Farewell, dear readers

We had a good run, but it’s time to turn out the lights. Here’s a parting statement from our founder, Andy:

Ten years ago I started a blog called Weirdest Band in the World. Today, with some sadness but also a feeling of relief, I’m pulling the plug on that blog. In the next 24 hours, Weirdest Band will cease to exist.

In a way, it took half the blog’s lifespan to come to this decision. For the past five years, as my regular readers (if there are any left) know all too well, I’ve only added new content to Weirdest Band in fits and starts. Eventually, I had to admit to myself that this wasn’t because I was too busy — it was because, for me, the blog had simply run its course. I’m a very different person now than I was when I created Weirdest Band on little more than a whim in 2009. At the time, it scratched an itch that wasn’t getting scratched in my professional writing career. But a lot has changed since then, and that itch just isn’t there anymore. There are other, newer projects about which I’m far more excited, and they deserve my undivided attention.

I will forever be grateful for Weirdest Band’s success, modest though it was. Its readership never numbered more than a few thousand at any given time, but those few thousand (you know who you are) turned me onto more innovative, mind-blowing music than I ever could have discovered on my own. Weirdest Band became not just a blog, but a community. Artists even found each other and collaborated through Weirdest Band. That’s the part I’ll always be proudest of.

So to everyone who ever read and supported Weirdest Band in the World, thank you. I hope it brought you a few moments of joy and helped make your music collection a little weirder.

If you want to keep in touch, or keep an eye out for my future projects (which, fair warning, will likely involve little to no weird music), feel free to email me at andyLAeditor@gmail.com, or follow me on Twitter or Instagram via the handle @andyhermannla. And thanks again for reading!

And now, we’ll sign off with a beautiful song from one of the many, many great weird artists we never quite got around to including on the Weird List. Consider this your reminder that, while Weirdest Band in the World may be no more, the universe of weird, unique music is still out there. Have fun exploring it.

Advertisements

Happy Valentine’s Day from Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin and all her uncanny friends

petunia-uncanny-valley

We’ve been remiss in keeping tabs on one of favorite weirdos, Floridian lo-fi pop siren Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin, who for several years kept us entertained with a steady stream of surreal music videos from her one and only album, the funhouse masterpiece Fish Drive Edsels. Turns out that, in addition to making all those videos and running her label, Electric Phantom (home to fellow weirdos Chimney Crow), she’s been working on new music — which she finally released last month in the form of I Left My Heart in Uncanny Valley, another great collection of outsider pop ditties that’s worth the price of admission just for “Button Eyes,” a collaboration with David Liebe Hart sidekick (or alter ego? you decide) Chip the Black Boy. God, it makes us happy when weird worlds collide.

Now, just a month after unleashing Uncanny Valley upon unsuspecting listeners, P-L MacP is back with All My Friends Live in Uncanny Valley — a six-track EP of remixes of Uncanny Valley‘s best songs. And yay — there are more weird worlds colliding here! Among the remixers are Petunia’s longtime associates, Renaldo & the Loaf, as well as our old friend Toxic Chicken, the nom de weird of Kai Nobuko, who even wrote a guest post for us back in the day. Did Petunia and Kai find each other through this very blog? If so, I feel I could pack it all in today and declare victory.

All My Friends Live in Uncanny Valley also features remixes by several artists I’m not familiar with, including Kevin Busby, Vertigen, Commander Zillack and Spectral Fern Plaza. But they’re all pretty great, too — especially Busby’s “Cars and Monorails” remix of “Bright Light City,” which sounds like Gary Numan on acid, jumping in neon-lit puddles to watch the colors streak every which way. Here, you’ll see what I mean:

Both I Left My Heart in Uncanny Valley and today’s just-released remix collection (Petunia’s Valentine’s Day gift to us all — thanks, Petunia!) are available on Bandcamp. Buy ’em both, knowing that a good chunk of your Uncanny Valley dollars will likely be plowed right back into MacPumpkin’s next trippy music video. It’s money well spent.

The man behind Twink the Toy Piano Band has a new project inspired by “Eraserhead”

cat-temper
Cat Temper, bringing his keytar magic to underground cinema since 2019 

One of my all-time favorite weird bands we’ve ever written about is Twink, a Boston-based project humbly subtitled “the Toy Piano Band.” And while it’s true that, yes, many of Twink’s sounds come from toy pianos and other toy instruments, what Twink mastermind Mike Langlie does with those sounds goes way beyond the sort of plinky-plinky novelty shit you probably associate them with. Twink’s music incorporates elements of everything from trip-hop to techno to chamber pop, in a surprisingly lush, occasionally funky style he calls “toytronica.” If you’ve got an hour or three to kill, I highly recommend heading over to Twink’s Bandcamp page and bopping along to tracks with titles like “Chocolate Chipmunk” and “Pipper Snitch.” You won’t be sorry.

But hey, if toy pianos aren’t really your thing, Mike’s got a new project that might be more your speed. It’s called Cat Temper and his first release under that name is an alternative soundtrack to David Lynch’s cult classic Eraserhead called Henry. You can creep out to the 90-minute album on its own, or you can sync it up to Eraserhead‘s opening credits like your stoner older brother used to sync up Dark Side of the Moon to The Wizard of Oz, and let Langlie’s eerily beautiful soundscapes give Lynch’s stark black-and-white images a whole new vibe.

I haven’t had a chance to listen to Henry all the way through yet, or experiment with syncing it to Eraserhead — I think I probably need to re-up my weed stash before I embark on that particular venture. But I’m about seven tracks into it and it’s great so far — much creepier and analog synth-y than Twink, and also a welcome departure from the film’s original, claustrophobic soundtrack.

You can preview a sample of Henry below, and buy the whole thing on Bandcamp for a mere $5 — a steal for 90 minutes of music this quirky and clever. Nice work, Mike! I bet Lynch would approve. Maybe if he ever revives Twin Peaks again, Twink and Cat Temper can have a toy piano and keytar duel at the Roadhouse.

Band of the Week: Slimey Things

slimey-things-BW

Science fiction is a pretty common recurring theme among the bands we’ve added to the Weird List over the years. There’s no better way to announce your weirdness than by declaring you’re from another planet, or that you draw your musical inspiration from all those times you were abducted and anally probed by little green men. So what makes Slimey Things — Sydney, Australia’s self-proclaimed “premier sci-fi rock band” — stand out from every other sci-fi band on our little blue rock? It’s simple: Their music rocks.

Slimey Things list Frank Zappa, Cardiacs and Swedish prog-metal maniacs Meshuggah among their influences, and you can definitely hear all of that in their delightfully spastic sound. Here, for example, is “Spacetoast,” which is exactly what its title promises — an ode to toast from outer space. All hail the toast!

And are here they are celebrating the miracle of modern technology that is “Uberporn.” Is “uberporn” a thing that exists yet? If it is, I humbly thank you for taking time out from your busy uberporn schedule to read this blog post.

Slimey Things got their start in 2001 and sadly were called back to their home planet of Thaldor in 2016, when they released their final album, Goodbye Earth. But the band’s main instigator, Nick Soole, stayed here in Earth — in fact, he now lives right here in Los Angeles, where he’s a TV, film and videogame composer. Which I’m sure is a far more lucrative enterprise than making weird sci-fi rock.

I’ll leave you with Slimey Things’ catchiest track, which also doubles as a cautionary tale for our increasingly dystopian times: “Made by Robots for Robots.” No wonder Slimey Things left Earth for Thaldor and/or Los Angeles.

P.S. Thanks to reader Paul for indoctrinating us into the ways of Slimey Things!

Links:

New Mayhem biopic “Lords of Chaos”: like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” with more cannibalism and church burnings

Lords-of-Chaos-poster

I have to admit, when I saw the trailer for Lords of Chaos, the new fictionalized portrayal of black metal legends Mayhem, I got pretty excited. Visually the film looks great; it’s based on (and named after) one of the best books about the Norwegian black metal scene; and it was directed by Jonas Åkerlund, who in addition to directing to some of my all-time favorite weird music videos (including this one for Rammstein) has as much extreme metal cred as any filmmaker in the business — he was the drummer and a founding member of Bathory, a Swedish black metal band that was a prime influence on Mayhem and the entire Norwegian scene. And I love that — if the trailer is to be believed — the film doesn’t lose sight of the fact that, for all their later grandiose talk of Satanism and musical purity, the people who started this scene were initially just a bunch of party-hardy kids drinking beer and playing metal in their parents’ basements.

Lords of Chaos opens in American theaters today, and reviews so far are, to put it kindly, mixed. The film has a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, which isn’t bad, but the music press has been particularly harsh in its assessment, which doesn’t bode well. (Several current members of Mayhem apparently hate the film, too, for what it’s worth.) This review by Stereogum’s Patrick Lyons is particularly damning. If Lyons is to be believed, the film lets its characters off the hook way too easily for their violent, nihilistic and ultimately fascist world views — while at the same time doing a lousy job of accurately capturing what Norwegian black metal actually sounded like, which is weird considering Åkerlund’s bona fides. Rolling Stone also came down pretty hard on the film, though I find their criticisms a bit more suspect; the writer devotes almost an entire paragraph to dismissing Euronymous’ use of the phrase “True Norwegian Black Metal” as unrealistic, when anyone who’s read anything about Mayhem knows that this is exactly the sort of pompous locution he loved to use.

Anyway, my feeling for now is that I’m going to reserve judgment until I’ve actually seen the film — and maybe once I do, I’ll post a review here sharing my thoughts. It’s certainly true that telling the story of Mayhem in a way that’s accurate but doesn’t glorify all the awful shit they did is going to require a delicate balancing act — one that I’m not sure a guy like Åkerlund, who’s a brilliant visual stylist but not the most seasoned feature-length storyteller, can pull off. If the film sets up founding guitarist Euronymous as a sympathetic anti-hero and murderous, church-burning bassist Varg Vikernes as the cartoon villain — which it sounds like might be the case — then that’ll be disappointing. But it could also be a fascinating depiction of how easy it is for confused young people to make the leap from rebellious behavior that’s mostly symbolic — which, let’s face it, every confused young person in human history has done — to behavior that’s actually dangerous and destructive. There’s a good cautionary tale in the history of Mayhem — I hope Lords of Chaos tells it.

Owls Are Not

Exif_JPEG_420

This week’s weirdness comes to us from Warsaw, Poland, where a guy who goes by Piotr Dang has spent the past several years creating wildly experimental music with various collaborators under the name Owls Are Not. And if those three words are enough for you to pick up the Twin Peaks reference, congratulations — you officially have bragging rights at our next David Lynch Fan Club meet-up.

The first Owls Are Not release in 2012 was an EP of noisy math-rock instrumentals whose title quoted the full Twin Peaks line: Owls Are Not What They Seem. Since then, their music has continued to get more adventurous and less recognizably rock-based, incorporating elements of electronic genres like breakbeat and footwork as well as sound collages cribbed from TV news, obscure Afrobeat samples and other sources. In 2016, with Piotr taking over most of the band’s sounds except for the drums, they released a wonderfully jittery collection called isnot that sounds like the evening news being delivered from the dance floor of a really grimy Polish goth/industrial club, probably one taking place in an old Soviet-era bomb shelter covered with dirty needles and anarchist graffiti.

But what really earns Owls Are Not a place on the Weird List is their latest release: last year’s Radio Tree, a collaboration between Piotr Dang and an international group of artists including Japanese drummer/vocalist Masaya Hijikata, Polish guitarist Michał Pawłowski and a trio of African vocalists: Martin Kaphukusi, Certifyd and Peter Kaunda of the Malawian group Tonga Boys. The whole album is a trip, but the African collaborations, recorded in Malawi and Tanzania, are especially fascinating, as Piotr Dang’s interest in electronic music styles like dub and footwork collides with modern and traditional styles indigenous to East Africa, like malipenga, vimbuza and singeli, for a combination they call “minimal Afro-funk” or “free singeli punk.” Here, for example, is “Lovefood,” which features Kaunda and is apparently inspired by singeli, a contemporary style of African dance music that can reach 300 beats per minute:

It’s worth noting here that Piotr runs a record label with Vietnamese-Polish artist (and Radio Tree cover designer) Thuy Duong called 1000Hz that released both Radio Tree and Tonga Boys’ latest album, Vindodo. Vindodo is also great, especially if you like music that takes traditional African sounds and juices them with electronic embellishments and other modern touches. For my money, Radio Tree is definitely the weirder of the two projects, if only because its music is so beautifully unmoored from any one culture. Its sounds could come from Tanzania, or Warsaw, or Bristol circa 1996, or a goddamned spaceship. It’s unique.

I’ll leave you with Radio Tree‘s title track, which is probably my favorite. I’m not sure how music can be both funky and slightly seizure-inducing, but this manages it.

Links:

Sparks’ “No. 1 in Heaven” is getting a 40th anniversary reissue

sparks-no1-song

People tend to forget how huge disco was in the late ’70s. Pretty much everyone took a stab at making a disco record — Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, KISS. Even that most hapless of rock gods, Ringo Starr, tried to get in on the action, with predictably disastrous results. (We still love you, Ringo! But we’re glad you got that solo artist stuff out of your system and have settled happily into Rock Elder Statesman status.)

In the midst of all that high-profile Studio 54 carpetbaggery, a successful but significantly less famous art-rock duo called Sparks somehow managed to hire one of disco’s architects, the great Giorgio Moroder, to produce their eighth studio album. The resulting product, No. 1 in Heaven, spawned a pair of U.K. hits, “Beat the Clock” and “The Number One Song in Heaven.” But more importantly, it proved that electronic dance music could be weird. It’s the missing link between Kraftwerk and much of the herkiest, jerkiest synth-pop and New Wave that would follow. It also gave Sparks a much-needed reset, paving the way for what has become a career built on continuous, Bowie-like reinvention, as brothers Ron and Russell Mael have transformed their sound with virtually every new release in all the decades since.

This March, No. 1 in Heaven turns 40, even though I bet it still gets carded at the nightclub. To celebrate how gracefully their disco opus has aged, Sparks are reissuing No. 1 in Heaven on CD and vinyl with four bonus tracks and two promos recorded by the great Peter Cook (if his name doesn’t ring a bell, maybe this will: “Mawwiage!”). Both are available for pre-order now from the Sparks online store.

I’ll leave you with the video for “The Number One Song in Heaven,” in which one Russell and three Rons serve up their heavenly synths and falsetto vocals in what I assume is a cloud of hairspray and cocaine dust. God, the ’70s look fun.