The Tiger Lillies

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(Photo by Regis Hertrich)

This week’s weird band was suggested by a reader named Thomas, aka Dr. Benway, whose profile on is really cool but also makes us hope we never run into him in a dark alley. Fortunately, he lives in South Africa, so we’re probably safe.

Thomas recommended that we check out the Tiger Lillies, a London trio who have been doing the whole Brechtian punk cabaret thing since before the Dresden Dolls were even a gleam in Amanda Palmer’s heavily mascara’d eye. Truly, these guys are pioneers, and they don’t really get the credit they deserve, probably because they’re morbid and British and the lead singer is a chubby guy in whiteface who plays the accordion and sings in a castrati-style falsetto. They’re too scary for the old-timey/hot jazz crowd and not sexy and/or edgy enough for the goth/steampunk crowd. But they’re kinda cooler than either of those scenes, and at least twice as original.

The Tiger Lillies were founded in 1989 by Martyn Jacques, a classically trained self-taught opera singer and accordion player who, according to his official bio, lived above a brothel in London’s Soho district. Jacques joined forces with percussionist Adrian Huge and, eventually, bassist/Theremin/musical saw player Adrian Stout, who came on board in 1995. Together they developed a style of music that mixed jazz, punk, English music hall, gypsy folk, French chanson, show tunes, Threepenny Opera and Tom Waits-ish musical primitivism, all held together by a jet-black sensibility (most of their songs are about criminals, pimps, prostitutes, drugs, murder, suicide, and children meeting untimely ends; they’ve done an entire album inspired by Edward Gorey stories, if that gives you an idea) and Jacques’ squeezed-nads falsetto, which one reviewer described as sounding “as though a dove has flown out of his throat. A mangled, bloody dove but still.”

The Tiger Lillies are ridiculously prolific, having recorded more than 30 albums during their 20-odd-year career. But they’re probably best-known for their musical, Shockheaded Peter, which won a pair of Olivier Awards when it ran on London’s West End (England’s version of Broadway) in 2002. Based on a series of gruesome children’s stories written by a German lunatic asylum doctor in the 1840’s, the songs are all equal parts horrifying and hilarious, with lots of lyrics about what happens to “naughty romping girls and boys/Who tear their clothes and make a noise.” (No, they don’t just get sent to the naughty step. Mostly, they meet untimely ends.)

Live, the Lillies seem like some kind of strange Victorian carnival act come to life, with Jacques done up in grotesque clown paint and all three dressed like 19th century gangsters. Decent live clips of them on YouTube are frustratingly hard to come by, but here’s a TV show perfomance of “Bully Boys,” one of the songs from Shockheaded Peter, that gives you a pretty good idea of what they’re ab0ut. Klaus Nomi meets Tom Waits meets Jacques Brel? Something like that.

(P.S. The Lillies’ latest project premieres in Paris next month: a stage adaptation of Coleridge’s epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. We’ll post a full report on the show after it opens; in the meantime, you can get updates on “ROAM” by visiting the blog of its visual artist, Mark Holthusen.)



New Peelander-Z single: “Star Bowling”

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A new tune from our favorite Japanese action comic punk band, Peelander-Z, graced our inbox over the weekend. It’s called “Star Bowling” and it’s from the band’s new album, Space Vacation, which is coming this April on Chicken Ranch Records. “Star Bowling” is less spazzy, more bouncy than previous Peelander joints—it even includes a pretty violin interlude that’s more like something you’d hear from Arcade Fire or the Polyphonic Spree. But we’re digging it.

A video for “Star Bowling” directed by the Zellner Brothers is coming soon. In the meantime, check out the track below and tell us what you think.

More Polyphonic Spree tour dates

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At long last, symphonic pop-rockers the Polyphonic Spree are returning to the West Coast! And it makes me smile.

Fresh off a handful of Midwest and Southern dates, Tim DeLaughter and his merry band of berobed cult members recently announced the West Coast leg of their You + Me tour, the band’s first in four years. Here in L.A., they’ll be playing the historic El Rey Theatre, where I have fond memories of jumping around like a lunatic to their cover of Nirvana’s “Lithium” the last time they played here. Ah, good times.

Here are the full dates:

March 29 — Phoenix, AZ — The Crescent Ballroom
March 30 — Tucson, AZ — Rialto Theatre
April 1 — San Diego, CA — House Of Blues
April 2 — Los Angeles, CA — El Rey Theatre
April 3 — San Francisco, CA — Great American Music Hall
April 5 — Portland, OR — Wonder Ballroom
April 6 — Seattle, WA — Neumos
April 7 — Vancouver, BC — Venue
April 10 — Denver, CO — Bluebird Theater

New Fumes, a new band from former Spree member Daniel Huffman, opens all dates.

We should also mention that the band just announced a winner in their fan-made video contest: Ben Rowe, whose trippy collage-animation clip for “What Would You Do?” took home top honors. We’re not sure what Rowe actually wins, apart from glory and a warm, fuzzy feeling, but maybe that’s enough.

Impaled Northern Moonforest

Hey kids, it’s Weird Wednesday! Wait, it’s Thursday? Man, I really should write my Weird Band of the Week posts before I start drinking.

Anyways…this week’s weird band was suggested to us by a reader named Samuel, who noted that we had omitted the world’s first and greatest acoustic black metal band, Impaled Northern Moonforest. INM was started around 1997 as a joke by members of the band (and I’m really sorry for having to type this name) Anal Cunt, a grindcore group from Massachusetts. To the untrained ear, grindcore and black metal sound pretty similar, but the grindcore kids hate the black metal kids as only siblings can—especially when one of those siblings (black metal) is really into facepaint and Satanic imagery.

According to Impaled Northern Moonforest lore, the band was originally meant to be a full-blown black metal project, but it turned into an acoustic deal because another of the Anal Cunt (sorry!) guys was sleeping nearby and they didn’t want to wake him. We’re pretty sure INM’s lo-fi, acoustic approach—generally speaking, all their songs feature a single acoustic guitar, some knee-slap percussion and whispered/growled unintelligible vocals—is all part of the joke, but we’ll buy into the origin story, if only because it makes the guys responsible for such Anal Cunt (sorry!) classics as “Recycling Is Gay” and “You’re Old (Fuck You)” sound touchingly concerned for the well-being of their bandmates.

Impaled Northern Moonforest played only a handful of live shows, and won’t play any more, because Seth Putnam, lead singer for both INM and AxCx (which, it turns out, is the polite way to type “Anal Cunt”—wish I’d known that two paragraphs ago), died last year of an apparent heart attack at the age of 43. They seem to have recorded only one record, variously referred to as an album or demo, that exists in very limited quantities (that’s the cover above—yes, all their artwork is as primitive as their music). Most of their songs are barely a minute long, although it sometimes takes longer than that just to say their titles: “Bloodlustfully Praising Satan’s Unholy Allmightyness in the Woods at Midnight,” “Summoning the Unholy Frozen Winterdemons to the Grimmest and Most Frostbitten Inverted Forest of Abazagorath,” and my personal favorite, “Grim and Frostbitten Gay Bar.”

Maybe the greatest thing about Impaled Northern Moonforest is that a whole fan-driven mythology of “acoustic black metal” has sprung up in their wake. There are discussion forums, genre memes, and even a bunch of other acoustic black metal acts like Sodomized by Satan, Nyhetsvarsel and Severed Colon. For some folks, acoustic black metal is a joke that never gets old.

There are also a handful of fan-made INM videos, of which this is the best, in our not-so-humble opinions. Seth Putnam, your legacy lives on.


Weirdify Playlist 4: Techno Fucking Way

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Sometimes here at TWBITW, we like to get on down with our bad selves. And by “bad,” we mean, “in no fit state to be getting on down with anything, unless it’s a couch or a mattress with good lumbar support.” Still, we do try to give the old carcasses a little wiggle every once in awhile. And there’s nothing more fun to wiggle to (or easier, especially for us white folks) than a some good old-fashioned boot-in-a-dryer music. We’re talking techno*, people!

This time around, I’ve decided to annotate the playlist a bit. So read on to learn more about the 14 artists and tracks represented in this mix—and while you’re reading, fire up the ol’ Spotify and see if you’re capable of dancing and reading at the same time. I bet you can do it.

*And related genres of EDM. Don’t get all purist on us, k?

1. The Soft Pink Truth, “Soft Pink Missy.” SPT is Drew Daniel, one-half of the experimental electronic duo Matmos. His stuff is often filed under “microhouse,” all of which sounds pretty weird—but Daniel is especially adept at constructing dance tracks built out of tiny edits from all sorts of sampled material. I figured this was a nice, gentle way to ease y’all into some of the harder stuff coming.

2. The Vegetable Orchestra, “Pumpkin Jam” (Märtini Brös remix). A not-so-weird track, until you realize that most of it was created using instruments made out of vegetables. Märtini Brös, the German duo who did the remix, have created some pretty weird dance tracks of their own, including this one.

3. Greenskeepers, “Man in the House” (GK 911 remix). This Chicago house/electro-pop group makes many songs with a twisted sense of humor, most famously “Lotion,” a bouncy New Wave jam narrated by Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs. This one isn’t quite that weird, but it’s got a fun beat.

4. Justin Martin and Sammy D, “The Southern Draw.” This one takes awhile to get going, but stay with it, and it gets wacky, trust me. It’s from the Dirtybird label, which releases a lot of terrific, offbeat techno—but nothing more offbeat than this.

5. Oli Chang, “Chicken Techno.” I’m pretty sure this one needs no explanation.

6. Die Antwoord, “I Fink U Freeky.” The raviest rave anthem from South Africa’s awesomely twisted “zef rap-rave” crew. I still can’t quite believe that they played this on Letterman.

7. Von Südenfed, “Flooded.” A collaboration between the German experimental electronic duo Mouse on Mars and Mark E. Smith from The Fall—who turns out to be a surprisingly excellent dance music vocalist, at least in small doses. No, this isn’t strictly speaking techno, but it fucking rocks. And no, it’s not dubstep, either. Can we all please agree that not everything with a dark, twisted bassline is dubstep? Thank you.

8. Anklepants, “Deadline 4734 vs. Inside Your Face” (Imposex mix). We just featured this guy as our Weird Band of the Week. At first I was mostly just fascinated with his creepily lifelike monster mask, but the more I listen to his music, the more I’m digging it. He’s not really techno either, and I’m not even sure you can dance to this stuff, but it’s amazing.

9. Laibach, “Wirtschaft” (Richie Hawtin Hardcore Noise Mix). One of the greatest techno producers of all time, Richie Hawtin (aka Plastikman), turns one of the weirdest industrial bands of all time into a jam for the ladies. That is, if those ladies like slam-dancing in steel-toed boots.

10. Underworld, “Moaner.” Underworld are one of those bands that became so popular, it’s easy now to forget how totally fucking wackadoodle even many of their best-known tracks are. This isn’t even their wackiest, but I think it’s one of their most underrated, with an insanely building synth line and Karl Hyde declaiming his surrealist raver poetry like a man possessed. God, they were so good back in the day.

11. Matthew Herbert, “February.” A British producer known for building his tracks out of field recordings of everything from bodily functions to household objects, Herbert released his weirdest and most controversial work last year: One Pig, an album of abstract musique concrete built from the sounds of the life cycle of a commercially raised pig, from birth to slaughter to dining table. On this track, from late in the album, you can hear butcher’s saws and the sounds of percussion instruments made out of the pig’s bones. It’s sort of the opposite of Vegetable Orchestra—and while I admit it’s pretty disturbing stuff, it kinda makes you crave bacon, doesn’t it?

12. Gangpol & Mit, “Balatchi Basketcha.” This track is about as close as the French kitschtronica duo G&M ever come to techno—and still, it’s less clubby, more Saturday-morning-cartoony, if Shag ever did Saturday morning cartoons. How awesome would that be?

13. Twink, “Slush Bunny.” Toy piano techno. You’re welcome, humanity!

14. Sir Ivan, “San Francisco” (John Kano radio mix). Yes, is the second playlist we’ve ended with Sir Ivan, but you know what? Fuck it. There’s something about his cheesy house/techno remakes of classic hippie songs that just seems like a fitting grand finale to an hour’s worth of weirdness. Such a strange vibration!

Hope you enjoy the playlist. If you do, tell a friend.

Nazis on the moon! “Iron Sky” sci-fi film featuring the music of Laibach coming soon

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In News of the Awesome: the makers of the Nazi sci-fi comedy Iron Sky have just confirmed that the film has a U.S. distributor, and it will premiere in America on March 10th at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. The film features music from our favorite Slovenian pop-industrial band Laibach, as well as what appears to be enough eye-popping special effects and Nazi regalia to send sci-fi buffs, History Channel junkies and steampunks alike into a frenzy of anticipation.

Iron Sky‘s premise is ingeniously simple and more fantastically far-fetched than Snakes on a Plane: In 1945, a contingent of Nazis secretly fled Germany to establish a base on the dark side of the moon. By 2018, they’ve built up a big enough fleet of space jets, space zeppelins and jackbooted space soldiers to launch an invasion of America—now led by a very Sarah Palin-like President who thinks the whole thing is actually kinda cool. Which it is, of course.

To support the film, Laibach are embarking on the “We Come in Peace” tour this spring and summer, on which they’ll play portions of the soundtrack as well as older material and some new stuff from two forthcoming albums. So far they’ve only announced a handful of dates in Northern Europe and the U.K., but it sounds like they’ll be adding more—including, we hope, a few American shows.

As you can see, the new Iron Sky poster lists the film’s opening date as April 4th, but we’re not sure if that includes the U.S. It sound like it’ll be coming here soon, though. You can even “demand” that it screen somewhere near you by entering your ZIP code on the film’s official website. I doubt that guarantees anything, but hey, it couldn’t hurt.

We’ll leave you with the film’s official trailer—though if you want to hear more of Laibach’s score, this teaser clip features it more prominently. The music was done in collaboration with Ben Watkins of the electronic group Juno Reactor, but it sounds like pure Laibach to us.

Sparks help Gemma Ray sing Sparks

When U.K. songstress Gemma Ray decided to cover a couple of tunes by one of her favorite weird bands (and ours), Sparks, she got a little more than she bargained for. The Sparks boys were so taken with her torchy vocals on two of their songs, “How Do I Get to Carnegie Hall” and “Eaten by the Monster of Love,” they decided to “Sparks-ify” them by adding their own quirky arrangements and production touches. Call it Sparks remixing Gemma Ray covering Sparks. Or something like that. Actually don’t overthink it, just head over to The Quietus, where you can stream both tracks.

Ray also shot a silly but rather awesome video for “How Do I Get to Carnegie Hall,” which recently premiered on We must confess to not knowing much about Gemma Ray, but she sure is prettier than Sparks’ Mael brothers (sorry, guys).

The “Gemma Ray Sings Sparks With Sparks” single comes out Feb. 21st on Bronze Rat Records. You can pre-order the 7″ vinyl here.

As for Sparks? They’re still tinkering with their Ingmar Bergman musical. Those crazy kids!

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