Advertisements

Monthly Archives: June 2014

Weird Live Review: Hardcore DEVO

Devo at the Wiltern

These day’s, it’s pretty common for veteran bands to dedicate entire shows to a single album. Everyone from the Pixies to Cheap Trick to Kraftwerk have jumped on that particular nostalgia bandwagon. What’s rarer is for bands to focus an entire tour around their earliest, most obscure material. But that’s exactly what DEVO have chosen to do for their Hardcore DEVO Live tour, which is based entirely on songs they wrote and/or recorded before the release of their first album, 1978’s Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! And judging from the audience response at the Wiltern Theatre here in Los Angeles last night, it was a smart decision. Turns out plenty of DEVO fans are super-excited to hear the band playing material that they mostly haven’t performed live in over 30 years.

There was no opening act, so the band took the stage promptly at 8:30 p.m.: Original DEVO-ers Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale, plus drummer Josh Freese, who’s been with the band more or less continuously since 1996. The stage set was cleverly made up to look vaguely like the Ohio basement in which the band started, with backdrops painted to look like cinderblocks, topped by translucent panels doubling as dirty windows. Mark sat at his keyboard reading a newspaper. “Nixon says he’s resigning,” he announced, his voice distorted to sound robotic and cartoonish. “I think 1974 is gonna be a good year.” Then he proceeded to hurl packs of cigarettes into the audience. “Got any Chesterfields?” Jerry asked. “I already gave away the one pack,” Mark quipped.

Devo

With the scene set and the hijinks out of the way, the band launched into “Mechanical Man,” the first track from the highly sought-after Hardcore Devo compilation that collected all their early demos onto CD for the first time back in 1990. From there the band proceeded to tear many of Hardcore Devo‘s best-known tracks: “Auto Modown/Space Girls Blues,” “I Been Refused,” “Bamboo Bimbo,” plus a few true obscurities like the bluesy “Beehive,” which someone at the Denver stop of this tour was smart enough to capture on film:

Serious DEVO fans probably also known this song from Jerry Casale’s Jihad Jerry side project, which revived the track in 2006. Throughout the Hardcore show, it was fun to see Jerry taking lead vocals duties as often as Mark—a reminder that, in the band’s early days, they didn’t have a true frontman. Bob 1 got a few turns on the mic, too, including “Baby Talkin’ Bitches,” one of several guitar-heavy early DEVO tracks that reveal the band’s roots in Midwestern proto-punk:

About midway through their set, the band got up from their stools and changed costumes, putting on the blue “workmen’s” suits and blue hardhats that served as their earliest band uniforms. From there, they launched into some better-known early tracks that definitely got the crowd more revved up (up until that point, apart from the one guy dancing like a lunatic directly in front of me, it was clear that most in attendance weren’t very familiar with the material).

This was the part of the show that included their brilliantly off-kilter cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” as well as several tracks from the 1974-77 era that eventually found their way onto Are We Not Men? and Duty Now for the Future: “Timing X,” “Uncontrollable Urge,” “Jocko Homo,” “Gut Feeling.” The crowd also knew many of the words to “Be Stiff,” a longtime live favorite, and “Fountain of Filth,” a punk rave-up with a shout-along chorus that could almost pass for a Ramones song. (In the video below, you can see Jerry wearing the creepy, transparent doll masks they donned earlier for “Jocko Homo,” another nod to the theatrics of their early days.)

They only played a two-song encore, but it was a pretty great two songs. First, Mark Mothersbaugh came out dressed as Booji Boy, one of the band’s early representations of devolution. This time around, he was dressed up sort of like a Teletubbie, in a pink hooded jumpsuit with cartoon eyes drawn over the hood. He also came onstage pushing a walker, perhaps an ironic nod to the fact that DEVO first introduced the character nearly 40 years ago.

After Mark’s solo performance of “Booji Boy’s Funeral” and “U Got Me Bugged”—definitely two of the weirdest songs in the entire DEVO catalog—the entire band came back out to wrap up the show with a rousing rendition of “Clockout,” featuring Bob Casale’s son Alex on bass. (A song they hadn’t played live since 1977, according to Jerry.) It was one of several nods to Bob 2 (and to late drummer Alan Myers) sprinkled throughout the evening, all of which felt fitting but never heavy-handed.

Overall, the band did a remarkably good job of keeping the show from lapsing into one big nostalgia-fest. The sheer rawness of the early DEVO songs probably helped in that regard, but so did the high-energy performances of the band. Even if they need to sit on stools these days to make it through a 90-minute set, the surviving Casale and the brothers Mothersbaugh can still rock out pretty convincingly for a bunch of guys well into their sixties. In my blurry Instagram photos, you’d swear they haven’t aged a day.

Devo

Since there was no opening act, the show ended on the early side, around 10:00 p.m. I heard a few protests from the crowd—a few people had probably hoped they would play some more “hits” in the encore—but as far as I’m concerned, the Hardcore DEVO show delivered exactly as promised. For the truly hardcore DEVO fans in attendance, especially that one dancing lunatic right in front of me (“How can you not to dance to this?” he shouted to no one in particular during “Ono”), it might have been their last chance to hear their heroes resurrect those songs they created back when they were a bunch of restless art students in an Akron basement.

Weird of the Day: Fad Gadget, “Collapsing New People”

 

We’re starting off the week with a flashback to 1984. While I was listening to The Cars and trying to grow my hair into a New Wave mullet, an experimental British musician who recorded under the name Fad Gadget was working on his latest album Gag in Berlin, continuing his attempts to combine pop and New Wave with industrial music. This time around, he was able to enlist some pretty cool collaborators: German industrial pioneers Einstürzende Neubauten. He was so appreciative of their contributions to one track that he named the song “Collapsing New People,” a nod to the English translation of their name, “Collapsing New Buildings.”

According to Dangerous Minds, this video is from a performance of “Collapsing New People” on a show called TV Playback in 1984. Fad Gadget was famous for dramatic, self-abusive stage antics like ripping out his own pubic hairs and tossing them into the audience. Since this was television, I guess he decided to settle for getting tarred and feathered instead.

Weird of the Day: Hans Reichel and his daxophone

Today’s weirdness comes to use from reader Jake (not to be confused with TWBITW co-founder Jake, who’s passed out under my desk as I type this). It’s a piece of music featuring a unique and not nearly famous enough instrument called the daxophone, performed by its inventor, a German luthier named Hans Reichel. It sounds a bit like a ballet for frogs, and every time we play it, we can’t stop laughing.

The daxophone works with a combination of contact microphones and friction: a thin piece of wood gets attached to a tripod, and from there, the musician uses a thicker block of wood and a violin bow to change the vibrational frequency of the wooden blade. Think of it as the overachieving offspring of a musical saw and a lap steel guitar. Different blade shapes also produce different tones, and Reichel produced dozens of them, all of which stand as beautiful artworks unto themselves.

Reichel passed away in 2011 at the age of 62, but his daxophone lives on; although he never mass-produced the instrument, he made the plans for it available for free on his website (in the downloads section), so other woodworkers and instrument makers could make their own versions of it.

Here’s a video of Mayhem’s Euronymous playing drums in the experimental band L.E.G.O. in 1986

Mayhem

Early Mayhem (left to right): Manheim, Necrobutcher, Euronymous

Back when they were still all just kids, Mayhem guitarist Euronymous and then-drummer Manheim had a short-lived side project called the Langhus Experimental Grave chamber Orchestra, or L.E.G.O. for short. The project has achieved somewhat mythic status among black metal fans, mainly because as far as anyone could tell, they only performed a few times and never recorded a note. On his blog back in 2009, Manheim casually mentioned that someone had videotaped one of their shows, but no copy of that videotape had ever surfaced online or elsewhere. Until now.

Today, a Mayhem fan by the name of Finn Håkon “Snærkpung” Rødland finally posted the long-lost video on YouTube for all to see. It’s only 10 minutes long and mostly just features Manheim playing guitar with his back to the audience while Euronymous makes a valiant attempt to play drums, but it’s a pretty fascinating document of the band’s early history nonetheless. They were so young! And—let’s be honest—they’re painfully shy, awkward performers. It’s hard to believe one of them would go on to become one of the most influential figures in heavy metal history.

Manheim’s 2009 description of this performance, which was apparently their first as L.E.G.O., provides some context for what we’re seeing:

“We needed to give the concept we were talking about a name, and having had a few drinks, Metallion (from Slayer Mag) had a moment of clearness when listening to our strange talk. Like an almost dead person suddenly springing into life he opened his eyes, put his finger up in the air and declared ‘A fly’s death!’ We immediately loved the idea, and decided to arrange the piece according to a fly’s life from birth to death.  I do think Metallion almost immediately went back to sleep, but we stayed up building the concept.

“One day we held the concert and it is on video tape. Probably it is out there in the internet cloud. I remember playing the violin for the first time in my life that evening. It was a wonderful way of showing the agony a fly must feel when it is reaching its time of death. :-)”

So there you have it: The life and death of a fly, as reenacted by a couple of 18-year-old metalheads who were also listening to a lot of experimental and avant-garde music by artists like Conrad Schnitzler and Diamanda Galas. Turns out there may have been more things influencing the Norwegian black metal scene besides Venom records and Satanism.

Weird of the Day: Andy the Doorbum, “Evocation: The Beast of Change”

Andy the Doorbum

For some reason, most of the really weird shit people are sending us these days is from North Carolina. Turns out there’s more to the Tarheel State than college hoops and vinegary barbecue.

The latest weirdo from the state that also gave us Your Fuzzy Friends, Surgical Vacations and Weird Band Poll contenders Emily Brontësaurus is a redneck singer-songwriter name of Andy Fenstermaker, who goes by the nom de weird of Andy the Doorbum. Most of Andy’s earlier stuff, as far as we can tell, is more quirky than weird, in sort of a Mountain Goats meets Tom Waits way. But he went off the fucking deep end with his latest video, “Evocation: The Beast of Change,” which we understand is the first track off his coming-soon album The Fool.

Not sure when The Fool drops, but he’s got a sold-out record release show this Friday, so it must be any day now. To hear more of his stuff, visit his Bandcamp page.

P.S. Our thanks to reader Eel for sending the “Evocation” video our way. You haunt our dreams, Eel.

The Von Deer Skulls

Von Deer Skulls

France is kicking ass this week. Not only did they win their group in the first round of the World Cup, they also won the even more prestigious* Weird Band Poll. How do you say “Congratulations!” in French? It’s basically just the sound of a champagne cork popping, right?

The winner of the June Weird Band Poll is a mysterious trio from a town whose name makes giggle, because I am a 44-year-old adolescent boy: Brest. (Heh.) They’re called The Von Deer Skulls and unfortunately, there are no breasts in their music videos, just lots of creepy people in skull masks sitting around drinking absinthe under blacklight to a soundtrack I’m gonna call ambient doom rock. Plus some claymation. That part’s almost as cool as breasts. Actually, the whole thing is pretty cool in a David Lynch sorta way. It makes me think of severed ears and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

The Von Deer Skulls aren’t related, at least not by birth. Leader/guitarist Peter Von Deer Skull is from Canada and is “the son of the Shadows of the Canadian forest,” according to the band’s Facebook bio. Bassist/screamer Hektor Von Deer Skull is an “androgynous, semi-deer/semi-wild boar, he comes from Schwarzwald in Germany.” Their drummer/lead singer is actually two people: Freke and Freyja Von Deer Skull, twin brother and sister, one a wolf and one a lynx, from the Faroe Islands, halfway between Norway and Iceland.

Does all of this sound like it might be totally made up? Yeah, well, that’s possible. Peter Von Deer Skull has shared a few secrets with us about the inner workings of the band, which we can’t reveal here. Let’s just put it this way: Hektor isn’t actually a wild boar/deer hybrid. That’s all we’re gonna say.

The Von Deer Skulls have released an EP on Bandcamp called It’s Time to Paralyze that reveals some other sides to their sound. They rock out pretty hard on occasion, like on this track “The Way to the Shadow.” It takes awhile to get going but trust me, it’s worth the wait.

We’ll leave you with their most recent video, which is even more mysterious and spooky than “Bitches of the Wood.” What’s coming at the end of 2014? Tell us, Von Deer Skulls! Why must you toy with us so?

*Kidding! Our polls are totally not more prestigious than the World Cup. But maybe they would be if we only had them once every four years.

Links:

 

Weird of the Day: Doprah’s kawaii J-pop homage, “Stranger People”

Doprah

At its most extreme, the kawaii style of Japanese dance-pop can get pretty bizarre; just look at our favorite purveyor of the genre, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. But what happens when non-Japanese pop artists try to put their own spin on it? In the case of New Zealand duo Doprah, the results are even more bizarre.

Doprah, made up of singer Indira Force and multi-instrumentalist Steven Marr, have released a new Kyary-inspired video for their dreamy track “Stranger People,” and it’s gorgeous, funny and ultimately kinda disturbing. In it, Force gets dolled up in full kawaii drag inside a literal dollhouse—a giant human hand occasionally intervenes to make a few minor adjustments to her herky-jerky dance moves, or pat her on the head when she strikes a particularly adorable pose. But it all slowly goes from adorable to horrifying, or possibly adorifying. Watch.

“Stranger People” is from Doprah’s self-titled debut EP, which is spooky and pretty and really, really good. They’ve got a Portishead-meets-the-xx vibe that’s already getting them a ton of attention. You can get the EP on Bandcamp or Amazon.

This preview of Anklepants’ new band, Clock_yange, will scare the crap out of you

Anklepants and Ratbag are Clock_yange

Photo by Laura Fusato

Our favorite penis-nosed provocateur Anklepants has been having a busy month. Just a few weeks after knocking the entire Internet on its ass with his bonkers Boiler Room set, he’s unleashing a brand-new project this weekend: Clock_yangé (or possibly Clocké_yangé—the spelling seems to vary), a collaboration with a mysterious, tin-foil-faced guitar player called Ratbag. “Clocké_yangé is the übergründé Convict cloud chamber encapsulating Reecard Farché (Anklepants) and RATBAG,” declares the duo’s Facebook page, continuing in the grand Anklepants tradition of sticking accents and umlauts all over the place while making as little sense as possible.

Earlier today, Clock_yangé released what we believe is their first online music, a little two-minute SoundCloud preview of their live set. You can check it out below, but be warned: You may want to listen with someone you’re not ashamed to cower behind. Shit’s kinda scary. Right, Mom? (I cowered behind my mom.)

Rumor has it this unholy duo will unleash their aural onslaught upon an unsuspecting Berlin populace this Saturday. Half the city is gonna wish they left that wall up. (Too soon?)

We’ll leave you with one final fleeting glimpse of Ratbag and his amazing animatronic inverted cross hat. I hope they made extras, because they really need to give one of those things to every member of Mayhem.

Weird of the Day: Venetian Snares, “Welfare Wednesday”

Venetian Snares

I’m in the midst of doing a big article about breakcore for another website (yeah, they occasionally let me out of my cage here at TWBITW), so I’ve spent the past several days plunging down the rabbit hole of twisted “Amen” breaks, distorted basslines and machine-gun snares. So far, I’ve yet to find a track crazier than this little number from Venetian Snares’ 2010 album, My So-Called Life. But give me another day or two and I’m sure I can top it, ’cause breakcore is batshit.

As coincidence would have it, Venetian Snares released a new album just last week, his first since My So-Called Life. It’s called My Love Is a Bulldozer and you can preview tracks or order up a copy via Planet Mu Records or Amazon.com. That’s the cover art at the top of this post, by the way. And yes, the music is as awesome as the cover.

Christeene ’bout to brang it to London for 10 nights, motherfuckers

Christeene

When we heard Texas tranny terrorist Christeene was hitting England and Europe last summer, we were pretty sure she would cause some kind of international incident. But I guess white trash and Eurotrash have more in common than we thought, because she’s heading back to the EU…that’s pronounced “Eww,” y’all…for another string of dates, starting with 10 nights at the Soho Theatre. Soho’s like, all posh and shit, right? Well, la-di-fuckin’-dah! Hope Christeene doesn’t come home talking like Maggie Smith and holding her pinkie in the air when she sips her Four Loko.

“Christeene: The Christeene Machine,” as her Soho show is called, starts tomorrow night, June 24th, and closes July 5th. For full dates and tickets, go here.

This promo video says Christeene will be traipsing around Europe until Aug. 30th, but we’re not sure where else she’s off to after she rips Soho a new one. We’ll try to keep you in the loop.