If there was any justice in the world, Toronto’s Spookey Ruben would’ve become a weirdo superstar in the mid-’90s, around the same time it was actually still possible for eccentric bands like Primus and Ween to sell millions of records and gain some mainstream recognition for their offbeat brilliance. Ruben came on the scene with a similarly brilliant debut album in 1995 called Modes of Transportation Vol. 1 that should’ve achieved Chocolate and Cheese-level notoriety. But the album came out on the crap-tastic TVT Records, a label that has screwed up the careers of everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Lil Jon over the years, and that was apparently no less kind to Ruben. For reasons we haven’t been able to discern, they decided to release his second album, Modes of Transportation Vol. 2, only in Japan, which had the not surprisingly effect of causing him to drop off most folks’ radar everywhere except Japan. Well-played, TVT.
Fortunately, Ruben has persisted, continuing to release new music through his own label, Hi-Hat Recordings. He even managed to get back the rights to all (or at least most) of his old TVT material, and has plans to do a 20th anniversary reissue of Modes Vol. 1 later this year, along with a new album called Modes III that he just successfully funded via Indiegogo.
Ruben got his start playing guitar in D.C. area punk and metal bands as a teenager, before moving to Toronto to go to film school. His hardcore roots occasionally surface in his solo stuff, especially when he lets rip on the occasional shred-tastic guitar solo, but mostly his music exists on a folk/pop/psych-rock axis somewhere between Ween and XTC. It’s catchy and polished, but always takes unexpected twists and turns, either with goofy lyrics, cartoon sound effects, unexpected stylistic shifts, or even just in the way Ruben’s melodies often cut against the grain of his chord progressions, making tunes that are at once bright and oddly dissonant, like Beach Boys songs heard from a passing train.
Last year, Ruben took time out from his solo work to front a power-pop band called AAA Battery. They did a song called “Jenna” that’s not really that weird, but the video is fun.
He’s also been putting that film school experience to good use with Spookey Ruben’s Dizzy Playground, a comedic short film series that has guest-starred folks like Ariel Pink and Feist. They’re all pretty hysterical, but our personal favorite is “Natural Born Grannies.”
We’ll leave you with two videos from Modes of Transportation Vol. 1. First up: his catchy, keytar-fueled ode to fast food, “Wendy McDonald.” Bet this is Zayde Buti’s favorite Spookey Ruben song. Don’t stop watching before the xylophone solo or you’ll miss out.
Next: The song and video that’s probably Ruben’s masterpiece, “These Days Are Old.” Remember, before you judge: Everybody in the mid-’90s had bad hair.
Many thanks to Sarah Dukakis at Hi-Hat for sharing Spookey with us.
Bay Area noise-rockers Deerhoof were in a pretty festive mood on their last album, 2012’s Breakup Song, and it sounds like they’re going to keep the party raging on their next LP. Due out Nov. 4th on Polyvinyl, it’s got the Madonna-evoking title La Isla Bonita—and while neither track released from it so far could be mistaken for Madge’s 1987 foray into Latin pop, they’re both downright pop-tastic by Deerhoof standards. In fact, we love ’em so much we’ll include them both in this post, before we tell you about the ‘Hoof’s fall tour dates.
First up: “Exit Only,” a stomping, punk-rock rave-up:
Next, “Paradise Girls,” which I guess you could describe as Deerhoof’s version of a feminist empowerment anthem. Girls who are smart and/or play the bass do indeed rule. Satomi Matsuzaki oughta know, ’cause she’s both.
La Isla Bonita is available for pre-order now from the Polyvinyl website. Now here are those tour dates we promised you. See you at the Troubadour!
Deerhoof National Tour Dates:
11/4: Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right (w/ Tim Barnes, Xenia Rubinos)
11/5: Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right (w/ Assembly, Zannie Owens w/ Mount Yucca)
11/6: Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right (w/ White Reaper, Trans Am)
11/7: Falls Church, VA @ State Theatre (w/ White Reaper, Xenia Rubinos)
11/8: Charlottesville, VA @ The Southern (w/ White Reaper, Xenia Rubinos)
11/9: Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer (w/ White Reaper, Cibo Matto)
11/11: Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge (w/ White Reaper, Priests)
11/12: Kalamazoo, MI @ Louie’s Back Room (w/ White Reaper, Priests)
11/13: Toronto, ON @ Lee’s Palace (w/ White Reaper, Priests)
11/14: Montreal, QC @ Cabaret Piccolo Rialto (w/ White Reaper, Priests)
11/15: Pawtucket, RI @ The Met (w/ Priests, Lightning Bolt)
11/17: Los Angeles, CA @ The Troubadour (w/ Go Dark, Crystal Skulls)
11/18: San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall (w/ Go Dark, Crystal Skulls)
11/20: Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge (w/ Go Dark, Busdriver)
11/21: Seattle, WA @ Neumo’s (w/ Go Dark, Busdriver)
11/22: Vancouver, BC @ Fortune (w/ Go Dark, Busdriver)
Wayne Coyne, all is forgiven. We forgive you for dickishly slagging your recently fired drummer in a lengthy Rolling Stone interview. We forgive you for hanging out with Miley Cyrus. We even forgive you for At War With the Mystics. Because though we had our doubts (boy, did we ever have our doubts) about this Sgt. Pepper tribute album you and the Flaming Lips have been teasing all year, when the full list of collaborators was revealed yesterday, it was guaranteed to raise a smile. Brian Chippendale’s electro-noise project Black Pus on “With a Little Help From My Friends”? Maynard James Keenan and Puscifer on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”? Julianna Barwick and Phantogram on “She’s Leaving Home”? Count us in!
Even the non-weird collaborators listed on With a Little Help From My Fwends (as they’re calling the whole shebang) are, for the most part, pretty solid. My Morning Jacket and Dinosaur, Jr. main man J. Mascis should give “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” a welcome heavy-psych kick in the pants. The combination of retro-rockers Dr. Dog, rapper Chuck Inglish and lo-fi psych-rocker Morgan Delt on “Getting Better” is intriguing, to say the least. Tegan and Sara are a bit shrill for my taste, but presumably they’ll turn “Lovely Rita” into a lesbian folk-pop ditty, so that’s cool. I’m even prepared to hear Moby and Miley Cyrus’s work on “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” with an open mind, so long as Miley doesn’t get too carried away with any melismatic bullshit and Moby doesn’t transpose the whole thing into a major key and try to make it sound like a sunrise yoga class at Burning Man.
The whole thing is due out Oct. 28th and will benefit the Bella Foundation, which helps struggling pet owners pay their vet bills.
The complete list of tracks and collaborators are below, right after this version of “Fixing a Hole” by Lips side projects Electric Würms. Sounds like that hole still needs some work, guys!
The Flaming Lips 2014: With a Little Help From My Fwends tracklist:
01 My Morning Jacket, J. Mascis, Fever the Ghost: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
02 The Flaming Lips, Black Pus, the Autumn Defense : “With a Little Help From My Friends”
03 The Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus, Moby: “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”
04 Dr. Dog, Chuck Inglish, Morgan Delt: “Getting Better”
05 Electric Würms: “Fixing A Hole”
06 Phantogram, Julianna Barwick, Spaceface: “She’s Leaving Home”
07 The Flaming Lips, Maynard James Keenan, Puscifer, Sunbears!: “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”
08 The Flaming Lips, Birdflower, Morgan Delt: “Within You Without You”
09 The Flaming Lips, Def Rain, Pitchwafuzz: “When I’m Sixty-Four”
10 Tegan and Sara and Stardeath & White Dwarfs: “Lovely Rita”
11 Zorch, Grace Potter, Treasure Mammal: “Good Morning Good Morning”
12 Foxygen and MGMT’s Ben Goldwasser: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)”
13 The Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus, New Fumes: “A Day In The Life”
This week’s band is usually described as “math rock,” a style Jake and I have bagged on in the past, partially out of sheer ignorance (back in 2010, we tagged Little Women as a math rock band…um, no), partially because, let’s face it, there are a lot of crappy math rock bands out there. Start-stop tempos and unconventional time signatures, in and of themselves, don’t make guitar-based music interesting, or even all that weird—but our inbox overflows with such dreck on an almost daily basis. So to all you struggling young math rock bands out there, we say: Study the catalog of Tera Melos, and then get back to us. If you can make music half as challenging and (here’s the important part) fucking fun as these guys, we and all the other jaded hipster music blogs might actually start paying attention to you.
Guitarist Nick Reinhart and bassist Nathan Latona started Tera Melos in Sacramento, California in 2004. Initially they were an instrumental quartet, with guitarist Jeff Worms and drummer Vince Rogers, although Worms quit pretty soon after the band started. Their debut album was an untitled collection of eight untitled songs, just labeled “Melody 1,” “Melody 2” and so on—which was a bit ironic, given that most of the tracks were not so much melodies as kaleidoscopic explosions of processed guitar churning over insanely intricate drum patterns and basslines.
The band’s second full-length album, 2010’s Patagonian Rats, marked a major leap forward. Reinhart had occasionally contributed vocals in the past, but now he was a full-fledged lead singer, and new drummer John Clardy was every bit as technically precise as Vince Rogers but could lay down the occasional in-the-pocket groove. Now Tera Melos sounded like something new: a flashy, complex math-rock band with a fondness for melody and atmosphere, sort of halfway between two of their tourmates, Dillinger Escape Plan and Minus the Bear.
It was also around this time that Reinhart emerged as a bona fide math rock guitar god, with a unique way of using pedal boards to extract maximum sonic impact from his instrument. If you can stomach the host of this video and his relentless ass-kissing, some of the tricks Reinhart demonstrates are pretty impressive. This live in-studio performance gives an even better idea of his guitar/pedal wizardry:
But at the end of the day, it’s not Tera Melos’ math rock chops (or even their refreshing sense of humor about the genre, as seen in the banner art at the top of our site this week) that earn them Weird Band of the Week honors. What really puts them over the top are their music videos, which are nearly always amazing. Here’s “The Skin Surf” from Patagonian Rats, in which they engage in a bit of crustacean osculation while dressed up like the world’s lamest Weezer cover band:
And here’s “Weird Circles” from their latest album, last year’s X’ed Out. Who’s hungry for some Yum cereal?
But their crowning video achievement to date has to be “Bite,” also from X’ed Out, in which music and visuals merge into some kind of overlapping Battles/Primus/Kyary Pamyu Pamyu hallucination. By the way: It’s worth noting that all of these videos were directed by the same guy, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker named Behn Fannin who is clearly some kind of dark, twisted genius.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t once again thank the reader who turned us on to Tera Melos, matp662. I bet matp1 thru matp661 put together are still less cool than you, sir!
Update: Right when we make Tera Melos our Weird Band of the Week, they drop yet another crazy video! Please to enjoy their fresh-pressed latest, “Sunburn”:
I know we’re not exactly digging deep with our latest Weird of the Day, but fuck it. Sometimes, when you’re having a tough week, you just need to crank a little Soul Coughing.
For all two of you readers who aren’t already familiar: Soul Coughing was a ’90s band from New York made up of singer/songwriter/latter-day beat poet Mike Doughty, vintage-jazz-and-cartoon-obsessed sampler player Mark de Gli Antoni, and the jazz-trained, hip-hop-inspired rhythm section of Sebastian Steinberg on upright bass and Yuval Gabay on drums. They met in New York’s downtown underground jazz scene in the early ’90s and managed to put out three brilliant albums of self-described “deep slacker jazz” before their conflicting musical tastes and personalities (and addictions) drove them apart in 2000.
There aren’t many bands I say this about, but if you don’t like Soul Coughing, we probably can’t be friends. Their music just ticks all the boxes for me: It’s silly but whip-smart, geeky but undeniably funky, weird but never far from a shamelessly pop sensibility (after turning solo, Doughty would cover Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love” with absolutely zero irony), full of lyrical non sequiturs and slyly manipulated samples of familiar songs by the Andrews Sisters, Howlin’ Wolf and Carl Stalling.
“Bus to Beelzebub,” off their mind-bending 1994 debut Ruby Vroom, is too dumb (lyrically speaking) to be the band’s best song, but it’s certainly among their weirdest, what with its Raymond Scott “cartoon assembly line” sample and Doughty chanting “Quadrilateral I was, now I warp like a smile” and “Yellow No. 5” over de Gli Antoni’s razor-blade organ samples and Steinberg’s relentlessly marching bass. It’s really too bad these guys all hate each other now, because in their heyday, they were a force.
Well, what have we here? Looks like Australia’s differently abled power-popsters Rudely Interrupted have slimmed down to a quartet in preparation for the release of their latest EP, I Am Alive. It’s out Sept. 19th, but available for pre-order now via iTunes. And it features a song called “Ran Over a Lizard,” so you know it’s gonna rule.
Rudely Interrupted have been racking up the frequent flyer miles of late, playing a “carnival of the mind” called Twenty Wonder here in Los Angeles (sorry we missed you, guys) and performing with an orchestra in Italy. They don’t have any other shows booked at the moment but you can bet that Sam Beke’s sparkly cape will be gracing some stages Down Under again soon enough.
Now here’s a sneak peak at their latest animated music video, for I Am Alive‘s title track. If you pre-order the album via iTunes, you’ll get the full video included with the EP.
Anchor, the second album from Zammuto, comes out next Tuesday, Sept. 2nd. But you can hear the whole thing streaming now via NPR’s First Listen series. It’s like your traveling into the future! But with fewer contrived plot twists.
We’re cranking it now and loving it. As good as the first Zammuto album was, it definitely felt like former Books collage artist Nick Zammuto was still trying to figure out what he wanted to sound like working in a more conventional rock band format. Anchor is more sonically consistent—and, at first blush, less weird, although most of these songs still percolate with interesting little electronic filigrees, quirky rhythms and unexpected lyrical turns—even on a song like “Henry Lee,” which is based on a traditional folk ballad but features the startling image, “Now the crabs crawl out of your skull.”
We’ll leave you with this video for one of Anchor‘s more uptempo tracks, the sorta-New Wave-ish “Io,” which also features tons of action shots of the massive trebuchet (sort of a cross between a slingshot and a catapult) Nick and his buddies built on the Zammuto farm in Vermont. I’ve heard of album “launch parties” but this is ridiculous! Am I right, people?
More details regarding the forthcoming Quintron and Miss Pussycat album, courtesy of Vice’s music site, Noisey: It’s called Spellcaster II: Death in Space and it will arrive Oct. 28th via the excellently named Pizza Burglar Records. Like most Q & Miss P efforts, judging from the just-released album art, it’s being billed as a Quintron solo joint. Which makes sense, since aside from the occasional lead vocal, all Miss Pussycat does musically is play the maracas. She’s more responsible for the visual side of things.
Spellcaster II is the New Orleans duo’s first full-length album since 2011’s Sucre du Sauvage, but they’ve been keeping busy in the three years since, releasing a steady stream of singles, touring, scoring a Grammy nomination (for their song “Chatterbox,” which was covered on the Grammy-nominated album Grand Isle by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys), and playing a show at the fucking Kennedy Center. You know, the usual, run-of-the-mill stuff for your average Big Easy swamp-tech band.
Noisey also premiered the title track off Spellcaster II, “Death in Space,” an ominous, buzzy instrumental that sounds a bit like the soundtrack to a low-budget Bayou zombie flick. After you’ve given it a spin, stick around for the full Spellcaster II tracklist and a link to pre-order the album. Oh, and if you live in North America east of the Rockies, check out their fall tour dates.
Spellcaster II: Death in Space tracklist:
1. Wonder MT
2. Death In Space
4. Do The Raid
5. Home Invastion
6. Mirza’s Marsh
7. Somethings Wrong With Jim
9. Fatal Harmonic
10. Death In Space (reprise)
11. Mirza’s Marsh (extended)
Pre-order Spellcaster II on vinyl from Pizza Burglar Records here.
We don’t post much math rock on this blog, for the very simple reason that most of it isn’t actually that weird. Technically impressive, sure, but weird? Not so much. Go to any large band practice space in any big college town and you will hear the cacophony of a dozen math rock bands all trying to shred around a diminished seventh chord in alternating 3/2 and 7/8 tempos and I actually nodded off three times while trying to finish this sentence. The sound of music geeks geeking out can go to some pretty weird places—but as with most genres of music, the vast majority of it is pretty by-the-book.
This is why I find Tera Melos so refreshing. Yes, they’re clearly big-time music geeks, but they a.) don’t take themselves too seriously and b.) make songs that, while still full jerky start-stop rhythms and odd, slightly dissonant chord progressions, also have melody and—dare I say it?—a sense of groove. They remind me a lot of Pinback and Minus the Bear, two bands I really like that sometimes get labeled as math rock even though I’m sure the hardcore math rockers think their time signatures are too basic.
But what really puts them over the top into weirdo territory are their music videos, which are nearly always amazing. Here’s a recent one for the track “Bite” that is pretty much exactly how I always imagined it would look if Primus made a J-pop video. And yes, I imagine that sort of thing a lot.
P.S. Thanks to reader matp662 for submitting Tera Melos. Matp662 suggested another video, “The Skin Surf,” and that one’s pretty weird, too.
Nick Zammuto is quite the renaissance man. When the Ex-Books multi-instrumentalist isn’t making music or tinkering on the house he and his wife built, he’s designing 36-foot-tall trebuchets or laser projectors that respond to bass frequency. I think it’s fair to say that after the Apocalypse hits, the best parties in what was once the state of Vermont are gonna be at the Zammutos’ place.
Nick’s latest accomplishment that makes us feel like total slackers is a video for “Great Equator,” a track his band Zammuto‘s forthcoming sophomore album, Anchor. Shot on two microscopes, one that uses visible light and one that reads electrons, the video reveals a beautiful world of intricate patterns hidden within LP vinyl, USB electronics, coins, insects and other stuff you’d probably never think to stick under a microscope.
If you want to pre-order a limited-edition, splattered-vinyl copy of Anchor direct from Nick himself, go here. If you just want the boring old CD or digital version, try Amazon. Anchor is due out Sept. 2 on Temporary Residence.