First off: our sincerest apologies for how quiet it’s been around here lately. Between my new job and the start of baseball season (Jake loves his fantasy league even more than he loves his PBR), we’ve had a hard time making time for TWBITW. We promise to do better, starting today.
So let’s get back on the weird band wagon with an artist by the name of Uwe Schmidt, better known to the world as Señor Coconut. Schmidt’s shtick, if you want to call it that, is taking pop and/or electronic music and reimagining it in various ways–most famously, under the Coconut alias, in the form of various kitschy Latin styles like the mambo and the cha-cha. His biggest claim to fame is a Señor Coconut album from 2000 called El Baile Alemán (that’s Spanish for “The German Dance,” for all you land-locked Amurricans) that consists entirely of cha-cha versions of Kraftwerk songs. If that sounds ridiculously specific–well, it is, but it’s kind of surprising how well it works. The distance from German techno to Esquivel’s “space age bachelor pad music,” it turns out, is not that great.
Schmidt followed up his Kraftwerk homage with an album that was even more ridiculously specific–Yellow Fever!, a 2006 set consisting entirely of Latin jazz versions of songs by Japanese electronica pioneers Yellow Magic Orchestra. In between, he dropped another album called Fiesta Songs that included Latinized covers of songs like “Smoke on the Water” and “Riders on the Storm.” As awesome as that sounds, most of the songs on Fiesta Songs are a little too cheeky and obvious for their own good–somehow, the cha-cha kitsch only really works if the source material isn’t too familiar. Schmidt’s version of “Smooth Operator,” for example, is so close to Sade’s that it starts to sound uncomfortably like Muzak. Which could have actually been Schmidt’s intention, but still, we’ll take “We Are the Robots” over this stuff any day of the week.
It’s worth noting that Señor Coconut is actually probably Schmidt’s least weird alias, and that he operates (smoothly, no doubt) under literally dozens of others–Wikipedia lists over 60 of them, although some, like “Superficial Depth” and “Weird Shit,” sound like they might have been made up by someone on Red Bull-fueled Wiki bender and are difficult to vouch for. Among the better-known ones are his glitch project Atom™ (formerly Atom Heart), the “electrolatino” project Lisa Carbon (which sounds a lot like Señor Coconut, except the music is all original) and an album called Pop Artificielle released in 1999 under the name “lb” that’s basically just familiar songs like James Brown’s “Superbad” and the Rolling Stones’ “Angie” programmed into a speech synthesizer and various analog synths to make them sound as artificial as possible. Clearly, this guy never met a pop song he wasn’t ready to deconstruct.
Most recently, Schmidt released another Señor Coconut album called Around the World that revisits the sort of Top-40-run-through-a-cha-cha-blender approach he took on Fiesta Songs, but with arguably more entertaining source material. This time, he tackles Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams,” Prince’s “Kiss” and our favorite, that ridiculous ’80s hit “Da Da Da,” one of those stupid novelty songs that actually sounds about a thousand times better when you do a stupid novelty cover of it. And add dancing girls in bikinis with pitchforks to it. Yes, we think this video is hot, and we’re not afraid to say so.
- Señor Coconut official site
- Señor Coconut MySpace
- Atom™ MySpace
- Uwe Schmidt’s blog (sort of an under construction work-in-progress, from the look of it)
- Essay Recordings (Señor Coconut’s German label)
- Nacional Records (Señor Coconut’s American label)