Frank Zappa

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This week marks the third anniversary of the launch of TWBITW. The traditional third anniversary gift, in case you’re wondering, is leather. Thanks in advance.

Actually, we like to celebrate anniversaries around here with two things: The consumption of booze (although let’s face it, we celebrate everything with the consumption of booze) and the addition to The Weird List of a classic artist. Last year, it was Primus; the year before that, it was Parliament-Funkadelic. This year, we’d like to finally make a whole shit-ton of you readers happy by belatedly inducting one Frank Vincent Zappa into our hallowed halls of weirdness. Welcome, Frank! Your arrival is long overdue, we know.

Full disclosure: Although I’ve come to appreciate him in small doses, I never was much of a Frank Zappa fan. Way back in high school, I knew a kid who owned a copy of Joe’s Garage, and he would occasionally play it for us with all the usual Zappa-head exhortations: “The guitar on this track will blow your mind,” “The rhythm changes on this part are nuts,” “Check it out—this whole song is about sausage!” I wish I could say he eventually won the rest of us over, but honestly, we all just shrugged and went back to our U2 records.

So despite being the keeper of a weird band blog, I’m not really the best person to expound on the weirdness of Zappa’s colossal ouevre, which encompasses more than 60 albums and a mind-bending mishmash of rock, jazz, funk, doo-wop, classical and avant-garde tape loop and sound collage experiments, sometimes all of the same album and always shot through with a surreal sense of humor that made it hard to tell when he was trying to make a point and when he was just fucking around.

Still, I will endeavor to enumerate just a few of the many, many reasons why Frank Zappa not only deserves to be on The Weird List—he should probably be the patron saint of this whole damn blog:

  • At the age of 22, he played a bicycle as a musical instrument on the Steve Allen Show. Yes, video of this exists.
  • In 1968, at the height of the Flower Power era, he and his band the Mothers of Invention released an album called We’re Only in It for the Money that was basically a giant fuck-you to hippie culture.
  • He is the inventor of a recording technique called “xenochrony,” in which two different studio takes done in entirely different tempos, keys and/or time signatures are merged together to jarring effect. You can hear a good example of it in this track. (Reader Waffenspiel referred us to this later track, which is actually a better example.)
  • He ran a pair of independent record labels called Bizarre and Straight. Among the artists signed to them was this guy. Also this guy. Oh, and Alice Cooper.
  • At a time when most people were too chickenshit to openly criticize Scientology, he openly mocked it with his made-up religion, Appliantology, led by a con artist named L. Ron Hoover, on Joe’s Garage. Had I known all this back in high school, I might have been more inclined to dig Joe’s Garage.
  • This was his only Top 40 hit in America.
  • He helped give the world Steve Vai.
  • His most controversial work was a 1984 rock musical called Thing-Fish, which has been variously condemned as being racist, sexist, homophobic and just in general bad taste. Here, judge for yourself. When he couldn’t get the musical produced on Broadway as he originally intended, Zappa instead partially staged the whole thing for a photo shoot for Hustler magazine. (All of this helped set the stage for Zappa’s anti-censorship campaign against the Parents Music Resource Center, Tipper Gore’s lobbying group that prompted the advent of parental advisory stickers. Zappa’s Senate testimony against the PMRC ranks among the most entertaining performances of his career.)
  • For much of the last decade of his life, he composed and recorded almost entirely on the Synclavier.
  • The same year he released Joe’s Garage (1979), he also released albums called Orchestral Favorites and Sheik Yerbouti. Yes, Orchestral Favorites featured a full orchestra. No, Sheik Yerbouti was not a disco record.

I could go on, but you get the idea. No one colored outside the lines like Frank Zappa.

“I never set out to be weird,” Zappa told his hometown paper, The Baltimore Sun, in 1986. “It was always other people who called me weird.” Don’t all the best weirdos say that? (And in case we haven’t made this clear by now: Around these parts, we consider “weird” to be a high form of praise. “Weird” means you’re doing something original and exciting that changes people’s perceptions of what music or art can be. “Weird” should be a badge of fucking honor, not something used to belittle or trivialize an artist’s work. Can someone place explain that to this guy? Thanks.)

I’ll leave you, selfishly, with a song that’s not Zappa’s weirdest by a longshot. It just happens to be my favorite. After all, it’s our anniversary! Crank it up, and don’t forget to air out those python-skin boots.

P.S. As of Aug. 14th, Frank Zappa’s entire catalog is now available on iTunes. Frank would’ve been totally down with it.



Here’s a new track from Lightning Bolt: “King Candy”

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Monster noise duo Lightning Bolt kicked off their big U.S. tour, and to celebrate, they released a new track from their forthcoming EP, Oblivion Hunter (also the name of a forthcoming mixed drink—I’m still experimenting to get the right ratio of Jager to Everclear). It’s called “King Candy” and you can stream it below via Soundcloud. Turn it up to fuck-the-neighbors levels for maximum effect.

Lightning Bolt’s tour continues tonight in New Orleans, where they’re supposedly playing this place, and will find its way here to L.A. next week for the FYF Fest. Oblivion Hunter comes out Sept. 25th. Our calendars are marked.

Watch Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier go guerrilla drumming in Hong Kong

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Photo by Richard Saunier

We’ve made no secret of the giant man-crushes we have on Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier, the man who makes it possible to dance your ass off to the Bay Area noise popsters even at their noisiest. So it is with big, googly puppy-dog eyes full of man-love that we present to you this awesome little video filmmaker Vincent Moon shot with Saunier in Hong Kong. It’s just 8 minutes of Saunier walking around the city with a pair of drumsticks, but it’s a hoot.

This is apparently the first of four Deerhoof “solo” videos that will be premiering over the course of the next week on You Ain’t No Picasso. Check back there next week to see what on-camera antics Satomi Matsuzaki, John Dietirich and Ed Rodriguez get up to. There probably won’t be any impromptu back massages like in the Moon/Saunier clip, but with Deerhoof, you never know.

Deerhoof’s next album, Breakup Song, comes out Sept. 4th.


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Usually, when we do a Facebook poll, the winner is either a shameless ballot-stuffer (but we love you anyway, Baby Seal Club) or a band that’s so blatantly, hit-you-over-the-head weird that of course everyone had to vote for them (rock on, Radioactive Chicken Heads). But the winner of our latest poll is neither blatant nor, as far as we can tell, ballot-stuffing. They’re just low-key purveyors of some of the creepiest drone music we’ve heard in ages. So meet our latest poll winners: Hanetration. And prepare to be unsettled.

Despite being one of the most blogged-about artists we’ve added to The Weird List in quite some time, we actually know virtually nothing about the person behind Hanetration. We know he (or she) is from England and, uh, that’s about it. No bio, no photos, no nothin’. Even when the mysterious Hanester emailed us a link to his (or her) Bandcamp page, he revealed as little as humanly possible: “Can I point you in the direction of a free EP I’ve put together?” read the email. “Hope you enjoy it. All the best.” And then…poof. Gone back to the misty British backwater from whence he came.

I say “backwater” not so much because I’m assuming Hanetration lives on the moors. This shadowy figure could be working out of a seedy flat in Brixton for all I know. But the vibe conjured by this music is definitely one of blasted heaths, boggy woods and ancient fields laced with Druidic stone circles and werewolf bones. It’s eerie shit, is what I’m saying.

It appears that Hanetration’s entire catalog to date consists of just four songs, all available on a free EP via Bandcamp: “Rex,” “Alarm,” “Rufus” and “Wreck.” Check out “Rex” below and tell me this doesn’t sound like a field recording of some kind of pre-Celtic human sacrifice ritual—or, at the very least, a serious Theraflu overdose.

P.S. Go vote in our next Facebook poll. Take it from us: Passing judgment on other people’s music will fill you with smug satisfaction. (You’ll have to like us first, but you already do, don’t you? Don’t you??)


Flaming Lips announce new album, “The Terror”

Between appearing at Stephen Colbert’s StePhest Colbchella ‘012 festival, setting Guinness world records for most shows in 24 hours, releasing 24-hour songs encased in human skulls, and pissing off Erykah Badu, the Flaming Lips have been just about the hardest-working rock band on the planet for the past 12 months. So it should come as no surprise that they apparently have a brand-new studio LP, tentatively titled The Terror, set for release before year’s end. The surprising part is that they’ve managed to do all this despite the fact that, according to frontman Wayne Coyne, drummer/multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd has been battling drug addiction for at least some of this incredibly prolific period.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Coyne revealed that Drozd was “in a bad way” for much of the recording of The Terror as well as the band’s most recent, collaborative album, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends. The article doesn’t specify what drug(s) Drozd was hooked on, but portrays the troubled Lips member as spending much of his time holed up in a separate recording studio, writing what Coyne describes as “horribly creepy” songs, some of which will find their way onto the new album.

Coyne tells Rolling Stone that his bandmate has fully recuperated and is “better now than ever.” Hopefully he’ll soon be able to tell his own version of what went down—because, although we’re assuming Coyne talked to Rolling Stone with Drozd’s full permission, there’s still something a bit creepy about using your friend and bandmate’s addiction problems to, in essence, talk up how intense your next record is going be.

There’s no music from The Terror available yet as far as we know. But in the meantime, here’s a video of Wayne Coyne and Stephen Colbert crowd-surfing in matching giant hamster balls. Enjoy.

Matmos are back…and this time, they’re telepathic

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It’s been awhile since we heard anything from Matmos, the electronica duo who earned a spot on The Weird List for their early experimental albums based on sampling the sounds of Civil War-era instruments and surgical procedures. They’ve released lots of great music since then, but never really outdone themselves in the weirdness department. Until now.

For their latest project, Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt have attempted to build their music around a series of experiments in telepathy. Sticking test subjects in a sensory deprivation chamber, they’ve then attempted to have Daniel telepathically transmit “the concept of the new Matmos record,” then recorded the subjects as they describe whatever sounds or images they may be experiencing. If this sounds batshit crazy…well, it probably is. But no crazier than turning the sounds of a bone-saw into a minimal techno groove.

Anyway, Matmos just released the first track from this experiment, “Very Large Green Triangles,” which you can hear below. It’s one of three songs that will be featured on an EP due out this October called The Ganfeld EP, to be followed by a full-length album, The Marriage of True Minds, sometime in early 2013. Befitting its source material, The Ganfeld EP will be available in a deluxe version that includes a pair of Incase headphones and the same little sensory-deprivation goggles those test subjects wore.

No word yet on whether Daniel and Schmidt will tour in support of The Marriage of True Minds. But if they do, we really hope there’s a part of the show where they just stare at the audience very intently in total silence for 10 minutes. Then announce that they just played “California Rhinoplasty.”

Flaming Dragons of Middle Earth

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Photo by Neeel Young. Swiped from The Valley Advocate.

About our latest Weird Band of the Week, it has been said, “I have seen them clear rooms and I have seen them get a few folks dancing, but mostly I’ve seen them clear rooms.” And that was said by a fan. Meet Flaming Dragons of Middle Earth, a rag-tag band of free-form rockers from western Massachusetts led by a dude who’s either a talentless lunatic or the second coming of Captain Beefheart. There’s really no middle ground here. You’ll either love Danny Cruz or you’ll clear out of the room.

Cruz started FDOME in 2007 at the Brick House Community Center in Turners Falls, Mass., a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it suburb of the once prosperous mill town of Greenfield, which is itself a suburb of nowhere. The band still meets there every Thursday afternoon, and rehearsals are open to everyone: “You are a member,” declares the band’s Blogspot, “why don’t you come to practice?” This has led to a large, rotating lineup of—and I’m actually quoting from the band’s own site here—”non-musicians, psychedelic drop-outs, teenage metallers, kids with Down Syndrome etc.” In the eye of the storm sits Cruz, confined to a wheelchair but clearly not confined to the limits of reality, taste or music theory. Over the band’s unholy racket, he hollers out songs with titles like “Evil Knows Your Name” and “Devil Worship Bugaloo,” along with instructions to the band on how to play, which the band usually either ignores and seems to not quite understand. It’s Roky Erickson meets James Brown meets a music therapy session in a ’60s psych ward, led by one of the five people who bought Cromagnon‘s Orgasm.

Cruz calls the band’s sound “mudlightning metal,” which is as good a name as any for it. This article in local alt-newsweekly The Valley Advocate quotes him as describing it thusly: “All styles mixed with funerals and zombies and animals and being stupid and going to school and pretending you’re dropping out and all the cool stuff and peace and hippies and getting mental disorders and being a man who is in a nightmare, but he enjoys it.” Sign us up, dude!

Even if FDOME wasn’t from a town with a population of 4,000, their shows would probably be sparsely attended. As it is, the band usually outnumbers the audience, as you can see from the clip below. Which is too bad, because in New York or L.A., people would declare this stuff arty and progressive and write even longer blog posts than this one trying to explain the significance of it all. We’ll let you make up your own minds as to whether any of it is significant or not. All we know is, we’ve never heard anything quite like it.

Shout-out to longtime reader Sheavy for recommending this band, by the way. How many bands is that you’ve helped add to The Weird List, Sheavy? We should pay you a commission or something. What’s 15% of zero?

(P.S. Nearly all Flaming Dragons YouTube clips are live performance videos and are upwards of 30 minutes long. Don’t worry, it’s actually several different songs, not just one 30-minute-long jam session. Although come to think of it, you might not be able to tell the difference.)