Happy Valentine’s Day from Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin and all her uncanny friends

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We’ve been remiss in keeping tabs on one of favorite weirdos, Floridian lo-fi pop siren Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin, who for several years kept us entertained with a steady stream of surreal music videos from her one and only album, the funhouse masterpiece Fish Drive Edsels. Turns out that, in addition to making all those videos and running her label, Electric Phantom (home to fellow weirdos Chimney Crow), she’s been working on new music — which she finally released last month in the form of I Left My Heart in Uncanny Valley, another great collection of outsider pop ditties that’s worth the price of admission just for “Button Eyes,” a collaboration with David Liebe Hart sidekick (or alter ego? you decide) Chip the Black Boy. God, it makes us happy when weird worlds collide.

Now, just a month after unleashing Uncanny Valley upon unsuspecting listeners, P-L MacP is back with All My Friends Live in Uncanny Valley — a six-track EP of remixes of Uncanny Valley‘s best songs. And yay — there are more weird worlds colliding here! Among the remixers are Petunia’s longtime associates, Renaldo & the Loaf, as well as our old friend Toxic Chicken, the nom de weird of Kai Nobuko, who even wrote a guest post for us back in the day. Did Petunia and Kai find each other through this very blog? If so, I feel I could pack it all in today and declare victory.

All My Friends Live in Uncanny Valley also features remixes by several artists I’m not familiar with, including Kevin Busby, Vertigen, Commander Zillack and Spectral Fern Plaza. But they’re all pretty great, too — especially Busby’s “Cars and Monorails” remix of “Bright Light City,” which sounds like Gary Numan on acid, jumping in neon-lit puddles to watch the colors streak every which way. Here, you’ll see what I mean:

Both I Left My Heart in Uncanny Valley and today’s just-released remix collection (Petunia’s Valentine’s Day gift to us all — thanks, Petunia!) are available on Bandcamp. Buy ’em both, knowing that a good chunk of your Uncanny Valley dollars will likely be plowed right back into MacPumpkin’s next trippy music video. It’s money well spent.

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The man behind Twink the Toy Piano Band has a new project inspired by “Eraserhead”

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Cat Temper, bringing his keytar magic to underground cinema since 2019 

One of my all-time favorite weird bands we’ve ever written about is Twink, a Boston-based project humbly subtitled “the Toy Piano Band.” And while it’s true that, yes, many of Twink’s sounds come from toy pianos and other toy instruments, what Twink mastermind Mike Langlie does with those sounds goes way beyond the sort of plinky-plinky novelty shit you probably associate them with. Twink’s music incorporates elements of everything from trip-hop to techno to chamber pop, in a surprisingly lush, occasionally funky style he calls “toytronica.” If you’ve got an hour or three to kill, I highly recommend heading over to Twink’s Bandcamp page and bopping along to tracks with titles like “Chocolate Chipmunk” and “Pipper Snitch.” You won’t be sorry.

But hey, if toy pianos aren’t really your thing, Mike’s got a new project that might be more your speed. It’s called Cat Temper and his first release under that name is an alternative soundtrack to David Lynch’s cult classic Eraserhead called Henry. You can creep out to the 90-minute album on its own, or you can sync it up to Eraserhead‘s opening credits like your stoner older brother used to sync up Dark Side of the Moon to The Wizard of Oz, and let Langlie’s eerily beautiful soundscapes give Lynch’s stark black-and-white images a whole new vibe.

I haven’t had a chance to listen to Henry all the way through yet, or experiment with syncing it to Eraserhead — I think I probably need to re-up my weed stash before I embark on that particular venture. But I’m about seven tracks into it and it’s great so far — much creepier and analog synth-y than Twink, and also a welcome departure from the film’s original, claustrophobic soundtrack.

You can preview a sample of Henry below, and buy the whole thing on Bandcamp for a mere $5 — a steal for 90 minutes of music this quirky and clever. Nice work, Mike! I bet Lynch would approve. Maybe if he ever revives Twin Peaks again, Twink and Cat Temper can have a toy piano and keytar duel at the Roadhouse.

New Mayhem biopic “Lords of Chaos”: like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” with more cannibalism and church burnings

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I have to admit, when I saw the trailer for Lords of Chaos, the new fictionalized portrayal of black metal legends Mayhem, I got pretty excited. Visually the film looks great; it’s based on (and named after) one of the best books about the Norwegian black metal scene; and it was directed by Jonas Åkerlund, who in addition to directing to some of my all-time favorite weird music videos (including this one for Rammstein) has as much extreme metal cred as any filmmaker in the business — he was the drummer and a founding member of Bathory, a Swedish black metal band that was a prime influence on Mayhem and the entire Norwegian scene. And I love that — if the trailer is to be believed — the film doesn’t lose sight of the fact that, for all their later grandiose talk of Satanism and musical purity, the people who started this scene were initially just a bunch of party-hardy kids drinking beer and playing metal in their parents’ basements.

Lords of Chaos opens in American theaters today, and reviews so far are, to put it kindly, mixed. The film has a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, which isn’t bad, but the music press has been particularly harsh in its assessment, which doesn’t bode well. (Several current members of Mayhem apparently hate the film, too, for what it’s worth.) This review by Stereogum’s Patrick Lyons is particularly damning. If Lyons is to be believed, the film lets its characters off the hook way too easily for their violent, nihilistic and ultimately fascist world views — while at the same time doing a lousy job of accurately capturing what Norwegian black metal actually sounded like, which is weird considering Åkerlund’s bona fides. Rolling Stone also came down pretty hard on the film, though I find their criticisms a bit more suspect; the writer devotes almost an entire paragraph to dismissing Euronymous’ use of the phrase “True Norwegian Black Metal” as unrealistic, when anyone who’s read anything about Mayhem knows that this is exactly the sort of pompous locution he loved to use.

Anyway, my feeling for now is that I’m going to reserve judgment until I’ve actually seen the film — and maybe once I do, I’ll post a review here sharing my thoughts. It’s certainly true that telling the story of Mayhem in a way that’s accurate but doesn’t glorify all the awful shit they did is going to require a delicate balancing act — one that I’m not sure a guy like Åkerlund, who’s a brilliant visual stylist but not the most seasoned feature-length storyteller, can pull off. If the film sets up founding guitarist Euronymous as a sympathetic anti-hero and murderous, church-burning bassist Varg Vikernes as the cartoon villain — which it sounds like might be the case — then that’ll be disappointing. But it could also be a fascinating depiction of how easy it is for confused young people to make the leap from rebellious behavior that’s mostly symbolic — which, let’s face it, every confused young person in human history has done — to behavior that’s actually dangerous and destructive. There’s a good cautionary tale in the history of Mayhem — I hope Lords of Chaos tells it.

Sparks’ “No. 1 in Heaven” is getting a 40th anniversary reissue

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People tend to forget how huge disco was in the late ’70s. Pretty much everyone took a stab at making a disco record — Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, KISS. Even that most hapless of rock gods, Ringo Starr, tried to get in on the action, with predictably disastrous results. (We still love you, Ringo! But we’re glad you got that solo artist stuff out of your system and have settled happily into Rock Elder Statesman status.)

In the midst of all that high-profile Studio 54 carpetbaggery, a successful but significantly less famous art-rock duo called Sparks somehow managed to hire one of disco’s architects, the great Giorgio Moroder, to produce their eighth studio album. The resulting product, No. 1 in Heaven, spawned a pair of U.K. hits, “Beat the Clock” and “The Number One Song in Heaven.” But more importantly, it proved that electronic dance music could be weird. It’s the missing link between Kraftwerk and much of the herkiest, jerkiest synth-pop and New Wave that would follow. It also gave Sparks a much-needed reset, paving the way for what has become a career built on continuous, Bowie-like reinvention, as brothers Ron and Russell Mael have transformed their sound with virtually every new release in all the decades since.

This March, No. 1 in Heaven turns 40, even though I bet it still gets carded at the nightclub. To celebrate how gracefully their disco opus has aged, Sparks are reissuing No. 1 in Heaven on CD and vinyl with four bonus tracks and two promos recorded by the great Peter Cook (if his name doesn’t ring a bell, maybe this will: “Mawwiage!”). Both are available for pre-order now from the Sparks online store.

I’ll leave you with the video for “The Number One Song in Heaven,” in which one Russell and three Rons serve up their heavenly synths and falsetto vocals in what I assume is a cloud of hairspray and cocaine dust. God, the ’70s look fun.

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.)

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: