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.

 

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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.

Laibach’s “The Lonely Goatherd” video is creepy. And charming. But mostly creepy.

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Slovenian art-rockers Laibach have long possessed an uncanny ability to take even the most well-worn songs and make them sound unfamiliar and more than a little creepy, from “In the Army Now” to “Jesus Christ Superstar.” But they’ve really outdone themselves with their recent reinvention of The Sound of Music.

After releasing videos of their oddly affecting interpretations of the title track and “My Favorite Things,” they recently dropped the project’s third and most bizarre video yet, for their mournful take on “The Lonely Goatherd.” In the clip, which features guest vocalist Boris Benko alongside Laibach’s gravel-voiced frontman, Milan Fras, Fras plays shepherd to a flock of dancing young girls in kneesocks as Benko looks on through a pair of binoculars in his alpineer’s tweed jacket and hiking boots, shotgun ominously slung over one shoulder. It’s all very voyeuristic and vaguely pedophiliac until Fras and Benko suddenly break out their own awkwardly charming dance moves near the video’s end. Fras even yodels, if you can call anything he does with his graveyard rasp yodeling. So maybe it’s all good, innocent fun. Unless it isn’t.

For more on Laibach’s The Sound of Music, read our last post about it or visit the website of their label, Mute Records.

David Liebe Hart hangs in the graveyard for his “Haunted by Frankenstein” video

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David Liebe Hart can make just about anything seem like a good time, from collecting model trains to getting your pecker caught in your zipper. So it’s not surprising that in the new video for “Haunted by Frankenstein,” which he released just in time for Halloween (sorry we’re two weeks late to the party, DLH), he turns a visit to the cemetery into a one-man party. Watch.

Good times, right? “Haunted by Frankenstein” is from Hart’s amazing new album, For Everyone, his collaboration with Half Japanese’s Jad Fair and Jason Willett, which is loaded with similarly off-kilter moments of pop surrealism. The video, I’m pretty sure, was shot at the Hollywood Forever cemetery, although don’t quote me on that — especially because wherever it was filmed, I bet they didn’t have a permit.

Also, since I just read the sad news that Stan Lee died, I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that David Liebe Hart also now exists in comic book form. His superhero character is called Heartman and you can buy issue No. 1 of his adventures (illustrated by 48 different artists, including DLH himself) in the ArtByLiebeHart.com store. Excelsior!

Rammstein announce first-ever stadium tour

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Two things that are hard to believe: First, that it’s been nearly 10 years since Rammstein‘s last album, and second, that a band known for its over-the-top, pyrotechnic-heavy live show has apparently never done a proper stadium tour before. But in 2019, both those things are set to change.

Less than a month after guitarist Paul Landers casually let slip in a gear interview that the band was working on new music, the German industrial demigods confirmed via their website that not only will they drop a new album next spring — their first since 2009’s Liebe ist für alle da — but they’ll be supporting it with a massive European stadium tour, with stops in 25 cities (full dates below). What will a stadium-sized Rammstein tour look like? Probably something like this, only with even more fire.

As far as the new music, Landers told MusicRadar that the band has been working together in one room, rather than tracking all the parts individually as they’ve done in the past. “We’ve decided to make the record more of a band-unit recording than a bunch of guys playing separately,” he said. “We’ll have to see how it all ends up on the record, but the basic idea is you are hearing a band playing … you could say it’s inspired by our live sound.” In the news post announcing the tour, they also mentioned that they’re working with an orchestra and choir. So it sounds like Rammstein fans are in for something epic.

Tickets for the European tour went on sale today and it looks like several dates are already sold out, so get your ass over to the Rammstein website if you want in on the action. (No tour dates for the rest of the world yet, unfortunately, except a couple dates in Mexico around New Year’s Eve.) Full dates below, right after Till and the gang rock your faces off with this live clip from Hellfest in France in 2016. That spark-shooting bow-and-arrow contraption really ought to be available in the Rammstein online store, don’t you think?

12/31/2018 Puerto Vallarta, Explanada Hotel Secrets
01/02/2109 Puerto Vallarta, Explanada Hotel Secrets
05/27/2019 Gelsenkirchen, Veltins-Arena
05/28/2019 Gelsenkirchen, Veltins-Arena
06/01/2019 Barcelona, RCDE Stadium
06/05/2019 Bern, Stade de Suisse
06/08/2019 Munich, Olympiastadion
06/09/2019 Munich, Olympiastadion
06/12/2019 Dresden, Rudolf-Harbig-Stadion
06/13/2019 Dresden, Rudolf-Harbig-Stadion
06/16/2019 Rostock, Ostseestadion
06/19/2019 Copenhagen, Telia Parken
06/22/2019 Berlin, Olympiastadion
06/25/2019 Rotterdam, De Kuip
06/28/2019 Paris, Paris La Défense Arena
06/29/2019 Paris, Paris La Défense Arena
07/02/2019 Hannover, HDI Arena
07/06/2019 Milton Keynes, Stadium MK
07/10/2019 Brussels, Stade Roi Baudouin
07/13/2019 Frankfurt am Main, Commerzbank-Arena
07/16/2019 Prague, Eden Aréna
07/17/2019 Prague, Eden Aréna
07/20/2019 Luxembourg, Roeser Festival Grounds
07/24/2019 Chorzów, Stadion Śląski
07/29/2019 Moscow, VTB Arena – Central Dynamo Stadium
08/02/2019 Saint Petersburg, Saint-Petersburg-Stadium
08/06/2019 Riga, Lucavsala
08/10/2019 Tampere, Ratina Stadion
08/14/2019 Stockholm, Stockholm Stadion
08/18/2019 Oslo, Ullevaal Stadion
08/22/2019 Vienna, Ernst-Happel-Stadion
08/23/2019 Vienna, Ernst-Happel-Stadion

Haunted Garage’s Dukey Flyswatter is having brain surgery and needs your help

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Dukey Flyswatter in action at the Long Beach Zombie Walk in 2013

[Update: If you can’t make it to the show, there is now also a GoFundMe page to help Dukey with his medical expenses. Give copiously!]

“22 Centimeter Brain Tumor” sounds like the title of a song by Hollywood horror-punks Haunted Garage, and who knows? Maybe someday it will be. But for now, it’s the grim reality for lead singer Dukey Flyswatter, who discovered he had the tumor last month, but powered through a slew of Halloween-related Haunted Garage shows anyway, like the unstoppable splatter-punk beast that he is.

Now, as Dukey prepares to get that fucking thing taken out of his skull (he undergoes surgery Dec. 10th), he needs your help. I’m not sure what his insurance situation is, but even when you have coverage, shit like this can get expensive in a hurry. So his friends are throwing a little benefit party for him here in Los Angeles at Cafe NELA on Saturday, Dec. 1st. Our friends Radioactive Chicken Heads will be on the bill, along with Gitane Demone, Fifi and Haunted Garage, because of course Dukey’s playing his own benefit concert. Did we mention he’s unstoppable?

It’s my understanding that tickets for this epic night of punk rock and brain tumor-stomping will be a mere $10, though I’m sure larger donations will be gratefully accepted. For those of you not in L.A., I’m not sure how you can donate — I’ll find out if Dukey has a GoFundMe page or something. [Update: Now he does have one. Big ups to Pat Rowan for creating it.] He’s been a friend of the blog for many years and an L.A. living legend for longer than that. He deserves all the support we can give him as he fights through this.

Here’s a link to the benefit’s Facebook page again in case you missed it.

Is it in poor taste to end this post with Haunted Garage’s “Brain in a Jar”? It is? Good, because bad taste is what the inimitable Mr. Flyswatter is all about. Rock on, Dukey, and see you at Cafe NELA. Weird Nation has got your back.

R.I.P. Hardy Fox, Residents co-founder and man of mystery

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Officially, no one knows who is in The Residents. Unofficially, it’s long been established that one of their co-founders and chief sonic architects was a shy, unassuming Texan by the name of Hardy Fox (yes, his real name). And yesterday, the band confirmed that Fox passed away, aged 73. According to Fox’s own website, the cause of death was brain cancer.

Actually, true to The Residents’ flair for dark absurdism, Fox announced his own death weeks ago, posting a “1945-2018” banner on his website and a Facebook statement that read in part, “Yes got sick, making my pass out of this world, but it is ‘all’ okay. I have something in my brain that will last to a brief end. I am 73 as you might know. Brains go down. But maybe here is my brain functioning as I’m almost a dead person just a bit of go yet. Doctors have put me on drugs, LOL, for right now.”

Together with fellow Resident Homer Flynn, Fox would occasionally speak on behalf of the band in the guise of a spokesman for the Cryptic Corporation, The Residents’ management company. He and Flynn were always careful to refer to the band in the third person, as in this interview excerpted from the documentary Theory of Obscurity, in which Fox talks about The Residents’ early failed experiments in filmmaking and subsequent turn to home recording, at a time when making music outside of a professional recording studio was virtually unheard of:

Outside of The Residents, Fox also released music under the names Combo de Mechanico, Sonido de la Noche, TAR, and his favorite alter ego, Charles Bobuck. (Later incarnations of The Residents featured a character named “Chuck,” played by Fox.) One listen to his work under these other aliases and it’s immediately clear he played a major role in The Residents’ creepy, carnivalesque sound:

That song is based on a true story, by the way: Later in life, Fox and his husband, Steven Kloman, left The Residents’ home base of San Francisco and bought a chicken farm. This and other biographical tidbits are revealed in Fox’s book, This, which he released online in 2016 (along with a music compilation of the same name, which is amazing and can be heard on Bandcamp). My other favorite detail from This, which explains a lot about The Residents’ music: Apparently Fox heard music every time he orgasmed, a condition diagnosed as a mild form of epilepsy when he was a child. “I suppose I do not write music so much as have controlled seizures,” he wrote.

Fox did not enjoy touring, so he stopped performing with The Residents in 2016, though he continued composing for them until his death. The band posted a lovely tribute to him yesterday on Twitter and on their website:

It is with with great sorrow and regret that The Cryptic Corporation announces the passing of longtime associate, Hardy Fox. As president of the corporation from 1982-2016, the company benefited from Hardy’s instinct for leadership and direction, but his true value came from his longtime association with The Residents. As the group’s producer, engineer, as well as collaborator on much of their material, Fox’s influence on The Residents was indelible; despite any formal training, his musicality was nevertheless unique, highly refined and prolific. Blessed with a vital sense of aesthetics, a keen ear, and an exquisite love of the absurd, Hardy’s smiling face was a constant source of joy to those around him. He will be missed.

Rest in peace, Hardy Fox. You gave the world so much wonderful music, weird and otherwise. And without you, this blog almost certainly would not exist. So thank you.

It’s impossible to sum up Hardy Fox’s impact in a single video, but The Residents’ “One Minute Movies” comes close. Released in 1980, it features four one-minute songs from The Commercial Album. Improbably, it got a lot of airplay on early MTV, mostly because very few other bands at the time were doing music videos. Every time I watch this, the notion that it was getting piped into people’s cable boxes in Kansas makes me smile.