Spookey Ruben is back with a green hand and a pair of music videos

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We’ve been remiss in updating you, our dear readers, about the latest exploits of weirdo pop savant Spookey Ruben. Actually, we’ve been even more remiss in getting our asses out to see him, because he relocated to right here in Los Angeles a couple years back and has been doing a monthly residency at the Kibbitz Room, a semi-legendary bar attached to Canter’s, the Hollywood deli where Guns N’ Roses used to hang out. And we have yet to go! Sorry, Spookey. We are even flakier than Canter’s cheese danishes.

Because he’s clearly the nicest guy in the world, Spookey recently reached out not to chastise us for our continuing absence at the Kibbitz Room, but to share with us not one, but two new music videos he released last month. The first, “Midsummer Dropout,” is from his most recent album, 2017’s pop-tastic Modes III, which we also ignored. Jesus, Spookey, why do you even still talk to us? Also, what’s with the green hand? You might wanna get that checked out.

Next, here’s a little homemade clip for a track called “Pliny the Elder” from his next album, which is due out sometime this year. This is apparently the demo version of the song but it’s already got Spookey’s arty pop appeal, with some jazzy touches that are a cool new wrinkle in his sound.

I’m not sure when Spookey will next be back at the Kibbitz Room, but us Angelenos can catch him Feb. 27th at Highland Park Bowl. He’s also got a show coming up in Tokyo, of all places, at a place called 7th Floor on March 1st. Apparently Spookey’s big in Japan. (To keep tabs on all his upcoming shows and other happenings, I’d recommend hitting his website, which you call follow if you have a Tumblr account.)

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Weird of the Day: Laktating Yak, “Tsak of the Yak”

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Happy 2019, Weirdlings! Did you enjoy your holidays? Drink lots of eggnog? Well, if you did, turns out you were doing it wrong. You should have been drinking yak milk. So say Houston avant-prog-rockers Laktating Yak on their freaky debut album, Origin of the Yak, which I’m really regretting not putting on my Christmas list.

According to the good people of Laktating Yak, the mere smell of yak milk “replenishes spiritual vitality as well as erectile disfunction,” which is either bad grammar or means that if your erection is getting a little too functional, those musky yak milk fumes will have you flaccid again in no time. But you won’t care, because once you’ve actually ingested the aforementioned yak milk, “it chemically interacts with human anatomy in a similar fashion to adrenaline.” It’s like steroids you can pour on your Corn Flakes! Which you’ll be eating alone because of your erectile dysfunction, but hey, at least you’ll be pumped.

Yak mythologies aside, Origin of the Yak, is great stuff, with lots of noodly guitar and violin and saxophone, deploying riffs that lock horn like — do yaks lock horns? If they did, I’m sure it would sound like the instrumental throwdown that is “Tsak of the Yak.”

If you like that, you can check out the rest of Origin of the Yak on Bandcamp. Oh, and I saved my favorite thing about Laktating Yak for last: They are a self-described Zeuhl band, meaning they take instrumental (and possibly cosmological) inspiration from French prog-rock pioneers and Zeuhl progenitors Magma. The world really needs more Zeuhl bands, I think. Even though if you cornered me at a prog-rock concert and asked me to explain what “Zeuhl” is, I would probably point and yell “Is that Mike Portnoy?” and then run away because I still have no idea. Prog-rock that’s more about the psychedelic vibes than the whole “watch me shred for 10 minutes” thing, maybe? Yeah, I think it’s something like that.

All I need for Christmas is this video of Mac Sabbath performing for Ozzy Osbourne

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Ever fast food-themed Black Sabbath tribute band Mac Sabbath crawled out of the greasy muck at the bottom of a McDonald’s fryer, we here at Weird Band HQ have been longing for the moment you’re about to see. Yes, Ozzy Osbourne has finally been to a Mac Sabbath concert — and it came courtesy of his son Jack, who surprised his dad with it as a segment for their A&E channel reality show, Ozzy & Jack’s World Detour. I’m not sure whether the segment has aired, or will ever air, though I think the producers would be crazy to omit it. But Mac Sabbath posted it last week to their YouTube channel and Ozzy’s reaction to the whole thing is priceless. His final verdict? “Funny as fuck, that.” As usual, Ozzy speaks the truth.

Mac Sabbath play a hometown show at the Fonda Theatre on Friday, Dec. 28th with an excellently weird lineup, including The Dickies, PPL MVR and Captured! by Robots. Tragically, I will not be able to go, which is all the more reason why I hope you, dear readers, can go and take lots of pictures and rub it in my face that I wasn’t there. I’m counting on you!

 

Can a GG Allin documentary be heartwarming? This one sure tries

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Before I watched GG Allin: All in the Family on Showtime this week, I was pretty sure that the world really didn’t need another documentary about punk rock’s most notorious jockstrap-wearing, poop-flinging dickhead. Todd Phillips’ Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies, released in 1993 just before his death, did a pretty comprehensive job of summing up everything that was both appalling and fascinating about GG Allin‘s transgressive behavior and confrontational live shows. He came, he saw, he sang a few songs, threw a few punches, pissed on the stage, went home and died of a heroin overdose. The end. Right?

Well, no. What makes GG Allin: All in the Family worth watching is that it focuses less on the megalomaniacal asshole behind such eternally offensive hardcore classics as “Bite It You Scum” and “Expose Yourself to Kids” and more on how his family and his band, the Murder Junkies, have dealt with his legacy. Along the way, you meet Allin’s sweet but prickly mother, Arleta; his brother, Merle, who played with GG in the Murder Junkies while he was alive and has kept the band limping along in the decades since his death; and the Murder Junkies’ longtime drummer, Donald “Dino” Sachs, who even more than Merle (who, let’s be honest, seems more interested in cashing in on his brother’s reputation than embodying it) might be the closest thing GG has a true acolyte, a guy who even into his fifties (sixties?) still plays naked and obligingly lets fans jam drumsticks up his ass at every show.

I realize it’s probably a stretch to call a movie that features drumstick ass-play (and plenty of footage of GG himself, naked, bloodied and picking fights with his fans) “heartwarming” — and many will probably find the inhabitants of Sami Saif’s film as dislikable as the man whose shit-smeared shadow looms over everything they do. But I found it hard not to be touched by how devoted, in spite of everything, these misfits remain to honoring their fallen son, brother and bandmate. Merle and Dino cycle through a revolving door of hapless lead singers who can never hope to replicated GG’s onstage antics, and trudge through gigs at shit-hole punk-rock clubs where half the crowd is there hoping to see a trainwreck, not a concert. Arleta guards GG’s grave in rural New Hampshire from marauding fans — until the church where he’s buried finally locks it away to prevent further desecrations. “You don’t want people coming from Canada to piss and shit all over your grave,” an exasperated Arleta declares at one point — which is a fair statement, even though it’s probably also fair of GG Allin fans to assume that pissing and shitting on their hero’s headstone is an appropriate way to pay their respects.

GG Allin: All in the Family was originally released in 2017 until the title The Allins; you can watch a trailer on the film’s original website. It now appears to be a Showtime exclusive, which means you need to be subscribed to their cable channels or their streaming app to view the whole thing. Watch it at your own risk. Until then, here’s Merle hyping its release from a year ago:

Machida Machizo

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Our regular readers know by now that Japan produces way more than its fair share of weird music — so much so that some of the weirdest stuff remains virtually unknown to Anglo audiences. That’s certainly the case with the recorded works of punk singer, poet, novelist and cat-lover Kō Machida. When our good friend the mysterious Interweb Megalink sends us something and is like, “I don’t even know what the hell this is” — which is how we got introduced to Machida’s 1986 masterpiece, Doterai Yatsura — we are way off the outer fringes of the Roman alphabet internet.

Machida, whose real name is also sometimes transliterated as Kou Machida, got his start in 1978 in a punk band called Inu, which is a Japanese word for “Dog.” They released one album before breaking up about three years later, a fun but not particularly weird set of herky-jerky, Clash-like rave-ups called Meshi Kuuna!, which translates to something like, “Don’t Eat!” There’s also apparently a second album released after they broke up called Ushiwakamaru Nametottara Dotsuitaru Zo, but I haven’t been able to track down any of the music.

In fact, most of Machida’s catalog remains offline, or at least unfindable unless you’re able to search for it using Japanese characters. But his first solo album, 1986’s Doterai Yatsura (sometimes called Wild and Crazy Guys, though I can’t tell whether that’s an English translation of the Japanese title, or just based on the fact that cassette versions of the album said “Wild and Crazy Guys” in English on the cover), is a cult classic that’s been uploaded to YouTube in various forms over the years. I hardly ever post full album streams on this site because I know you’re all busy people with short attention spans, but I have to share all 36 minutes of Doterai Yatsura because it’s amazing.

Great, right? You can still hear Machida’s roots in angsty post-punk but he’s also experimenting with tape loops and analog synths, and it sounds like he’s drawing from No Wave, industrial, early video game music and maybe the noise experiments of The Residents and Hanatarash, Yamataka Eye’s notorious pre-Boredoms noise-rock group. There are bagpipes and harmonicas and tribal percussion freakouts (Cromagnon might be another influence) and weird spoken-word passages and looped sex noises. It’s surprising and disorienting in the best possible way — maybe less so if you’re fluent in Japanese, although Machida is apparently known for playing with language in ways can be cryptic even to native speakers and often impossible to translate. (One song title on Doterai Yatsura, for example, is usually translated as “Primitive Hitman” but more literally means “A Man Who Killed a Parakeet That Hit a Conga Drum”.)

Doterai Yatsura is all the more remarkable because as far as I’ve been able to tell, Machida never really recorded anything else like it. This track from his next release, a 1987 EP called Hona, Donaisee Iune, still has highly eccentric vocals, but musically it’s downright accessible compared to his previous work:

And I’m pretty sure this is a track from a 1992 album called Harafuri, credited to Machizo Machida and Kitazamagumi, which I believe was the name of his band at the time:

More recently, Machida appears to have morphed into a sort of Bowie/Bryan Ferry art-rocker; at least that’s certainly the vibe he’s channeling in this clip:

But these days, Machida is more famous in Japan as a novelist. His 2004 novel Punk Samurai Slash Down, set in Edo-era Japan but sprinkled with anachronistic language and modern cultural references, was recently adapted into a feature film that I hope will be coming to our shores soon because it appears to feature monkey warriors and big dance numbers and samurai armies battling to the strains of “Anarchy in the U.K.” Speaking of films, Machida has also starred in a few himself — most famously, a 1995 film called Endless Waltz in which he played a free jazz saxophonist. So yeah, he’s a true Renaissance man. And did I mention that he also loves cats?

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Devo’s Gerald Casale to world: “We tried to warn you”

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There’s a chance something miraculous might happen tomorrow: Art school project turned synth-rock pioneers Devo might get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They wouldn’t be the first weirdos to crash the Rock Hall — Frank Zappa had that honor in 1995, followed by Parliament-Funkadelic in 1997 — but for a band that’s still unjustly known more as a one-hit wonder than as a groundbreaking conceptual group, it would be a pretty major coup for them to be enshrined alongside The Beatles and Elvis and Bon fucking Jovi and all the other canonical rock gods. There’s even a very, very slim chance that they’ll be in the same induction class as Kraftwerk, who are also nominated this year — which would make 2019 the weirdest and synth-iest R&RHOF class ever. (But don’t hold your breath — Stevie Nicks, The Zombies and Def Leppard are nominated, too, and they’ll almost certainly be at the front of the line with voters this year.)

To celebrate this fleeting gesture of mainstream acknowledgement, Devo founder Gerald Casale wrote a remarkable open letter to fans on Noisey, Vice’s music website, reflecting on the band’s history and the prescience of their kidding-but-not-really theory of “devolution,” which posits that humans are doomed not to evolve, but to devolve, as our increasingly sophisticated technologies, marketing methodologies, and political systems cater ever more effectively to our baser instincts. “When Devo formed more than 40 years ago, we never dreamed that two decades into the 21st century, everything we had theorized would not only be proven, but also become worse than we had imagined,” Casale writes.

I encourage you to read Casale’s whole letter, which is a brilliantly cranky screed. It’s especially enlightening if you don’t know Devo’s full history (for the uninitiated, here’s a teaser: The band was founded by a group of Kent State University grads in the early ’70s, after a certain infamous shooting took place there). But here’s the heart of what he’s getting at:

We are drowning in a devolved, WWF Smackdown-style world, with warring, huckster TV pundits from “The Left” and “The Right” distracting the clueless TV viewership while our vile, venal Mobster-in-Chief (who makes Idiocracy’s Macho Camacho look fit for office) and his corrupt minions rob the nation’s coffers in a shamelessly cruel, Grab-‘Em-By-The-Pussy Kleptocracy. …

So, let us not talk falsely now; the hour is getting late. Perhaps the reason Devo was even nominated after 15 years of eligibility is because Western society seems locked in a death wish. Devo doesn’t skew so outside the box anymore. Maybe people are a bit nostalgic for our DIY originality and substance. We were the canaries in the coalmine warning our fans and foes of things to come in the guise of the Court Jester, examples of conformity in extremis in order to warn against conformity.

Casale ends his essay by describing Devo as “the house band on the Titanic” and asking rhetorically, “Is there any question that De-evolution is real?” Nope, Jerry, I’d say you and your bandmates pretty much nailed that one. Well done! Except we’re probably now all doomed and, if your theory of “de-evolution” applies to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (which it clearly does — did I mention they inducted Bon fucking Jovi?), then they’ll almost certainly induct the strip-club soundtrack machine that is Def Leppard and pass over Devo. So you won’t be inducted but hey, at least you’ll be proven right.

If by some miracle Devo does get inducted, we’ll be back tomorrow with some exploding head GIFs.

 

Barnes and Barnes are back with a Christmas album

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One of the very first bands we blogged about was Barnes and Barnes, the comedy rock duo best-known for their 1978 novelty hit “Fish Heads.” Way back then, in 2009, when music blogs were still a thing and everyone carried their entire music collection around with them on devices calls “pods” (ask your parents), Art and Artie Barnes had just emerged from a long hibernation to release Opbopachop, their first album in 18 years. Then, perhaps not caring for the idea of the unwashed masses listening to such sonic masterpieces as “Heinous Anus” and “Life Is What You Do Between Orgasms” on little pods, they fell silent again. Until now.

Last month, Barnes and Barnes returned with, of all things, a holiday album. It’s called Holidaze in Lumania and it’s 14 original tracks of heartwarming cheer and goofy comedy laced with just the right amount of pitch-black absurdist humor, like a shiny candy cane with a vein of coal running down the middle. There’s a song, for example, called “Why Mommy, Why Do You Cry?” about how the holidays kinda suck for everyone who doesn’t have a happy, fully intact nuclear family, and “Down by Candy Cane Lane” is all about how the titular lane is occupied by hookers, ex-cons and Krampus, the Christmas demon. Then there’s “The Angel of Death Is Near,” which is pretty self-explanatory, and “Silent Night Holy Newt,” which is basically just “Silent Night” with amphibians. It’s fun stuff. Our thanks to Artie Barnes, who took to the time to personally contact us (we’re not worthy!) to let us know of its holly, jolly existence.

Holidaze in Lumania is available now on CD Baby, or you can stream the whole thing on Spotify if shiny plastic discs aren’t your thing. It makes a great stocking stuffer though, don’t you think? Also, did we mention it’s totally inclusive and non-denominational? It’s true! There’s a Kwanzaa song and a “Jesus Is Groovy” song and a Hanukkah song that we’ll leave you with, even though Hanukkah ended two nights ago and all the Manischewitz has been drunk and/or poured down the sink where it belongs. Seriously, this shit is ghastly. But hey, Baruch atah Adonai and all that.