rockets to avoid being confused with a much less interesting American band called Rockets. And they did the whole ’70s glam/proto-disco/space-rock “We are aliens and we have come to your planet to boogie” thing the way only a bunch of ’70s French dudes could.
Rockets started in Paris way back in 1974 under the name Rocket Men. Dressed up in matching silver suits with shaved heads and silvery gray facepaint, they no doubt caused quite a scene in the French rock clubs of the day. Their otherworldly appearance and heavy use of synthesizers and vocoders suggested a strong Kraftwerk influence, but there was more to them than that: The very first track on their 1976 self-titled debut album, for example, was “Apache,” a funked-up version of a faux-Spaghetti Western rock instrumental recorded by a 1960 British skiffle band called The Shadows. They later covered Canned Heat, too. So their influences ranged pretty far beyond Ziggy-era Bowie and Krautrock—although that was clearly all part of the mix, too.
By 1979, Rockets had begun to enjoy some commercial success, at least in Europe, where their third album Plasteroid sold out in some countries almost as soon as it was released. By this time, they had developed more of a pop/New Wave sound and outfits that appeared to borrow rather flagrantly from Ace Frehley’s Spaceman look. But they had also perfected a highly entertaining live show that featured lots of robot dance moves and a scary, bazooka-like device with which lead singer Christian Le Bartz could shower the audience with sparks. Check the three-minute mark of this clip from an Italian TV appearance for a taste of the spark-bazooka; I’m pretty sure that even in Italy, they don’t let you get away with shit like that anymore.
Rockets peaked, both commercially and creatively, with 1980′s Galaxy, a brilliantly campy piece of space-rock/synth-pop with blacklight-ready cover art and high-concept songs about space travel and cyborgs and other bits of sci-fi geekery. It sold over a million copies worldwide, but the band began to unravel soon thereafter. By 1983, both lead singer Le Bartz and drummer Alain Groetzinger had quit the group, followed shortly by their longtime producer, Claude Lemoine, and their bassist, “Little” Gerard L’Her. With a new British lead singer, Sal Solo, the remnants of Rockets squeezed out two more albums, 1986′s One Way and 1992′s Another Future—the latter of which gamely tried to update the band’s sound with some Brit-rave beats, but without much success. By 1993, the band was effectively defunct.
But nothing helps revive musical careers like a healthy dose of nostalgia—so you will not be surprised to learn that as of 2000, Rockets have resumed their existence, albeit in heavily watered-down form. The closest thing they still have to an original member is keyboardist Fabrice Quagliotti, an Italian who joined the group in 1977. Although we’re not sure exactly when it was shot, we’re pretty sure this video is Rockets in their current incarnation. The spark-shooting guitar is kinda cool, we guess, but go-go dancers? Seriously, guys? They’re like a bad Eurovision band now. We prefer to remember them in their spacey and slightly awkward late ’70s heyday, like in this video:
Or even when they were getting all arty and high-concept with guest female vocalists in the early ’80s, like in this clip:
So thanks for the tip, Petunia! Who knew that over 20 years before Daft Punk, French people were already dressing up like robot/alien space creatures?
- Les Rockets (site dedicated to the “old” Rockets, in Italian)
- Rockets home page (fan site, with an excellent bio we cribbed most of this post from, in English and Italian)
- Rockets & Rocketsland (official site of the “new” Rockets, in Italian)
- Rockets.com.ua (Ukrainian/Russian fan site)
- Rockets on MySpace (appears to be a fan page, not recently updated)
Hey, American weirdos: Didja vote this week? If you voted in Florida, I bet you’re pissed, huh? All that standing in line and your state didn’t even count. Ain’t democracy a bitch?
Here at Weird Band HQ, we did some vote tallying of our own this week, and in our latest Facebook poll, Your Fuzzy Friends played Obama to everyone else’s Romney (and at least one band’s Gary Johnson), kicking ass and taking names en route to a totally adorable victory. Why adorable? Because aside from one lone human member, Lee Grutman (plus behind-the-scenes synth dude Kelly Shane), Your Fuzzy Friends is a band comprised entirely of hand puppets. Fuzzy ones. Hence the name, we presume…although Grutman looks a little fuzzy himself.
YFF are from Charlotte, North Carolina, or thereabouts, and feature a mustachioed unicorn named Mono, a tuxedo cat named Thomas (pronounced Thomasse, according to the website) and a porcupine named Quill Prickley. I’m gonna call their music nerdtastic electro-pop. I guess Thomas would disagree since he’s a self-proclaimed hipster, but they just dressed up as DEVO for Halloween. So call me when you dress up as Grizzly Bear and I’ll reconsider the whole hipster/nerd thing, OK, Thomas?
Your Fuzzy Friends just released their very first music video, the first of an eight-week series of videos all shot for $5. Let’s have a look, shall we?
I know you were probably thinking, “Huh, I wonder where that $5 went.” Then, bam! Mustache Belly shows up. I’m guessing it was probably about two bucks for the fake ‘stache and about three bucks worth of Pabst to get Mustache Belly loosened up. Clearly it was money well spent.
(P.S. If you’re wondering where you can score yourself a $5 dollar ‘stache dance, hit up Fiverr.com. It’s like the ass end of Craig’s List up in there, and I mean that in the best possible way.)
(P.P.S. For some fucking reason, there appears to be not a single video of Your Fuzzy Friends in concert anywhere. Get on it, Internet!)
(P.P.P.S. Go vote in our latest Facebook poll, will ya? These bands don’t pick themselves.)
So congrats of making the Weird List, Fuzzies! And keep those $5 videos coming. I’m sure we’ll post a few more somewhere down the line.