Weird of the Day: Palais Schaumburg, “Kinder der Tod”

Palais-Schaumburg

We’d like to dedicate today’s post to new reader Jörg, who pointed out (quite rightly — thanks, Jörg!) that for a site about weird music, we’re sorely lacking in Neue Deutsche Welle or New German Wave — a particularly Teutonic strain of synth-heavy post-punk that arose in West Germany in the early ’80s. It had a brief run of popularity, leading to the crossover pop success of acts like Nena of “99 Luftballons” fame and this guy. But the original, more underground NDW was way too weird even for most Germans to fully embrace it. A lot of it sounds like a cross between Einstürzende Neubauten and early video game music — the kind of video games that might give you a small electric shock every time you lose, maybe.

Jörg was nice enough to send us links to a whole mess of this stuff, but the one that really jumped out at me was Palais Schaumburg, a band from Hamberg whose stuff managed to be both robotically stiff and kinda funky at the same time, in that way only Germans seem able to pull off. Plus, the video below for their 1981 song “Kinder der Tod” (“Children of the Death”*) is the kind of amazing ’80s artifact YouTube was made for. Suspenders and bad perms abound, and there’s a menacing figure encased in black stretchy fabric and a little performance-art piece about how you’ll die if you let anyone steal your flowers, or something. It’s all deadly serious but probably meant to be funny but it’s hard to tell because another thing Germans are great at pulling off is humor so deadpan it makes you feel like there might be something wrong with you when you can’t stop laughing at it.

Bonus fun fact: Palais Schaumburg was the first musical projects of one Thomas Fehlmann, who would go on to achieve greater renown as a member of another excellent weird band, British ambient electronic pioneers The Orb. I would never have guessed there was a direct link between Neue Deutsche Welle and ’90s rave chillout rooms, but there you have one.

*After we posted this, Jörg wrote us and explained that a more accurate though grammatically confusing translation of “Kinder der Tod” is “Children the Death” — from a lyric that translates to, “Children, (the) death is not that bad at all.” Thanks for clearing that up, Jörg! Or making it more confusing, which is probably more in the spirit of Palais Schaumburg anyway.

Advertisements

Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra

satanic-puppeteer-2
Photo by Candice Eley

If you’re trying to start your own weird band, it’s a good move to include a robot member or two. As we’ve repeatedly established on this here blog, robots are weird. Especially ones that have glass heads with brains floating in them.

In the case of Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra, they have only one robot, but he’s a good one. SPO-20 has the aforementioned glass head and suspended brain, and he sings the band’s jaunty electro-pop ditties in a voice that’s two parts Stephen Hawking and one part retired Cylon warrior crooning pop standards in the rec room at the Cylon old folks’ home. The Dave Stewart to SPO-20’s Annie Lennox, Professor B. Miller, accompanies the robot on keyboards with more sweaty enthusiasm than Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra’s light-hearted tunes require, but he’s probably overcompensating for SPO-20’s stiffness air of enigmatic aloofness.

SPO are from San Diego, which is a weirder music town than you might expect; it’s also home to Cattle Decapitation, masked powerviolence perpetrators The Locust, and at least one other, much scarier robot band. They’ve been doing their thing since 1996 and their biggest claim to fame is they released the bestselling 4-disc debut album of all time — featuring “probably over 50 songs!” according to their website. You’re probably wondering, “Yeah, but how many 4-disc debut albums can there possibly be?” And I’m here to tell you that I have no idea, but I’m sure it’s a lot or they wouldn’t be bragging about it.

Here’s one of those 50-odd tracks, “Haunted Rental Car,” which I figured is an appropriate choice since it’s almost Halloween and all:

After a follow-up 2014 album called Experiments With Auto-Croon, SPO return next month with the first in what Prof B tell us will be a series of 20 (twenty!) EPs, each centered around a different theme. The first one is all about supermarkets, which I guess is appropriate because robots are already starting to run our supermarkets, so why not have one sing songs about it? Here’s a just-released video for that Orwellian shopping nightmare known as the “Price Check”:

After Stop by the Supermarket, SPO’s next three EPs will be about Christmas (timely!), the paranormal (less timely, but awesome!) and being lost at sea (never goes out of style). What the next 16 EPs after that will be about is anyone’s guess, but I’m sure they’ll all be trenchant parables for our dystopian times.

Side note: Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra was actually one of the three bands that played at our first (and to date, only) Weird Band Night back in 2014. How we went four years after that event without ever adding them to the Weird List I’m not sure, but it was probably down to some stupid human error and further proof that robots are better at everything. I’m sure one directed this video for another SPO tune, “Frankenstein’s Laundromat,” because it’s great. (As is their live show — if you happen to live in San Diego, they’re having a record release gig on Nov. 24th, which you should definitely check out.)

Links:

We’re venturing out in public again: Saturday, March 3 at Resident in downtown L.A.

Voyager-MJ

Did you know the people behind this blog aren’t total shut-ins? It’s true! We put on actual pants when we leave the house and own cars whose registrations haven’t expired and don’t hoard old newspapers or empty cereal boxes or anything. We even have friends, although I’m sure at least some of them are just trying to use us to get into the fast-paced, glamorous world of music blogging.

This Saturday, not only will one of us be leaving the house, he’ll be plopping himself down on a stage and speaking in front of (hopefully) dozens of people! Yep, TWBITW’s own Andy Hermann (that’s me, talking about myself in third person again) will be appearing this Saturday, March 3 at the Voyager Institute, a pop culture lecture series that describes itself as “The Moth, a TED talk and a variety show all in one.” Ooh, I really hope they give me one of those cool wireless TED Talk headset mics, because when I have to speak in front of a roomful of strangers, my hands get shaky as fuck.

You might think from the above flyer that we’ll be discussing the weirdness of Michael Jackson, but that honor goes to the excellent podcast Heat Rocks, on which hosts Oliver Wang and Morgan Rhodes invite a guest to discuss one of their all-time favorite albums. At Voyager Institute, they’ll be talking about Michael Jackson’s HIStory with filmmaker Justin Simien (Dear White People). They’re the main event, we’re just the opening band, so to speak. Although assuming they’re going to focus HIStory‘s disc of original material and not its accompanying greatest-hits compilation, we should serve as a nice warmup, because Jacko got pretty damn weird on that record.

No, instead, the theme of our presentation, which will be hosted by my pal Rico Gagliano, travel writer for The Wall Street Journal (we’re going highbrow, baby!) and former host of the Dinner Party Download, will be “The Search for The Weirdest Band in the World.” In other words, pretty much the theme of this blog, although we’re going to present it less like a list and more like a travelogue, making stops in various corners of the world that are hotbeds for mind-bending music. So our approach will be less Trouser Press, more Lonely Planet, if you will. (We’re not gonna tell you which corners of the world we’ll be visiting — it’s a surprise! OK, fine, one of them is Japan, but you probably already guessed that.)

Also on the Voyager Institute lineup: a presentation and discussion of some of the 1970s TV commercials made by the Maysles Brothers, the filmmakers best-known for the documentaries Gimme Shelter and Grey Gardens. So basically, this whole thing is gonna chockfull of pop culture curiosities.

It all happens this Saturday, March 3 at Resident, starting at 4 p.m. (day drinking!) in the downtown L.A. Arts District. It’s free if you RSVP here first. I’m not sure what happens if you don’t RSVP, but I wouldn’t want to find out. You know anyone with the balls to label their event “TED Talk meets variety show” is not be fucked with.

You can read more about the event on Facebook. Hope to see some of your slack-jawed faces there!

 

Negativland’s new album “It’s All Your Head” questions the existence of God and comes packaged in an actual Bible. That won’t piss anyone off.

Negativland

When last we heard from our favorite sound collage culture jammers Negativland, they were honoring the spirit of the late Casey Kasem by re-releasing their banned single “U2” that featured Kasem’s familiar, woolly voice unleashing a profanity-laced tirade. While that was certainly a worthy endeavor, we’re happy to report that their next project promises to be a bit more substantial. On Oct. 28th, they’ll be releasing It’s All in Your Head, their first album of new material in six years. And this time, they’re tackling their heaviest topic yet: why people believe in God.

But wait, because this is Negativland, the fun doesn’t stop there. The CD release of It’s All in Your Head will be packaged inside actual copies of the Holy Bible. The trailer video even promises a limited run of copies packaged inside the Qur’an. So basically, It’s All in Your Head is guaranteed to piss off both the Christian conservative crowd and the Islamic fundamentalist set. It’s equal opportunity blasphemy!

To be fair, nothing in the trailer or press release suggests that Negativland are actually doing anything especially blasphemous. They’re simply using religious texts as found-art objects, and questioning the existence of, and our belief in, a single, all-powerful deity—which is not the same thing as denying the existence of said deity, a finer point that’s often lost on the zealots. Which is why we’re predicting this will probably be Negativland’s most-discussed release since their 1995 book/CD project Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2, which they put out in response to the Casey Kasem/U2 dustup.

Anyway, It’s All in Your Head promises, according to a press release, to combine “found music, found sound, found dialogue, guest personalities and original electronic noises into a compelling and thoughtful musical essay that looks at monotheism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, neuroscience, suicide bombers, 9/11, colas, war, shaved chimps, and the all-important role played by the human brain in our beliefs.” Portions of the record were made in front of a blindfolded studio audience. Other portions were probably just taped off Christian right-wing radio. Which parts are which? We bet you can figure it out. You’re a smart bunch.

Here’s the video trailer. Enjoy! Oh and if you happen to be in Portland on Aug. 29th or Seattle on Aug. 31st, you can catch Negativland’s new show, “Content!”, at the Crystal Ballroom and Bumbershoot, respectively.

Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin wakes up the “House Plants” in her new video

Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin

The sixth video from Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin‘s Residents-channeling opus Fish Drive Edsels is a pretty literal interpretation of the song “House Plants.” Fortunately, MacPumpkin’s lyrics are so random that even a literal interpretation leads to some bizarre imagery.

There are plants with eyeballs for fruit and hungry, gaping mouths. (Feed me, Seymour!) There’s an angry frozen octopus and lots of hourglasses, because the song mentions something about “undermation of the hourglass,” whatever that means. Above all, there’s lots of Petunia singing into a megaphone and hanging out in her attic with her house plants, whom she tries to wake up, but never too soon—never too soon.

MacPumpkin is working her way through Fish Drive Edsels one track at a time, creating surreal videos for each of her cracked-calliope tunes. Next up is a song called “Autumn Leaves”—hey, just in time for autumn! I predict this one will feature lots of dead leaves and maybe a jack-o-lantern or two.

August Weird Band Poll: Vote for Aeron’s Wake, Astral Knife, Britches, Heiter bis Wolkig or Plankton Dada Wave

How is it August already? These polls are supposed to be monthly. Oops. Well, better late than never, right? Plus this month’s batch was worth the wait, I think.

Regular readers know the drill but we’ll explain it again anyway: Voting ends midnight Sunday, Aug. 10th (California time). Based on your votes, one of these lucky, lucky bands will be named our next Weird Band of the Week. So choose carefully! The integrity of our blog rests in your twitchy little hands.

[Sorry, this poll has closed. Check back here Wednesday, when the winner will be revealed. And bookmark this page to partake of future polls. We do a new one every month(ish).]

For more on this month’s bands, read on:

Aeron’s Wake

Aeron's Wake
Photo by Ray Akey

Aeron’s Wake is an instrumental Celtic metal band from Ontario, Canada with a violinist who totally shreds. Here’s their Bandcamp page and here they are doing a live Metallica cover.

Astral Knife

Astral Knife

Astral Knife is a band from New York that does experimental noise and abstract soundscapes. They sometimes do guerrilla performances at art galleries, which is really the only way any self-respecting band should ever play an art gallery, in my opinion. They’re headed up by a gal with the fairly awesome name of Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz. Here’s their SoundCloud page and here’s an excerpt of their ninja art gallery gig. I bet the art patrons were doing spit takes with their Chardonnay.

Britches

Britches

Britches are a noise-rock band from St. Louis who seem to be one of those “no two shows are alike” acts. Sometimes they play wearing stuffed-animal masks; sometimes they play in the dark (no video available); sometimes they play covered in bedsheets. Here’s their Bandcamp page, which features a five-track sonic assault appropriately titled Demolition.

Heiter bis Wolkig 

Heiter bis Wolkig

A guy named Marco sent us this stuff in an email with the subject line, “Weird German Cabaret Bullshit.” Marco, you had us at “Weird German.” They’ve got sort of a HGich.T thing going on where they do pop and dance music parodies with guerrilla videos where they run around terrorizing people in fat suits and shit. It’s good fun. Here’s their YouTube channel and here’s a direct link to “Gaga Gogo,” which is their most entertaining clip.

Plankton Dada Wave

Plankton Dada Wave

These guys contacted us via Facebook with a link to a video for their song “Dope Without Hope,” which is sorta sounds like a combination of ska-punk and an Italian version of Mr. Bungle. Their SoundCloud profile is all in Italian, which we can’t read, but one part says “come i Ramones live a Teletubbilandia,” which I’m pretty sure means something like “it’s what The Ramones would sound like if they were Teletubbies.” Check out their EP Haus of Dada on Bandcamp and see if you agree.

So there you have it. Remember to cast your vote before midnight Sunday, Aug. 10th, and may the weirdest band win.

Weird of the Day: Weird Paul, “We Love Computers”

Weird Paul

So yesterday someone named Brad Cow Dizease (his actual name, it turns out—what are the odds?) sent us a link to a video by a fellow from Pittsburgh called Weird Paul Petroskey—or, to use his full YouTube handle, Original Vlogger 80’s Weird Paul Petroskey. Apparently he decided to start calling himself the “Original Vlogger” when he unearthed a VHS tape of himself back in 1984 doing a video review of a McDonald’s breakfast that is uncannily similar in style and structure to the awkward vlogger fast food reviews of today. It’s almost like he somehow time traveled back to 1984 and coached his younger self through the whole thing just so he could post it on YouTube 28 years later. But I digress.

Anyway, it turns out Weird Paul is a semi-famous outsider musician (by outsider musician standards) who’s been making music since the late ’80s. We’re sure he’ll be a Weird Band of the Week eventually, but in the meantime, I couldn’t resist posting this “We Love Computers” clip now, because having been the proud owner of a Commodore 64 in the ’80s, it gave me so many flashbacks I thought maybe I was time traveling back to 1984. The syntax errors! The clunky floppy disc drives! Zork! Man, we all thought we were living in the future.

To learn more about Weird Paul and his music, check out his website.