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.
Austin’s Automusik strive to hold down the title of World’s Most Generic Pop Band. Their official bio describes them as “a moderately priced musikal entity”; their members are known only by job titles like Female Rock Unit Number One and Visual Viewing Unit Number Four; most of their songs, like “General Masses,” are heavy-handed parodies of trashy, mass-marketed pop and the vapid stars that produce it. It’s like if Kraftwerk were forced to turn themselves into a Lady Gaga tribute band, but couldn’t disguise their contempt for “Paparazzi.”
None of that, however, is what makes Automusik kind of awesome. What makes them kind of awesome is when they go off the We-Are-Pop-Shit-Robots script and produce truly bizarre gems like “Everything Is for the Baby.” Please to enjoy.
Imagine our excitement when we heard the elusive duo of Ron and Russell Mael, aka Sparks, were doing a month-long tour! Now imagine our disappointment when we learned that said tour won’t come any closer to our little corner of Mother Earth than Dublin, Ireland. Damn you, Sparks! Why must you torment us so?
All is not lost, however. We’re assured they’ll visit the U.S. and Japan in 2013. In the meantime, we’ll just have to settle for a maddeningly brief taste (YouTube clip after the jump) of a new sexytime track called “Two Hands, One Mouth,” which also happens to be the name of their new tour. “Two hands, one mouth,” go the lyrics. “That’s all I need to satisfy you.” Promises, promises, boys!
Sparks “Two Hands, One Mouth” tour dates:
October 04 – Vilnius, Lithuania (Forum Palace)
October 05 – Ventspils, Latvia ( Jūras Vārti Arts Centre)
October 07 – Helsinki, Finland (Tavastia Klubi)
October 08 – Oslo, Norway (Parkteatret)
October 09 – Stockholm, Sweden (Södra Teatern)
October 10 – Stockholm, Sweden (Södra Teatern)
October 12 – Malmö, Sweden (Moriska Paviljongen)
October 13 – Berlin, Germany (Postbahnhof)
October 14 – Hamburg, Germany (Gruenspan)
October 16 – Frankfurt, Germany (Batschkapp)
October 17 – Bochum, Germany (Zeche)
October 19 – Gent, Belgium (Vooruit)
October 21 – Edinburgh, Scotland (HMV Picture House)
October 22 – Manchester, England (HMV Ritz)
October 23 – Birmingham, England (HMV Institute)
October 25 – Brighton, England (Brighton Dome)
October 26 – London, England (Barbican Centre)
October 29 – Dublin, Ireland (Button Factory)
And they say our democracy is broken. Tens…nay, dozens!…of you took to our Facebook page over the past month and by a pretty wide margin, you made The Fabulous Downey Brothers the winners of our latest weird band poll. And we gotta say, you people got this one right. These guys are straight outta Crazytown, back when that still meant “You are completely fucking nuts” as opposed to “You are a shitty rap-rock band that sings about butterflies.”
There are two actual Downey Brothers, Sean and Liam, and four honorary ones: Chandra (that’s her losing her shit in the photo above), Alex, Frederick and Myrtice. (Myrtice? Yes, Myrtice.) There may also be one or two additional Downeys from time to time but we’re not sure if they’re part-timers or got fired for not being wacky enough. They’re from Olympia, Washington, which is also where Nirvana got their start, which I only mention because that’s pretty much the only thing I know about Olympia. But whatever Olympia did to Kurt Cobain, it seems to have had the exact opposite effect on The FDB’s. They are the manic to Kurt’s depressive. Although I do believe they’re both big DEVO fans.
We’re not sure how long the Sean, Liam and co. have been doing their thing, but it doesn’t seem to have been for very long. This is the oldest video we could find of theirs on YouTube, and it’s only from 2009. They’ve only released a pair of EPs, but have made a shit-ton of videos, nearly every one weirder than the last. My personal favorite, “Fizz,” is below, but if you like catchy New Wavey punk and dorky dance moves, I also highly recommend “Mush Mouth.” Their live show looks fun, too. Those big blue bug-like headdresses are apparently their signature look, but they’ve also shown up in everything from giant eyeballs to cupcake helmets. Yes, cupcake helmets. Don’t believe me? Check the photo labeled “Royal Lounge” on this page. Delicious, right? Blue frosting is my favorite. Artificial food coloring always makes me trip balls.
So congrats on being our Weird Band of the Week, Brothers! And sorry we missed you when you played SoCal last month. Come back soon? We promise to show up this time.
P.S. Actual voting sucks, right? We have to decide whether to ban gay fracking or partial-birth marijuana or genetically modified Indian casinos or whatever. Don’t we have elected representatives who are supposed to take care of this shit? (Sorry, that was a very California rant. All of you who live in states and countries that aren’t quite so obsessed with direct democracy, move on…)
Fortunately, there’s an easier alternative. Just go vote for a future Weird Band of the Week in our latest poll. Better yet, submit a weird band for consideration on our aptly named Submit a Band page. Now that is some direct democracy.
This week’s band comes to us from a reader named Alex Thermostellar Duddy (Thermduddy, to his bros) and from the dark, twisted heart of the early ’80s. Back then, much of Italy was getting its hairy-chested groove on to the synth-heavy sounds of Italo-disco, a whole weird genre unto itself that might have been the missing link between Kraftwerk and Detroit techno. Or it might just have been what happens when a bunch of Italian dudes with cheap synthesizers and a Giorgio Moroder jones try to make dance music after an all-night cocaine and Chianti bender. And I know it doesn’t sound like I mean that as a compliment, but I do. Italo-disco rules. It just rules in a trashy, gold-chain, uniquely Italian way.
One of the Italo-disco scene’s less heralded producers, a guy named Stefano Pulga, originally conceived Pink Project as a one-off—a slightly tongue-in-cheek disco rework of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” and Alan Parsons Project’s “Mammagamma.” It was a mashup decades before that term even existed—except that, given the more primitive quality of samplers back in the day (and the looser laws governing cover songs, as opposed to wholesale sampling), it was easier for Pulga to just get together with some of his Italo-disco buddies and a hired children’s choir and record the whole thing themselves. Released under the title “Disco Project,” it was probably never meant to be more than a curiosity piece, while Pulga turned his attention back to his solo stuff and his other, semi-successful group, Kano, who were churning out fairly awful Italo-disco hits like this.
But then something unexpected happened: “Disco Project,” at least in Italy, became a hit. The track’s popularity in 1982 reached such heights that Pink Project began getting invitations to appear on American Bandstand-style Italian TV shows—which was sort of a problem, because as a band, Pink Project didn’t really exist. Pulga solved this rather ingeniously by hiring some performers (one of whom may or may not have been Pulga himself) to show up disguised in black hooded monk’s robes and mime playing the song. Combined in this clip with a fresh-faced children’s choir, the effect is both disturbing and totally ridiculous.
Flush with the success of “Disco Project,” Pulga decided to put out a sequel of sorts: another mashup, this time of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and The Greg Kihn Band’s “Jeopardy,” released under the title “B-Project.” As far as we’ve been able to find out, it was never a hit, but it’s even more fantastic than the Floyd/Parsons medley. And when Pink Project got invited to appear on another TV show, Pulga one-upped himself by…well, just watch and you’ll see.
Pink Project’s recorded output also consisted several other mashups, including a Police/Vangelis hybrid we quite like, a collision of Trio’s “Da Da Da” and Falco’s “Der Kommissar” called (obviously) “Der Da Da Da,” and a “Rockit”/”Superstition” mash that, sadly, is nowhere as awesome as that combo sounds. They also released a few original tracks, although the less said about them, the better.
All of Pink Project’s singles and their two albums, Domino and Split, are out of print, and there’s not much more info about the project on the web, at least in English. Even Stefano Pulga’s official website only mentions the group in passing (and in Italian, so we’re not sure what he says about it, except that it was “un prodotto nuovo”). But all of their stuff is widely available on YouTube and collector’s websites like Discogs, as well as a few of those naughty Torrent sites, if that’s your thing.
So what do you think? Italo-disco ’80s mashups—superior to hipster ’00s mashups? We say yes. Especially when delivered by guys dressed up like a low-budget cross between Xanadu and Lord of the Rings.
This time around, the project looking for a little crowd-sourced scratch is a documentary about DEVO called Are We Not Men? Amazingly, this is the first feature-length documentary about the experimental Ohio band. The five-minute trailer on the Kickstarter page looks pretty cool. There’s lots of vintage footage of the band freaking out the normals (keep an eye out for Merv Griffin) and more recent stuff about their 2009-2010 comeback as the tongue-in-cheek embodiment of consumer-tested corporate rock.
The filmmakers have set themselves the rather lofty goal of raising $25,000 by Aug. 7th. As of this writing, they’ve managed to raise just over three grand. So go and give generously, won’t you? Think of it as casting a financial vote against that fucking Katy Perry movie.
Here’s that Kickstarter link again. Do you duty now…for the future! (I was going to insert a “Whip It” reference here, but that shit’s played out, don’t you think?)