Deadlift Lolita

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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”:

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Babymetal have a new video and one less singer

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A band like Babymetal isn’t really built to last. Three adorable teen Japanese girls fronting a metal band only works as long as the girls stay young and adorable. Four years after they blew up internationally, those girls are now young women — and as of Friday, there’s one less of them, as the band announced that Mizuno Yui, aka Yuimetal, has left the group, apparently due to a combination of health reasons and a desire to pursue her own solo career. (You can read statements from the band and Yuimetal here.)

Su-Metal and Moametal are carrying on without their former bandmate — and judging from the new single they released Friday, “Starlight,” they’re taking their music and image in a more mature, less kawaii (cute) direction. Which makes sense — Moametal is 19 and Su-Metal is 20, so it would be weird if they were still traipsing around in matching tutus and singing about the joys of chocolate over blast beats. Then again, being weird was what Babymetal was about from the jump — and now they’re, well, less weird. So I’m feeling a little conflicted about this new, less gimmicky direction for the band.

That being said, “Starlight” is a solid slab of pop-tinged power metal, with a catchy chorus and some genuinely heavy instrumental passages. (Even in their early, super-kawaii days, Babymetal’s backing band was always legit.) The video (embedded below) is kind of “meh” in my opinion, but it’s apparently setting up a narrative that will continue in future videos about something called the Chosen Seven that we get a glimpse of at the very end. And that part sounds like it could be really cool. So I’ll withhold judgment until they’ve revealed the full storyline.

Speaking of storylines, Babymetal are also gearing up for the release of their first graphic novel, Apocrypha: The Legend of Babymetal, which looks awesome. It’s due out Oct. 30 and supposedly will explain the story behind the Fox God, a mythical deity the group often cites in interviews as the creator of Babymetal. So hey, they haven’t completely abandoned their weird roots.

Charamel

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Recently, music biz veteran Eric Alper posted a tweet that read simply, “When you’re overqualified for the job,” and included a video featuring some person in a big red Japanese anime costume playing drums at what seems to be, judging from the music, some sort of children’s concert. (It’s hard to tell because the camera never leaves the drummer, but the music sounds like something you’d hear on the Japanese version of Barney & Friends.) Then, about 45 seconds into it, things take an unexpected turn. See for yourself:

Needless to say, we had to know more. Some commenters on Alper’s Twitter post (which has been retweeted over 70,000 times, as any Japanese anime character playing drums like Dave Lombardo rightly should be) said the character was part of a band called Charamel. Futher digging, with the help of Google translator and KnowYourMeme.com revealed that the character itself is called Nyango Star, and it’s been making the rounds for about three years, releasing drum cover videos like this insane pass at Japanese kawaii metal darlings Babymetal’s “Akatsuki.”

Nyango Star even has his/her/its own website, which includes an origin story that explains the character is a hybrid cat/apple — the reincarnated spirit of a dead cat buried in an apple orchard who was told by the spirit of an apple tree that only by going to Hollywood and becoming famous could it return to its original cat form. So it decided to become a famous drummer. See? It all makes perfect sense.

Somewhere along the way, Nyango Star teamed up with three other costumed characters to form the rock group Charamel. I could find almost no information about Charamel in English beyond their character names — besides Nyango, there’s Funassyi (the lead singer, who I think is supposed to be a canary, or a pear, or maybe a canary/pear hybrid), Akkuma (the guitar-playing bear) and Kapal (the bass-playing turtle). [Update: Our readers inform me that Kapal is definitely not a turtle but a “water goblin,” and Funassyi is a “pear fairy.” They’re also all examples of Japanese “yuru-chara” mascots, which are like American sports mascots except they tend to be cuter and more surreal and can represent anything from cities to corporations to public transit systems.] I think they formed sometime in early 2017 and debuted with this music video, which is probably my favorite thing to come out of Japan since the aforementioned Babymetal. (Give it about 23 seconds; much like Nyango Star’s drumming at the children’s show, it takes an extremely abrupt turn for the awesome.)

I’m sure we’ll learn more about Charamel very soon, as nothing from Japan this amazing stays under the radar for long. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this video of Charamel in concert — the sound quality sucks, but it’s worth watching just to see a glowstick-waving Japanese crowd go apeshit for this stuff. Also, Funassyi’s got some sick moves.

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Babymetal update: They’re all OK (we think) and ready for those Lady Gaga dates

Babymetal

Yesterday we took a break from bitching about missing Babymetal’s first U.S. show to tell you that at said show, one of the kawaii metal girls apparently got carted off in an ambulance. Well, today, a Babymetal fan named Benjamin Hill tweeted us a link to the following post on the group’s unofficial fan site. We’re not sure of the source, so for all we know it’s completely made up. But given that it doesn’t flat-out deny the ambulance rumors, and chalks the whole thing up to heat exhaustion (and it was indeed brutally hot here in Los Angeles on Sunday), it seems plausible.

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For the record, the full post was slightly cut off. The end actually specifies that Babymetal will rock unsuspecting Gaga fans’ faces “off like a hurricane!” (You can read the full text of the post here.)

So for now, let’s assume the girls are all fine and ready to rock Phoenix tomorrow night. Where there will hopefully be better air-conditioning.

One of the members of Babymetal might have just left their first U.S. show in an ambulance

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[Update: Today we received unconfirmed word that all three Babymetal girls are fine. If there are further developments in this story, we’ll let you know.]

We woke up this morning more hungover than usual, because we spent last night trying to drink away the pain of missing a Babymetal show that was 10 fucking minutes from my house. It was the cute-metal trio’s first U.S. show and since some genius decided to book the most popular band on the Internet into a venue the size of my living room, it sold out in about three seconds. I’m sure we could have donated kidneys for tickets or something, but since Andy and I are both marginally employed at the moment, we decided to be responsible adults and sit this one out.

Well, it turns out that not only did we miss an absolute rager of a show, according to this review…we also missed some serious post-show drama. Although it hasn’t been confirmed by the band, several eyewitnesses saw an ambulance leaving right after the concert that was apparently carrying one of Babymetal’s two younger members, Moa and Yui. A detailed post on Reddit would seem to confirm that it was one of the girls. Hopefully it was just a little exhaustion or dehydration or headbanger’s whiplash and not something more serious.

Assuming all three Babymetallers are recuperated in time from last night’s show, they’re scheduled to continue their conquest of America with five dates salvaging the career of opening for Lady Gaga. Which makes it almost worth paying good money to go see Lady Gaga. Almost.

The Gaga/Babymetal dates are below, but first watch this promotional tour video, which is pretty much the new gold standard against which all future promotional tour videos will be judged.

Babymetal at Lady Gaga’s artRAVE : the ARTPOP ball

7/30 Phoenix, AZ US Airways Arena
8/01 Las Vegas, NV MGM Grand Garden Arena
8/02 Stateline, NV Harveys Lake Tahoe
8/04 Salt Lake City, UT Energy Solutions Arena
8/06 Denver, CO Pepsi Center

USA Today really isn’t sure what to make of the new Babymetal video

Babymetal

Don’t look now, but the American media has discovered Babymetal. Just a few weeks after we made them a Weird Band of the Week. Coincidence? You decide. But whatever the reason, Babymetal are suddenly more popular with the journos than Justin Bieber’s jail pics.

First the pseudo-feminist website Jezebel did a little drive-by blurb about Babymetal’s new video “Gimme Choco!!” They called the girls the “world’s best (and probably only) half-pop/half-metal entertainment sensation,” which seems like a bit of stretch. Ever hear of My Chemical Romance, guys? Or, I dunno…the ’80s? But they also  described Babymetal’s songs as “insane. And then really catchy. And then insane again.” Which sounds about right, actually. So OK, Jezebel, we’ll give you a pass.

But then USA Today tried to jump on the Babymetal bandwagon and immediately was all like, “Eh, I don’t know about this, guys! Can we get off again now? This music confuses me!”

“Babymetal’s video is the greatest ever — or the worst” reads the USA Today headline, in no way shamelessly trolling for clicks. (For the record, “Gimme Choco!!” is not even the greatest Babymetal video…clearly, this one is. And as we keep pointing out, the worst video of all time remains Brokencyde’s “Freaxxx.” On this point there can be no debate.) And then, in their “Story Highlights” sidebar…because yes, USA Today has “Story Highlights” now, because what kind of asshole actually reads an entire USA Today article?…they write this: “Babymetal is a J-pop/death-metal girl-group trio. Yep, that’s what it is, all right.” Yep, that’s what passes for music journalism nowadays, all right.

Let’s see, who else got in on the Babymetal action this week? Vice’s Noisey music blog. GlobalPost. Huffington Post, which actually has an entire section dedicated to weird news, which we really wanna hate but is actually kind of awesome. How else would I have known to put “Putin butt plug” on my Pinterest “Gift Ideas” board? But I digress.

Anyhow, here’s the video that started this whole thing. Depending on who you believe, the song is either called “Gimme Choco!!”, “Give Me Chocolate!!”, “Gimme Chocolate!!” or possibly “Give Me Choco!!” All I know is that it has two exclamation points at the end. And in the video, they appear to be dancing in front of a giant statue of the Virgin Mary and throwing kawaii metal gang signs. Yep, that’s what happens, all right.

Babymetal

Babymetal

Look, Japan, I get it, OK? You’re a strange country. You don’t have to keep proving it to me. I know all about your jam bands who dress like giant shrimp and creepy singing robots and game shows where you have to play a harmonica inside a dead fish’s mouth. So you can relax already. You got this weird shit on lock.

But no…every time I open my inbox, I’m greeted with more “what the fuck is going on?” moments from the Land of the Rising Sun. The latest is a band called Babymetal that is, in fact, made up of babies who sing metal. Well, OK, they’re not babies; I think the oldest one is like 14 or something. But the point is, they’re sweet little Japanese schoolgirls who should probably not be allowed to watch any Dir En Grey videos for at least another four years…and yet, they kinda sound like Dir En Grey. Japan strikes again!

Apparently Babymetal is the metal-themed spinoff of another kiddie J-pop group called Sakura Gakuin. They call their music “kawaii metal,” which sounds like metal for surfers but actually translates to “cute metal,” which actually sums this stuff up pretty well. There are definite elements of pop and EDM and even the occasional hip-hop and dubstep…but it all comes back to the double kick drums and drop-D guitar riffs, which are played by a scary-looking masked backing band while the girls dance around in their Hot Topic finery. Never before has the devil’s music been this adorable.

Do I even need to tell you that this shit is huge in Japan? Here’s a link (embedding disabled…fuckers) to a video of them playing a song called “Headbanger!!” for approximately one zillion people at the Inazuma Rock Festival this past September. I believe this is part of a DVD they released last month called Babymetal Apocalypse, which I guess if you’re a metal purist is probably the most accurately named concert DVD of all time. Personally I can’t get enough of this shit, though. It’s like watching a Metallica show inside a Hello Kitty store.

I’ll leave you with one last video because it’s awesome. Spoiler alert: Her microphone houses a tiny samurai sword. In your face, Marilyn Manson!

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