We’re back! Sorry we’ve been away for so long. It’s coming up on six years since we’ve been doing this blog and I’m not gonna lie to you: There was awhile there when we were both seriously considering calling it quits. I mean, how many more weird bands can there really be out there? A shit-ton, I’m sure, but we’ve officially reached the point where 99.9% of the emails and comments we get are for shit that’s fucking awful and/or not that weird. So separating the cream from the curdle has actually gotten more difficult as our audience has grown. I know, I know…boo-fucking-hoo, right? At least our audience has grown, so we must be doing something right. Right?
Anyway, starting this week, I solemnly swear that I will post a new weird band every week again, just like the good old days. Andy will pitch in too, sometimes, but he’s got a fancy new job that pays him to go hang out at Coachella and shit, so he won’t be around as much. But your old Uncle Jake here is gonna start driving this blog like a stolen Ferrari again…at least on the weekends.
So to get us back in the swing of things, I figured some good party music was in order. So allow me to present to you Nozinja, inventor of a whole new genre of music called Shangaan electro that is like dance music for hummingbirds. Seriously, I’m winded just listening to this stuff.
Nozinja, whose real name is Richard Mthetwa, is from a part of South Africa called Limpopo, which is a long-ass way from Cape Town, home base of our other favorite South African oddballs, Die Antwoord. Limpopo is in the far northeast of South Africa, next to Botswana and Zimbabwe, and it’s mostly rural and dirt-poor. Among the many native peoples living there is a group called the Shangaans, who are known for the xibelani dance, an insanely fast dance that kind of looks like a cross between a hula dance and twerking. Shangaan electro, pioneered by Nozinja and other local musicians, basically took the rhythms of the xibelani dance, sped them up even more, and replaced traditional drums and other instruments with lo-fi synths and drum machines. And presto! A crazy new dance music genre was born.
Shangaan electro is so great, it probably would’ve gone worldwide eventually. But Nozinja sure helped jump-start that process. Using the money he’d earned from running a chain of cell phone repair shops, the budding Dr. Dre of Limpopo went all-in on a home recording studio and began cranking this stuff out. He even made a few goofy, low-budget videos that are all the more awesome because, against all the screen-saver graphics and random shots of backup singers dancing in what we assume is his front yard, Nozinja’s still sporting his cell phone repair shop owner wardrobe. He looks like he wandered in from a Ross Dress for Less ad, but he’s still got more swag that a thousand shitty gangsta rappers.
Such brilliance couldn’t remain undiscovered for long…and sure enough, Nozinja signed to Warped fuckin’ Records in 2014. Yes, that Warp Records, home to Flying Lotus and Aphex Twin. Not surprisingly, in his first video for Warp, “Tsekeleke,” he’s sporting a much more stylin’ wardrobe.
Nozinja’s debut full-length album, Nozinja Lodge, comes out on Warp on June 2nd. We cannot fucking wait. We’re gonna strap on our xibelani skirts and dance to that shit like hummingbirds.
Polish dance music is an endless fount of weirdness, at least to those of us who aren’t Polish. One of these days we’ll devote an entire post to the accordions-on-ecstasy subgenre called disco polo, but in the meantime, we’d like to share with you another Polish dance-pop artist called MC Diva. We discovered her via an online article called “Short Guide to Four Decades of Disco” (warning: it’s not actually that short) on the very cool website Culture.pl, a guide to all things artsy in Poland. (Shout-out to Kasia from Culture.pl, who wrote to us and shared the article.) That article describes MC Diva’s sound as “power dance”:
No one made [power dance] more popular than MC Diva (Krystyna Stolarska). Her music brought together European hi-nrg from the label ZYX Records and American dance hits. She was a Polish star but she also had followers in the U.S. She performed with DJ Bobo, Fun Factory and E-Rotic. The Polish element in “Dziewczyna z St. Pauli (Girl from St.Pauli)” is the subversive violin.
I don’t know if I’d call the violin on this track (played by Stolarska herself) “subversive,” but it sure is fun. And the video, in which the Diva dances around with buff shirtless dudes, looking like the Polish Sandra Bernhard, is even more fun. (The song and video, by the way, appear to be from around 1994 or ’95, although we couldn’t pin down the exact release date.)
Apparently this Jeff Richards fellow was once in the cast of Saturday Night Live, but I gotta be honest: I have zero recollection of him on that show. Either he was seriously under-utilized or he got funnier, because there’s no forgetting him in this new video from his dance-pop comedy album, The Shingles 2009-2014.
One of our latest obsessions is something called “shangaan electro,” a new style of electronic dance music from South Africa whose leading emissary is large gentleman with a penchant for strapping pink feathers to his arms by the name of Nozinja. Shangaan electro is the latest offshoot of a whole host of pop music styles from South Africa and neighboring countries that combine traditional African folk music with synthesizers and elements of house, disco and hip-hop. The music itself is probably only weird to western ears, but I’m guessing that even to South Africans, Nozinja is a pretty unique character. We’ve been binge-watching shangaan electro videos on YouTube all day and no one else comes close to his dance moves or fashion sense.
Fun, right? Nozinja just signed to the U.K. electronic label Warp, home to the likes of Autechre and Grizzly Bear, so every hipster blog on the planet will probably be freaking out about him shortly. You can brag to all your hipster friends that you heard him here first.
Remember that scene in Up in the Air where George Clooney and Anna Kendrick and that other lady whose name I forget all crash a corporate conference party? And in the middle of the party, Young MC comes out and does “Bust a Move” and the crowd goes wild and starts bumpin’ name tags and sweatin’ through their white dress shirts? Looked pretty fun, right? Especially because George Clooney was there.
Now imagine that same scene, except this time…well, OK, this time George Clooney isn’t there, but this time, Young MC flies out over the crowd doing a Britney Spears cover. I just blew your mind, didn’t I?
This is what Amplifly Aerial Band does: Blow minds at corporate events. They’re a “high end corporate event band” from Utah that straps their singers and guitar players into harnesses and flies them around the room, Cirque du Soleil style. They also sometimes dress them up Daft Punk-style in motorcycle helmets with blinky raver lights on them. They call their performers…wait for it…”Flyborgs.” I could never think this shit up, could you?
I assume the only reason Amplifly Aerial Band is not already the biggest corporate event band on the planet is because they’re from Utah. Do they have corporations there? I always thought it was all just Mormons and ski resorts, but then again I don’t travel much.
Anyway, Amplifly Aerial Band crushed the competition in our latest Weird Band Poll, which can only mean that global domination is not far behind. Congrats, guys! If we ever decide to incorporate, we are totally booking you for our IPO party.
Here’s what I believe is known in the biz as a “sizzle reel” showing the Amplifly kids in action. Oh, yeah, did I mention they also play some dubstep? I bet if Skrillex flew around during his shows, he wouldn’t suck nearly so hard.
Anyone know if Michael Jackson visited Nicaragua sometime in the late ’80s? If he did—and sired an illegitimate child during his stay—that’s one of two possible explanations for the existence of the exotic creature known as Donny Varper. The other possible explanation? That he really is, as he claims, from another galaxy.
We first learned of Nicaragua’s weirdest progeny by way of a great little website called EarBleed.com, which is kinda like our site except that—as you might have surmised from the name EarBleed.com—most of the music they feature is fucking awful. I suppose Donny Varper’s stuff is kinda awful, too—it’s basically just shlocky dance-pop, with lots of stabby synths and cheesy breakdowns and Auto-Tuned vocals—but it’s catchy and filled with random references to UFOs and aliens and Aztec aliens who came to Earth in UFOs and…oh, hell, just watch and listen for yourself.
Brilliant, right? He’s like a Lady Gaga impersonator who dropped acid at a Blasted Mechanism concert and had a vision of Jesus and Quetzalcoatl swooping down in a flaming chariot and abducting him into an episode of Ancient Aliens.
We don’t know much more about Varper, except that he lists his gender as “electronic pop” (which kinda makes sense, actually) and he claims to be from another galaxy but now, according to his Facebook page, lives in Los Angeles. If that last part is true: Donny, hit us up! We’d love to be the first (as far as we can tell) American blog to interview you and help you spread your music of cosmic love to the English-speaking masses.
We’ll leave you with Varper’s catchiest and most batshit creation, a little song and video called “E.T.” that should really, if there is any hope left for humanity, become the next “Gangnam Style.” I look forward to your parody videos, YouTube Nation. Get on it.
Time to get those gold pants dry-cleaned and spit-shined, weirdos. After way too long of a silence (OK, only since 2011, but we’re impatient), gem-sweater dance-pop queen Leslie Hall is coming back with a brand-new album of remixes and a 2014 tour. Can an album of remixes be brand-new? It can when Leslie’s doing it. She’s a rule breaker like that.
No word yet on the title of Leslie’s remix album, but we can tell you it’s due out this December and features new takes on Leslie & the LY’s classics by “Mash-Up Mad Man” Titus Jones. She’s following up its release with what is sure to be the most bedazzled national tour of early 2014. Lady Gaga and Katy Perry may as well just wave the white flag now.
Full tour dates after this delightful clip for Jones’ booty-shaking remix of “No Pants Policy.” We are blogging pantsless in its honor. Actually, we blog pantsless most of the time, but you probably could’ve guessed that.
Leslie and the LY’s 2014 tour dates:
1/12 San Francisco, CA – Rickshaw Stop
2/5 Kansas City, MO – The Riot Room
2/6 St Louis, MO – Plush Saint Louis
2/7 Chicago, IL – The Empty Bottle
2/8 Grand Rapids, MI – The Pyramid Scheme
2/9 Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
2/10 Pontiac, MI – The Crofoot (The Pike Room)
2/11 Columbus, OH – TBA
2/13 Cambridge, MA – Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub
2/14 Providence, RI – AS220
2/15 Brooklyn, NY – Knitting Factory Brooklyn
2/16 Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s
2/17 Washington, DC – DC9 Nightclub
2/19 Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506
2/20 Charlotte, NC – TBA
2/21 Atlanta, GA – The EARL
2/22 Birmingham, AL – Bottletree Cafe
2/23 Nashville, TN – 12th & Porter
2/24 New Orleans, LA – TBA
2/25 Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s Houston
2/26 Dallas, TX – Club Dada
2/27 Austin, TX – Red 7
3/1 Tucson, AZ- club congress
3/2 Las Vegas, NV – TBA
3/3 San Diego, CA – Soda Bar
3/4 Los Angeles, CA – The Satellite
3/7 Seattle, WA – The Vera Project
3/8 Portland, OR – Branx Blow Pony
3/10 Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge
3/12 Denver, CO – Hi-Dive Denver
3/13 Omaha, NE – The Waiting Room Lounge
3/14 Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock Social Club
3/15 Des Moines, IA – Wooly’s
3/21 Iowa City, IA – Blue Moose Tap House
One of our favorite new readers, Josh Gold, introduced us to this week’s band with the immortal words, “I think you’d enjoy them though I don’t get too much enjoyment from them.” You know us so well, Josh. What to others is aural diarrhea, to us is a melodious eargasm. Well, in the case of Baboon Torture Division, “eargasm” might be overstating it a bit. “Long, satisfying sound dump” is probably more accurate.
BTD is a duo from Vancouver made up of one guitar/singer/synth player/Ronald McDonald commemorative plate collector named Steve Biloba and one bass-playing, gas-mask-wearing humanoid called Pocketron XP. They’re also occasionally joined onstage and in videos by Ronald McDonald himself (or a reasonable facsimile thereof), Ronald Reagan (sometimes even two Ronald Reagans) and a guy in a cartoon bear suit who looks like he wandered in from a really creepy children’s party.
They’ve released 10 albums, although many of their “albums” are really just long-form jokes: a 44- minute send-up of ’80s hip-hop and electro called The Breakdance Sesh, an album of cheesy dance pop called Background Music for a Party, and not one, but two pseudo-8-bit albums called Digital Masturbation and Digital Masturbation 2. (Sample track titles: “Fuck Pizza Hut,” “Bowser Is Too Easy to Kill,” and perhaps their greatest achievement, a tender one-minute glitch ballad called “The Last Thing You’d Want to Hear If You Were Jacking Off Your Father While He Watched the Sylvester Stallone Wrist Wrestling Movie.” OK, maybe just the title is their greatest achievement.)
BTD’s twisted sense of humor is perhaps best captured in their two finest video offerings. First up, “Ice Cream Truck Music,” which is literally just five solid minutes wind-up monkeys dancing in front of my college acid dealer’s screen saver. Don’t worry, the music changes more often than the visuals. Way more often, actually.
Next: The kind of amazing “Sexy Times,” a disco/industrial jam that’s actually got a great groove, along with some of the cheesiest office romance lyrics of all time and backup dancers that look like they escaped from Mummenschanz. “I was prepping demos for the 12 o’clock meeting/You were wearing slacks and your nails were green”—finally, a love song us cubicle dwellers can relate to.
So thanks, reader Josh! And yeah, you’re right, we should totally add Sun Ra to the Weird List. One of these days.
I’m not gonna lie: When Jake and I first started this blog, it was a full-on sausage party. For about the first year or so, I think pretty much the only female presence on the entire site was Miss Pussycat. But chicks like weirdin’ it up as much the boys do, and we’re finally taking baby steps towards some semblance of equal gender time with recent Weirdos of the Week like Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin and Miss Von Trapp. Sorry it took us awhile, ladies.
We’re continuing our female-friendly trend this week with the long-overdue addition of Iowa’s craziest product this side of the hot beef sundae: Leslie Hall, the queen of bejeweled sweaters, gold spandex jumpsuits, high-STER-ical dance videos and geeky electro/hip-hop party jams as sleek and stylin’ as the aforementioned gold spandex jumpsuits.
Hall became a minor Internet celebrity not, at first, with her music, but with her sweater collection: an online “Gem Sweater Museum” that went viral back around the time people started saying things like “go viral.” In an NPR interview, she later claimed that the music began as a side project to pay off her bandwidth overage charges: “I’ll put out a hip-hop album, sell CDs, get rich and famous, and this bill will go away.” Her first album, released in 2005, was called Gold Pants because, according to another interview, “65% of the comments on my [Gem Sweater Museum website] were about my gold pants.”
Amazingly, working with just GarageBand and, as far as we’ve been able to learn, no real musical training (she actually has a fine art background), Hall has since pumped out five albums’ worth of cheeky, increasingly polished dance pop, over which she raps and/or sings about dancing, her sweaters, crafting, her pants, dancing, and how awesome she is. And, one time, killing zombies. But mostly about dancing.
With her chunky glasses and chunkier physique, Hall is like the anti-Katy Perry—a shiny gold beacon of the uncool-as-cool, a reminder to us all that no matter what you look like, all it takes to be fabulous is the right attitude and maybe a good dance move or two. And a gem-covered sweater never hurts, either.
P.S. A big ol’ sloppy thank-you to reader Susan Molnar for recently introducing us to the wonders of Leslie Hall, which we had somehow managed to miss previously. Clearly, we need to get out more. Or maybe we need to get out less—and spend more time on YouTube.
P.P.S. Banner photo of Leslie and her white tiger sidekicks by Kai Chan, lifted from this article.
(Photo by Austin Young)
Today’s band was suggested by a reader called Hola-Ebola…and no, they have nothing to do with the Jackass-like British TV series Dirty Sanchez, although those guys are pretty great. This Dirty Sanchez is an electroclash band from Los Angeles. What is electroclash, you ask? Well, I’m no expert, but as far as I can tell, it seems to be an intentionally cheesy/campy style of dance music with lots of songs about cocaine and gay sex and Hollywood. I think Lady Gaga probably ripped off half her act from the electroclash scene.
Anyways, there are loads of weird electroclash acts out there, like Fischerspooner, Peaches, Chicks on Speed and Princess Superstar. But Dirty Sanchez stand out for a couple reasons. First, many of their songs are just flat-out, hilariously bizarre, as you can tell from just the song titles alone: “Fucking on the Dancefloor,” “Really Rich Italian Satanists,” “Tranny Sex,” “We Hate Youth and Beauty.” Second, they seem to be one of the few (only?) electroclash bands to feature a full-on tranvestite as one of their lead singers. His/her name is Jackie Beat and even though I feel kinda gay for saying this, she rules. In their early videos, she’s like a cross between Dee Snider and Cher. Now she looks more like a cross between Eddie Izzard and that fat chick from The Gossip, but she’s still pretty fabulous. (Did I just use the word “fabulous” to describe a drag queen? Wow, now I really feel gay.)
Dirty Sanchez seem to have been inactive since 2008–that’s the last time their website news was updated (back then, they said they were working on a new album, their second one, but it doesn’t seem like it’s ever come out) and also the year they released a new single, “Give Head and Be Beautiful.” Here’s the video for it, which for our money is the most awesomely weird thing they’ve ever done. Next time I go out dancing, I’m totally gonna picture everyone with their heads off.
(Update: It seems like Jackie Beat is now based in New York and might be more focused on her cabaret act and her solo career–although it also seems like she forgot to pay her domain name bill, so it’s hard for us to confirm this. Still, this parody video posted in late 2009 does feature fellow Dirty Sanchezian Mario Diaz, so there’s still hope we may hear more from Dirty Sanchez yet.)