Deadlift Lolita

deadlift-lolita-2

Howdy, weirdlings! It’s Election Day here in America, and I’m sure I speak for many of my fellow ‘Muricans when I say I will be spending the day distracting myself from the sorry state of our democracy by avoiding the news and de-stressing with as many non-American diversions as possible, like Scotch and whatever crazy shit they’re listening to in Japan these days. Which bring us to our weird band of the week: a kawaiicore duo called Deadlift Lolita.

If you’ve already guessed from the above photo what’s weird about Deadlift Lolita, then congratulations — you figured out that one-half of the duo is not actually Japanese. He’s an Australian who goes by the name Ladybeard. Did you also guess why he calls himself that? Man, you’re on a roll!

When I first heard about the existence of Ladybeard, I was inclined to dismiss him as a foreign carpet-bagger — probably some failed musician who jumped on the kawaii metal bandwagon after it blew up internationally thanks to genre progenitors Babymetal. Then I read a story about him on Narratively that traced his Ladybeard persona back to at least 2009, when the writer (who mistakenly credits Ladybeard with inventing kawaiicore — at best, he might have coined the term, but whatevs) spied him rocking out at a death-metal concert dressed in a full nurse’s uniform. Further research (by which I mean that I, uh, looked up his Wikipedia page) revealed that he’s apparently been cross-dressing since he was 14. So I misjudged you, Ladybeard. You are not a bandwagon-jumper but in fact a full-blown weirdo who just didn’t find your calling until you moved to Japan and became the world’s most improbable kawaii idol.

Ladybeard, whose real name is Richard Magarey, studied drama in South Australia before moving to Hong Kong and finding work as a martial arts stuntman and, later, a professional wrestler. Does he still wrestle, I hear you ask? Damn right he does, and he looks adorable doing it.

After moving from Hong Kong to Tokyo in 2013, he broke into the music biz with his first band, Ladybaby. Musically, if we’re being honest, they were pretty much a straight rip of Babymetal, except one of the three girls was replaced by a giant white dude who looked like a ‘roided-out Aphex Twin in pigtails and sang like Chris Barnes.

Not surprisingly, Ladybaby went viral everywhere the headline “Bearded Cross-Dressing Pro Wrestler Fronts J-Pop Metal Band” might get clicks, which is to say pretty much everywhere. More surprisingly, they were a hit in Japan, too, which isn’t always kind to culture-crashing foreigners but was immediately charmed by this ridiculous gaijin dancing around in polka-dot dresses and grinning like Andrew W.K.’s long-lost, gender-non-conforming cousin.

Well, mostly charmed — in that aforementioned Narratively article, Ladybeard admitted that he sometimes got static from male idol fans who were jealous that he got to traipse around with his young female bandmates. “When I was in Ladybaby, they’d give the girls a present at the signing session, then whisper something like, ‘Eat shit, you dirty foreigner,’ in my ear,” he said. “Then those same people hated me when I left the group.”

That’s right — Ladybeard eventually left Ladybaby, which makes sense when you’ve got fans telling you to eat shit, I guess. What makes less sense is that Ladybaby tried to carry on without him — first calling themselves “The Idol Formerly Known as Ladybaby,” which at least sounded like a cool nod to Prince, then going back to calling themselves just Ladybaby, which makes them the Van Hagar of kawaiicore as far as I’m concerned. Ladybeard, meanwhile, went off and started a new group called Deadlift Lolita with a fellow bodybuilder and pro wrestler named Reika Saiki, and even though their sound still owes a lot to Babymetal, their overall presentation is spectacular. Here, for example, is the video for their debut single, “Six Pack Twins,” which is like a glorious cross between J-pop, Wrestlemania and a protein shake commercial.

Since then, Deadlift Lolita’s music and videos have only gotten weirder — the outfits more outlandish, the music more hyper-caffeinated, the guitar solos more shred-tastic (courtesy of Isao Fujita, who they poached from Babymetal), Ladybeard’s vocals more cartoonish. He breaks out a bizarre falsetto on “Pump Up Japan,” whose video features what I’m assuming are some of his and Reika’s fellow pro wrestlers. Side note: I have zero interest in American wrestling but Japanese wrestling looks ah-mazing.

Sadly, much as David Lee Roth’s solo career languished while everyone rushed out to buy Van Hagar CDs, Deadlift Lolita so far has failed to catch fire the way Ladybeard’s previous group did. The video I’m about to leave you with has a mere 157,000 views a year after its release, while the new Ladybeard-less Ladybaby video has racked up five times that many clicks in just a few months. Maybe people are already over Ladybeard’s kawaii cross-dressing shtick — or maybe they’re just not prepared to accept this much cuteness and muscle definition in one package. Either way, nowhere near enough people have seen the insanity that is “Muscle Cocktail”:

Links:

Advertisements

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.

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

hardy-fox-residents.jpg

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.

Bow Gamelan Ensemble’s “Great Noises” getting reissued Nov. 5th

bow-gamelan-great-noises

Turns out our timing in featuring British avant-percussion group Bow Gamelan Ensemble last month was better than we realized. Not only are they the subject of a gallery retrospective in Scotland that opened this past weekend (and runs through Dec. 15th), they’re also about to see their groundbreaking 1988 album, Great Noises That Fill the Air, get a special 30th anniversary reissue via U.K. label/distributor Cold Spring. This will be the first time Great Noises has ever been released digitally or on CD, and I’m pretty sure the cassette and LP versions were long out of print, as well. So yeah, this is a big deal for fans of avant-garde sound installation art.

The Great Noises reissue comes out next Monday, Nov. 5th, but you can stream the whole thing (and pre-order your copy) right now via Bandcamp. Here’s opening track “Two ‘Marimbas’,” which gives you an idea of the percussive merriment that awaits:

For more information on Bow Gamelan and the reissue, or to pre-order the CD, visit Cold Spring’s online store.

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:

Happy Halloween to all you “Bats” from Bloody Death Skull

Bloody Death Skull Bats

Here’s a riddle for the ages: How is it that no one until 1978 ever thought to title a horror movie Halloween? Feature-length horror films were over 50 years old by then, so John Carpenter really caught everyone else asleep at the switch there.

Bloody Death Skull‘s “Bats” isn’t the first song to use that title, but it has surprisingly little competition — mainly in the form of Tori Amos and My Little Pony, neither of whom, in this writer’s humble opinion, really captured bats in all their creepy glory. One fell on my head once on the way back from a camping trip — it had apparently flown into our RV and taken up temporary residence in one of the overhead storage compartments — and let me tell you, those little fuckers are freaky. They’re like rats with big leathery skin flaps that get caught under your collar and you’re shrieking for your friend Dora to pull over and everyone else thinks it’s so hilarious even though now you’re gonna need a rabies shot and years of therapy. But I digress.

“Bats” represents a new direction for Bloody Death Skull, according to BDS leader Daiana Feuer, who sent us the video for the new song (which you can see below) a few days ago. She assures me that there’s still some of her trademark ukulele buried in the mix somewhere, but mostly this is an electronic song, with big, squelchy synths and drum machine beats. “As an Argentinean raised in South Florida, I grew up on club music of all kinds and I’m trying to bring some of that flavor into the mix,” she reports. The synths are courtesy of Gerard Olson, beats by Andres Renteria, and mixing by the great DJ Nobody of Low End Theory (R.I.P.) fame.

Daiana also notes that the song is actually sung from the perspective of a demon who consumes bats. The video chronicles the hungry demon’s pursuit of a particularly insouciant bat with a taste for swimming pools and disco balls. “The bat has no idea it’s so delicious,” she explains. “To the demon, it’s like a walking slice of pizza.”

So enjoy a little early Halloween merriment, courtesy of Bloody Death Skull. Best song ever titled “Bats”? With apologies to Tori Amos, I say yes.

P.S. While TWBITW was in hypersleep, Bloody Death Skull appeared on The Gong Show — and got a perfect score! You can watch their triumphant performance here.

Little Big’s “Skibidi” video explained by … Inside Edition?

Skibidi-Little-Big

When we first wrote about Little Big’s “Skibidi” video and its accompanying dance — a cross between the Chicken, the Macarena and a splay-legged, fist-thrusting walk I’m gonna propose we call the Funky Stormtrooper — we suggested it had the potential to achieve “Harlem Shake” and “Gangnam Style” heights of dank memeness. And I think we were right; just three weeks since its release, the “Skibidi” video has racked up over 38 million YouTube views and thousands of video responses to the group’s #SkibidiChallenge (here’s a sample).

It’s also beginning to generate some interest outside of LB’s home country of Russia. So far most Western media, understandably, aren’t quite sure what to make of the whole thing. Mixmag, for example, just posted the “Skibidi” video to their Facebook page with the note, “WTF just happened?” (Here’s what happened, Mixmag: You got skibididdled. You got skibididdled so hard. Also, I just Googled “skibididdled” and this is officially the first online use of that word — so you’re welcome, internet.)

For Anglo audiences still bewildered by the sight of all these Russians jerk-stepping through the streets to bad techno, help has arrived in the form of an explanatory video from, of all places, Inside Edition, the long-running American “newsmagazine” show that I thought was mainly in the business of digging up celebrity scandals and hard-hitting investigative reports like “How Dirty Is Your Gym Bag?” Turns out they also have a segment called “Inside Edition Explains” in which they get experts to break down various pop culture phenomena whose appeal might otherwise elude the average Inside Edition viewer. Usually they set their sights on more mainstream fare, like Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” video and New York Fashion Week. But not even the primetime ratings-chasing folks at Inside Edition could resist the siren call (or is that a chicken call?) of “Skibidi.”

Full disclosure: An Inside Edition producer actually reached out to me at one point to see if I’d serve as their “Skibidi” expert, and I totally blew it and didn’t get back to them in time. But I’m kind of glad I didn’t, because never in a million years could I have explained “Skibidi” as well as the expert they did get, New York-based Russian musician Tessa Lena of Tessa Fights Robots. Tessa seems to be new to Little Big, so I guess I could’ve given a little more context for who Little Big are and their place in the growing global canon of artists who filter a mishmash of EDM, hip-hop and Western pop music through their own cultural touchpoints to surreal effect (keep that in mind for next time, Inside Edition!). But I was clueless about some of the video’s specifically Russian in-jokes, like turning the traditionally dour cashier of a Soviet-style grocery store into a grinning, “Sikibidi” strutting fool, and the dance’s resemblance to the chicken dance, which has apparently been very popular in Russia going back to the Soviet days and is probably at least partially responsible for the peculiarly spastic way Russian lager louts dance to techno (which, in turn, has clearly inspired many of Little Big’s videos, like this one).

Anyway, here’s Tessa Lena dropping some “Skibidi” knowledge. Spoiler alert: She confirms my suspicion that “‘Skibidi’ in Russian means absolutely nothing” — it’s just a made-up word, which kind of makes me love the song even more. I’ve heard that The Clash’s Joe Strummer, when asked what the greatest rock lyric of all time was, replied, “Awopbopaloobop alopbamboom.” OK, so maybe “Skibidi wa-pa-pa” isn’t quite that inspired, but it’s in the same ballpark.