David Liebe Hart

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If you were a fan of the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, you’re probably familiar with this week’s weird artist. But what you might not realize is that David Liebe Hart, with his puppets and quirky lo-fi songs about aliens and insect women and staying in school, was not some surreal creation of that most surreal of late-night comedy shows. David Liebe Hart is a real live person, and to this day he’s still making his wonderfully weird music and even weirder music videos.

An actor originally from the Chicago area (where, he says, he was abducted by aliens as a child) and now based in Los Angeles, Hart had a few small television roles early in his career on shows like Good Times, What’s Happening and Golden Girls. But he became best-known in the L.A. area in the 1990s for his musical puppet act, which he performed around town as a street busker and on a local cable access TV called The Junior Christian Teaching Bible Lesson Program. Thanks to the miracle of YouTube, you can still watch some of Hart’s early cable-access performances, which are fantastic.

So Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim didn’t exactly pluck Hart out of obscurity when they put him on the first season of their Awesome Show in 2007; he was already a cult figure around L.A., on par with other eccentric Hollywood fixtures like Known Actor Dennis Woodruff and Thai Elvis. But they were smart enough to just point a camera at him and let him do his thing, showcasing his menagerie of puppets, his slightly out-of-control baritone bray of a singing voice, and some of his most outlandish songs. He’s probably still most famous for “Salame,” the tune with which he made his Awesome Show debut (accompanied by his most famous puppet, Jason the Cat), but for our money, Tim & Eric scored Peak DLH with “I’m in Love With an Insect Woman.”

“Insect Woman” is amazing for a lot of reasons, but my favorite thing about it is probably how clearly Hart is in on the joke. Though some Tim & Eric fans seemed to react with alarm upon learning that his act existed outside the show (sample YouTube comment: “The realization that Tim and Eric met a crazy man and put him in front of a camera makes you a little sad”), I think part of David Liebe Hart’s genius, if you can call it that, lies in his ability to simultaneously embrace the absurd elements of his act and also fully commit to his underlying messages. He doesn’t really care whether you take him seriously or not; he just wants you to believe the aliens are out there — and to stay in school. It’s like Wesley Willis meets Space Alien Donald meets Sesame Street.

Since the sad demise of the Awesome Show, DLH has been keeping busy. He’s released numerous albums, written a book of poetry, played the mayor of Chicago in a B-movie called White Cop, launched his own podcast (“Adventures With David”), and done a national tour fronting a punk band. Since 2014, he’s teamed up with a new musical collaborator, Jonah Mociun, who’s given his songs a more fully produced, jaunty electro-pop sound. He’s also continued to embrace his silly, self-deprecating side; songs of his most recent album, Space Ranger, include “I Caught My Pecker in My Zipper,” “No Sex Since ’94” and “I’m Not a Hoarder.” (And we have it on good authority that, yes, that really is his apartment in the video for the latter track.)

But to this day, it’s when Hart sings about aliens and outer space this his weird light burns brightest. We’ll leave you with the totally cosmic video to another track from Space Ranger, “Space Train,” which features a fellow eccentric by the name of Tennessee Luke. According to Mociun, who wrote to us recently to share some of DLH’s latest stuff, Luke “believes he controls the weather with his mind.” Needless to say, we’re already fans.

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Clown Core

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Last week, a video surfaced on YouTube of a band called Clown Core performing a song called “Hell” inside a porta-potty. It went viral in a matter of days, getting reposted by Adult Swim and written up on various metal sites, because it is awesome. Here, judge for yourself:

Did you catch all that? The horror movie synths, the industrial beats, the death metal vocals, the Kenny G interlude? Can you grasp the sheer, unadulterated genius of it all? Maybe you better watch it again just to make sure you didn’t miss anything. We’ll wait.

Although prior to last week, hardly anyone (including us) was aware that Clown Core existed, the duo has actually been around since at least 2010. That’s when they released their self-titled debut album, which features 13 similarly unhinged ditties with titles like “Diarrhea Inferno Welfare Burrito” and “I Ate a Luna Bar and My Dick Fell Off.” It’s available on Spotify and iTunes, where it’s listed under “Children’s Music.” What’s remarkable is how fully formed the whole Clown Core concept seems to have been, even back then. Mostly using just sax, keyboards and drums, the duo mix punk-rock, death metal, jazz and plenty of comic relief (the Benny Hill theme shows up at one point, and there’s also a death metal cover of “Deck the Halls”) to create a sort of cartoon version of Mike Patton-era Mr. Bungle by way of Moon Hooch. They’re clearly not taking any of it seriously, but they’re also clearly very good musicians — which just makes it all that much funnier.

“Hell” is from Clown Core’s just-released new album, which is called Toilet, presumably because these guys were smart enough to realize that Porta-Potty is a terrible album title. It’s an even nuttier, more tightly wound hodgepodge of abrasive sounds than their debut, with more dubstep-like synths and death metal vocals and song titles like “Google Your Own Death” and “The Area 51 Snack Bar Sucks.”

So far there are no clues as to who’s behind the clown masks. Aside from their two albums, their online presence is limited to a YouTube channel and a Twitter account that’s less than a month old (and already three times more followers than us — thanks a lot, Internet). [Update: They also have a Facebook page.] We’re not even sure where they’re from, although the fact that the Porta-potty in the “Hell” video has a SoCal Industries logo suggests that they’re based right here in Southern California. Maybe they’re a spinoff of our favorite local masked electro-punks, Fartbarf? Although last we checked, no one in Fartbarf plays sax. Maybe it’s a couple of the guys from Kneebody — the jazziest track on Toilet, “Truth and Life” (also, at 2:44, the longest), actually sounds kinda like Kneebody in places.

Ultimately, though, who cares who’s behind Clown Core? Let’s just enjoy the fact that while I was writing this post, they released a second video, this time for Toilet‘s skittering title track. It also takes place inside a SoCal Industries porta-potty — but this time, the porta-potty has moved! What does it mean??? (Also, trigger warning for anyone who was molested by a clown as a child.)

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Xylouris White

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This photo and artwork: Anna White. Banner photo above: Manolis Mathioudakis.

You might think a drum kit and a lute are insufficient tools when it comes to creating completely original, holy-crap-what-is-this music. And in the hands of most humans that would probably be true. But Georgios Xylouris and Jim White are not most humans.

The unlikely duo first connected in Melbourne, Australia in the ’90s, where White had an instrumental rock trio called Dirty Three and Xylouris fronted a group called Xylouris Ensemble that showcased his unique approach to the music of his native Crete — mixing it with Irish folk music, as well as more modern elements — and his chosen instrument, the laouto, a long-necked, eight-stringed lute. In traditional Greek and Cretan music, it’s typically a supporting instrument, used mainly for rhythm and texture — but Xylouris can shred on that thing like a cross between Andrés Segovia and Chris Thile.

Jim White, in some ways, also plays the drums like a lead instrument — or at least explores their melodic and timbral possibilities more thoroughly than most rock drummers. His incredibly expressive playing has backed everyone from Nick Cave to Cat Power to PJ Harvey. But he didn’t begin working with Xylouris until 2014, when the duo released their first album as Xylouris White, Goats — an apt title, because there’s something voracious about the way they explore every little cranny and crevice in the space where their two styles of music overlap. The sound of the laouto keeps them rooted in Greek and Cretan folk music, but from there they go flying off into atmospheric post-rock, Indian ragas, drone, psychedelia, jazz, and the vaguely medieval sounds of neoclassical folk and darkwave. It’s not music that immediately strikes you as “weird” per se, but the longer you listen, the harder it is to describe — which is as good an overarching description as any of the kind of music this blog is dedicated to exploring.

Xylouris White just released their third album, Mother, and I think it’s their best work yet, with more of Xylouris’ powerful vocals and a sort of moody, post-punk, gypsy trance vibe that contains echoes of everything from Ravi Shankar and Gábor Szabó to Dead Can Dance and Robby Krieger’s guitar parts on “The End.” It’s eerie and beautiful and incantatory and doesn’t sound like it could possibly be the work of just two musicians — but after seeing them live this week (they’re playing Zebulon here in L.A. every Monday this month — for free! — and on tour through May), I’m pretty sure that Mother contains very few overdubs. Between White’s graceful yet octopus-like command of his kit and the crazy overtones and drones Xylouris can get from his lute, the two of them can generate quite a racket.

Though they have an undeniably fascinating sound, I honestly didn’t consider adding Xylouris White to the Weird List until I saw this video for “Only Love,” one of the most rockin’ songs on Mother. Between the Primus-like opening riff and the goofy animation (my favorite part: when something like a goat mosh pit breaks out) courtesy of director Lucy Dyson, it’s definitely one of the most eye-catchingly absurd clips I’ve seen in recent memory.

I’ll leave you with Xylouris White’s other recent music video, for the Mother track “Daphne.” This one’s only weird if you think it’s weird for old ladies to dance alone in fields, which you shouldn’t. With any luck, we’ll all be able to bust moves like this well into our twilight years. (Also, those old ladies are Jim White and George Xylouris’ mothers. So show a little goddamned respect.)

Side note: Back in his native Crete, Giorgos Xylouris is folk music royalty. His father is Antonis “Psarantonis” Xylouris, a renowned lyra player (a smaller, three-stringed cousin of the laouto), and his late uncle was Nikos “Psaronikos” Xylouris, a singer and lyra player whose music became a soundtrack and inspiration for the youth protest movement that eventually brought down the military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974. Giorgos (or George, to his English-speaking pals) is known in Greece as Psarogiorgos. We’re not sure what the “psaro” prefix means but presumably it’s some kind of honorific bestowed upon members of the Xylouris family who have achieved a certain level of awesomeness. (Giorgos’ children, who perform with him in Xylouris Ensemble, don’t appear to have earned it yet. But give them time.)

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

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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!

 

Infecticide

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This week’s weird band comes to us from France and was suggested by reader Tropitox. (Thanks, Trop!) We don’t know much about them because pretty much everything written about them on the web is in French and we’re American scum who never bothered to learn a foreign language. But language barriers aside, you can get a pretty good idea of what they sound like from this description on their Facebook page: “Post-industriel-Synthpunk-electrowave-neo-dada calé-découpé.” According to Google translator that last part means “wedged-cut,” which is presumably either a reference to their hairstyles or how they like their pommes frites.

Infecticide’s music is sort of a cross between ’80s synth-pop and the dirty electro of French labels like Ed Banger Records. The weirdest part of their sound is the vocals, usually delivered in French but occasionally in delightfully stilted English, Spanish or German. But it’s less in their music than in their videos that they venture into bizarro territory. We’ll start with “Les animaux sauvages,” which is like a cross between a school play staged by sad-faced French grownups and a rave at a furry convention.

Now that you kinda like them, we’ll drop “Babybelle” on you, which will haunt your dreams:

As far as we can tell, they’ve only released one album so far, called Chansons Tristes (Sad Songs), which you can obtain from the Free Music Archive. While you’re waiting for your downloads, pause to read the hilariously jumbled album description, presumably translated from the French, which helpfully explains that the album’s “fifteen pieces with neo-Dadaist lyrics will leave speechless all spirit unable to go beyond the first degree and enrapture personalities in a displacing way.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

We’ll leave you with one of Infecticide’s more recent videos, a clip called “Petit tricheur” (“Little Cheater”) that attempts to do for garbage bags and bowties what The Ramones did for biker jackets.

The Furby Organ

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We’re cheating a little this week: The Furby Organ is an instrument, not a band. But it’s too awesome for us to ignore. And hey, from a Furby’s perspective, it’s a 44-member band, right? Just one in which the 44 members have been dissected and wired up to do one mad overlord’s bidding — “kinda like The Matrix, but without the bad sunglasses,” as the aforementioned mad overlord aptly puts it.

The overlord is Sam Battle, a London musician and analog synthesizer geek who goes by the handle Look Mum No Computer. He builds all sorts of cool contraptions, like a “mega drone synth” with 100 oscillators and a guitar synth made from a fidget spinner, but his crowning achievement is clearly the Furby Organ, which has justifiably been blowing up all over the internet since he announced the project’s completion with the video below this past Sunday. Some people have been calling it the stuff of nightmares, but we think it’s genius. Judge for yourself.

Keening Furbies aside, I think what I love best about the video is Battle’s infectious enthusiasm for the whole thing. It’s one thing to spend several years collecting Furbies and soldering them into a giant synthesizer, but to present it on YouTube like it’s the greatest invention since the ShamWow is a rare and remarkable talent, indeed.

If you want to support more of Sam Battle’s LMNC projects, we highly recommend supporting him via his Patreon page. He also says he’s collecting more Furbies for upcoming projects, so if you have any of the little critters stashed in a box somewhere in the back of your garage (and who doesn’t?), by all means dig them out and ship them off. Who knows what demented and delightful uses for Furbies he’s scheming up next.

As an added bonus, we’ll leave you with the “Furby Gurby,” another furby-powered analog gizmo that Battle says was the inspiration for the Furby Organ. Once you hear this thing, the Furby Organ sounds less like the stuff of nightmares and more like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir of talking children’s toys.

P.S. Thanks to our friend and reader Tommy Salsa for first alerting us to the Furby Organ’s magical existence. As one of the guys who suffered through my attempt to create a Furby bike at Burning Man one year (to no one’s surprise except me, it became insufferably annoying after about 30 seconds), he correctly surmised that I would greet the arrival of the Furby Organ the way Steve Jobs cultists greet the release of a new iPhone.

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The Godz

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Our thanks to reader Srimad1 for reminding us that, while we did once write a post about freak-folk/noise-rock pioneers The Godz, we never actually got around to adding them to The Weird List. Well, we’re gonna fix that right now, Sri. Can we call you Sri? We feel like we’re already on a nickname basis, since we’re all in the extremely small club of Godz lovers.

The Godz (not to be confused with the awesome-in-their-own-way-but-far-less-mindblowing hard rock back from Ohio of the same name) came together in mid-1960s New York City. Their official bio says they were “born out of the grimy streets of the Lower East Side”; another account, which we find far more entertaining, says they met at a Sam Goody record store in midtown Manhattan. United by a love of marijuana and pretending not to know how to play their instruments, they began laying down improvised, repetitive jams that resembled no sound anyone had ever produced before, unless somewhere in Greenwich Village before 1966 a jug band attempted to play three different songs simultaneously while falling down a flight of stairs.

All 25 minutes of The Godz’s nine-song debut album, Contact High With The Godz (or Contact High With Da Godz, as the ransom-note lettering on the cover reads), is equal parts brilliant, deranged and insufferable. It’s one of the first — maybe the first — great weirdo artifacts of ’60s psychedelic music, predating The Velvet Underground & Nico by a year and Cromagnon‘s Orgasm by three. We posted it once before and it’s so great we’ll post it again. Warning: If you have cats, don’t play track two, “White Cat Heat,” on a large home stereo system. I’m not saying my cats are scarred for life or anything, but they’re definitely a lot jumpier than they were the day before they heard it.

Contact High With The Godz was released on the great ESP-Disk label, best-known as one of the vanguards of free jazz but also responsible for putting out some of the most mind-warping folk music to come out of New York in the ’60s (including records by The Fugs, Holy Modal Rounders and the aforementioned Cromagnon). Apparently Godz bassist Larry Kessler worked at the label at the time and arranged for them to audition. It’s a safe guess that everyone treated the whole thing like a joke at first, but somewhere along the way an actual recording session took place and lightning in a bottle was captured.

The Godz released three more albums over the next seven years, each weird and charming in its own primitive way, but never quite surpassing the magic of their unhinged debut. Godz 2, released in 1967, kept the droning, hypnotic qualities of Contact High but sounded more inspired when the guys delved into actual songcraft, as on the proto-punk rave-up “Radar Eyes.” 1968’s The Third Testament leavened the noise with some straight-up acoustic numbers that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a Richie Havens set. Following a few years of inactivity, The Godz got back together after famously contrarian rock critic Lester Bangs sang the praises of their early work in a 1971 article for Creem. But 1973’s Godzundheit, which featured a ragged but surprisingly faithful cover of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” would prove to be the final chapter in their first act.

Over the years, The Godz achieved semi-legendary status — especially in the NYC post-punk/no wave scene, where they came to be viewed as godfathers, championed by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore among many others. They finally reunited in late 2007 and early 2008 to record several new songs that later turned up on a pair of compilation albums called The Godz Remastered (a kind of hilarious title, given the deliberately lo-fi nature of their early work) and Gift From The Godz. Those recordings featured all three surviving members: Kessler, guitarist Jim McCarthy and drummer Paul Thornton — but inevitably, they’ve ditched the most aggressively abrasive elements of their early work, though they still rock out with youthful punk enthusiasm. (The fourth original member, autoharpist Jay Dillon, died in 2005.)

In 2014, Kessler put together a touring version of the band called L.L. Kessler’s “GODZ” that initially did not include McCarthy or Thornton, though Thornton later signed on to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary. According to their official website, they’ve recorded a new album called America — but as far as we’ve been able to tell, only the title track, a jaunty protest song with a horn section, has been released so far.

Even though it’s far from their weirdest song, we’re gonna play this post out with “Radar Eyes” because it fucking rocks. Long live The Godz!

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