Laibach’s “The Lonely Goatherd” video is creepy. And charming. But mostly creepy.

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Slovenian art-rockers Laibach have long possessed an uncanny ability to take even the most well-worn songs and make them sound unfamiliar and more than a little creepy, from “In the Army Now” to “Jesus Christ Superstar.” But they’ve really outdone themselves with their recent reinvention of The Sound of Music.

After releasing videos of their oddly affecting interpretations of the title track and “My Favorite Things,” they recently dropped the project’s third and most bizarre video yet, for their mournful take on “The Lonely Goatherd.” In the clip, which features guest vocalist Boris Benko alongside Laibach’s gravel-voiced frontman, Milan Fras, Fras plays shepherd to a flock of dancing young girls in kneesocks as Benko looks on through a pair of binoculars in his alpineer’s tweed jacket and hiking boots, shotgun ominously slung over one shoulder. It’s all very voyeuristic and vaguely pedophiliac until Fras and Benko suddenly break out their own awkwardly charming dance moves near the video’s end. Fras even yodels, if you can call anything he does with his graveyard rasp yodeling. So maybe it’s all good, innocent fun. Unless it isn’t.

For more on Laibach’s The Sound of Music, read our last post about it or visit the website of their label, Mute Records.

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The hills are alive with the sound of Laibach

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Remember when Carrie Underwood stole The Sound of Music? Well, Laibach are stealing it back. The Slovenian pop-industrial collective are gearing up to release their own version of the insanely popular Rodgers and Hammerstein musical via Mute Records on Nov. 23rd. Here’s a video for their version of “My Favorite Things,” which features a children’s choir and, in this live version recently debuted in Austria, a video backdrop of flying steaks, My Pretty Pony, nuns, Campbell’s soup cans and wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings. Like much of what Laibach does, it’s unclear whether they’re serious or taking the piss. Probably a bit of both.

So what inspired the sepulchral-voiced Milan Fras and his bandmates to want to sing about whiskers on kittens? Randomly, it was their much-publicized 2015 trip to North Korea. In preparing to become the first Western rock band ever to perform there, they learned that The Sound of Music is among the few pieces of Western art not censored by Kim Jong-un’s totalitarian government; many of its songs are even used to teach English in schools. So they worked up live versions of “Edelweiss,” “Do-Re-Mi” and other tunes from the musical, hoping that such familiar songs would help them connect with their North Korean audience. In a nod to its origins, Laibach’s version of The Sound of Music will also include a traditional Korean folk song called “Airirang” and another track featuring a gayageum, a Korean zither-like instrument.

Here’s a video for “The Sound of Music” that was actually filmed while the band was in North Korea.

I haven’t heard the full album yet, but already I feel like The Sound of Music represents peak Laibach even better than their previous Laibach-iest moment, their 2006 collection of national anthems called Volk. Their best work has always played with themes of nationalism and totalitarianism in clever, subversive ways — often through the lens of pop music — and using a visit to the most totalitarian country on Earth as the jumping-off point for a reinterpretation of a popular American musical about the Nazi annexation of Austria gives them all sorts of fresh opportunities to explore those themes. I mean, just look at the cover art:

cover lp + cd

You can pre-order The Sound of Music here.

First Laibach album in eight years, “Spectre,” due out this March

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The world was a different place back in 2006, the last time Slovenia’s Laibach released a new studio album. The iPhone didn’t exist yet, most folks still had MySpace accounts, and Barack Obama was still just some senator from Illinois with a funny name. Into that more innocent era, Laibach unleashed a mindfuck of a record called Volk, which featured grimly Laibach-ian reinventions of national anthems from American, England, China and other global superpowers. For a band that could make even “The Final Countdown” sound like nationalist propaganda to record actual nationalist propaganda was unnerving, to say the least.

Now Laibach’s back with what sounds like another politically charged record: Spectre, an album of original songs about everything from Edward Snowden and Julian Assange (“The Whistleblowers”) to the Arab Spring (“Koran”). It also contains a song, “No History,” that includes “a mini-‘manifesto’ about the album itself, its sonic expression, and the position of the group in relation to its own history,” according to a press release. So for anyone who’s still not sure whether Laibach is actually a bunch of fascists, or just pretending to a be a bunch of fascists, or appropriating fascist iconography to deliver an anti-fascist message…well, you’ll all probably go on arguing about it, anyway.

Spectre will arrive March 3rd in several different packages, including one that includes a 32-page “Party Book” outlining Laibach’s plans to “form an international Party in order to create a possibility for an organised and synchronised international movement, helping to change the world.” You know, typical fan club stuff. The book and CD and/or vinyl also comes with a Spectre logo sticker bearing the slogan, “Fight for Your Right to Party for Your Right to Fight.” We can only hope this means that a Laibach Beastie Boys cover is not far behind.

Speaking of covers…Spectre includes at least two, available only on the CD version of the album. One is Laibach’s take on “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” a blues standard by Blind Lemon Jefferson. The other is their whips-and-chains rendition of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Love On the Beat,” which we include here (in a bootlegged live version) for your listening pleasure. Industrial is so sexy.

Oh and did we mention tour dates? Of course there are tour dates. Check ’em out after the clip.

The Spectre of Laibach European Tour:

Mar 06, 2014 CH Luzern – Schüür
Mar 07, 2014 DE Weinheim – Cafe Central
Mar 08, 2014 FR Paris – Trabendo
Mar 10, 2014 BE Leuven – Het Depot
Mar 12, 2014 UK London – Koko
Mar 13, 2014 NL Amsterdam – Melkweg
Mar 14, 2014 DE Köln – Stollwerck
Mar 15, 2014 DE Schorndorf – Manufaktur
Mar 16, 2014 DE München – Technikum
Mar 22, 2014 CN Hong Kong – The Vine
Apr 02, 2014 IT Rome – Orion Club
Apr 03, 2014 IT Trezzo (Milan) – Live Club
Apr 04, 2014 DE Frankfurt am Main – Mousonturm
Apr 05, 2014 DE Dresden -Reithalle
Apr 07, 2014 DE Berlin – Volksbühne
Apr 08, 2014 DE Hamburg- Uebel & Gefährlich
Apr 10, 2014 SE Malmö – Babel
Apr 11, 2014 DE Rostock – Zwischenbau
Apr 12, 2014 PL Poznan – C.K. Zamek
Apr 13, 2014 PL Gdansk – B90
Apr 15, 2014 AT Wien – Arena
Apr 16, 2014 HU Budapest – A38
Apr 17, 2014 CZ Olomouc – Šantovka
Apr 18, 2014 CZ Praha – Archa Theatre
May 09, 2014 HR Zagreb – Tvornica kulture
May 16, 2014 SI Ljubljana – Križanke

Only four days left to score yourself a free Laibach EP

laibach2013

Good news for fans Eastern European electro-industrial performance art rock: Laibach have announced the impending arrival of Spectre, their first proper studio album since 2006’s Volk. And this week, you can download three songs off the forthcoming album for free from their website. It’s their gift to you, Laibach fans! Either that, or they’ve secretly been communists this whole time.

A press release from the band’s label, Mute Records, claims that Spectre will be their most overtly political album to date. But based on these three advance tracks, it’s not so much political as observational. On “Eurovision,” for example, Milas Fras growls, “Europe is falling apart”—which is obviously true to anyone who’s been watching the news, but it’s hard to tell whether Milas considers this a tragedy or an awesome excuse to break stuff.

The new EP, called simply S, also features a live cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Love on the Beat.” To hear that track, you gotta buy the whole package. If you just want the free shit, hit the Laibach website before Oct. 21st.

Here’s a trailer for Spectre, which is due out February 2014. Clearly, if Milas has to dance, he doesn’t want to be part of your revolution.

Hey, remember that Moon Nazi movie with the soundtrack by Laibach? Well, they’re making a sequel.

Iron Sky 2

Last year, we told you about an amazing indie sci-fi film from Finland called Iron Sky that featured music by military-industrial rockers Laibach and a story about a secret Nazi base on the moon. Well, the film was such an international success that they’ve decided to make a sequel—and this time, it’s personal they need your help to fund it.

Yes, for Iron Sky: The Coming Race, the filmmakers have taken to the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to raise $150,000 worth of seed money for what they hope will eventually be a $15 million budget (which sounds like a lot but is still about 1/20th what they spent on Iron Man 3). Backers of the film can score such goodies as T-shirts, posters and even a first draft of the script, all the way up to all-access set visits and a speaking role in the trailer. So far they’re still about $110,000 short of their goal, with only 13 days of fundraising left—so pony up, people! (Although, unlike Kickstarter, projects that don’t hit their fundraising goals on Indiegogo get to keep the money—so don’t worry, those crazy Iron Sky kids will be fine even if they fall short.)

According the filmmakers, Laibach is already on board to do the soundtrack, as are the original writers, director and special effects folks. What the storyline will be is anyone’s guess—so far, they’ve just released some mysterious artwork depicting what appears to be some kind of high-tech outpost in the middle of a lush wilderness, with the tag line, “From the ashes of mankind, a new breed of superiority will rise.” Does that mean more Nazis? Or something else? We’ll just have to wait and see.

So head over to Indiegogo to pledge your support, and enjoy the Indiegogo teaser video starring director Timo Vuorensola and some North Korean soldieresses I would not want to mess with.

New Laibach covers compilation coming this November

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If you still haven’t submitted yourself to the awesome power of the totalitarian pop/industrial band Laibach, this might finally be your chance. Laibach’s U.K. label, Mute Records, is releasing a compilation of some of Laibach’s most distinctive cover songs, in a collection called An Introduction To… Laibach/Reproduction Prohibited. It’s available now in Europe and the U.K. and arrives here Nov. 6th.

Laibach have become justly famous for their many covers, which are by turns haunting and hilarious, thanks to their Wagnerian arrangements and frontman Milan Fras’s sepulchral growl of a voice. An Introduction to… omits many of Laibach’s most notorious covers, like “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” in favor of more mind-blowing oddities like “Bruderschaft,” an original Laibach tune done in the style of Kraftwerk, and “Geburt Einer Nation,” their nationalist spin on Queen’s “One Vision.” Also included: Laibachanized versions of two Beatles songs, Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man,” and their definitive, epic version of Europe’s “Final Countdown,” which they transform into the mock-operatic techno jam it was always meant to be.

You can watch the trailer for An Introduction to… here, but we’ll leave you with this video to “Final Countdown,” which invites you to become a citizen of NSK, Laibach’s art collective/micronation and self-proclaimed “first global state of the universe.” You used to be able to get an NSK passport online, but they had to stop issuing them because some scam artists in Nigeria were selling them to unsuspecting African nationals looking for ways to emigrate to Europe. And no, even though NSK passports do look convincingly like official travel documents, you can’t actually use them to cross international borders. The awesome power of Laibach is not quite that awesome.

Weirdify Playlist 8: Covers for Kooks

[Note: The above image was, er, borrowed from Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine’s excellent greatest-hits compilation of loungified rap and rock classics, Sunny Side of the Moon. If you’re not familiar with Richard’s stuff, you should go to www.richardcheese.com right now and check it out. Especially because if you do, there’s still a chance he won’t take us to court and/or steal our wives for using his album art without permission. Thanks.]

Nothing announces your weirdness to the world better than a really demented version of a familiar song. It’s like saying, “You know how this song sounded in its original form? We’re the total opposite of that. Or we might just be YouTube whores hoping to score a few extra views with our medley of Lady Gaga songs played on bassoons.* Either way, are we wacky or what?”

Here, then, is a brief Spotify playlist of some of our favorite weird cover songs, from bands that rank high on the Weird List, bands that probably should be on the Weird List, and a few bands that are by no stretch of the imagination weird, but cool enough to include, anyway (you’re welcome, Ben Folds). Obviously, this list only scratches the surface of the vast universe of weird covers, and we’ll probably revisit it at some point. Probably with less Led Zeppelin. Although we make no promises on that.

(*Sadly, The Breaking Winds’ Lady Gaga medley is not available on Spotify and thus, not on this playlist. We’re not made of magic, people!)

1. Laibach, “Sympathy for the Devil.” Taking a familiar song from the classic rock canon and declaiming it like some pretentious dorkwad at a poetry slam is the oldest trick in the weird-cover-tune book (I was tempted to include William Shatner’s “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” arguably the definitive example, but I’m pretty you’ve all heard it). But something about Laibach’s gravelly, Teutonic spin on the Rolling Stones’ old pseudo-Satanic jam makes it sound like the most original idea in the world.

2. Ben Folds, “Bitches Ain’t Shit.” Another well-worn cover trick is the painfully white version of a familiar hip-hop/R&B song (see also: The Gourds’ “Gin and Juice,” Jonathan Coulton’s “Baby Got Back,” etc.). In this case, Ben Folds’ version of Snoop and Dr. Dre’s misogynistic anthem stands out for me, mostly because it finds an unexpected core of heartache and melancholy underneath all the posturing. It’s the softer side of gangsta rap.

3. Hurra Torpedo, “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Norway’s favorite kitchen appliance rockers give Bonnie Tyler’s ridiculous ’80s power ballad the beating it so richly deserves.

4. Tragedy, “More Than a Woman.” Tragedy do one thing, and they do it well: Hair metal covers of Bee Gees songs. Any questions? Moving on…

5. Metalachi, “Immigrant Song.” Another high-concept cover band, Metalachi do mariachi versions of metal songs. Most of it works better than you might expect—but even when it doesn’t quite work, as on this hilarious Hindenburg of a Led Zeppelin cover, the results are still pretty fantastic.

6. Nouvelle Vague, “God Save the Queen.” If you’ve ever heard one of your favorite ’80s songs transformed into a lilting bossa nova ballad, you’ve heard Nouvelle Vague, a French/English cover band whose versions of  Gen X oldies like “Melt With You” and “Dancing With Myself” have been licensed to death. Their catalog tends to be a little too hipster-wedding-soundtrack for our purposes, but this pretty acoustic Sex Pistols cover is just left-field enough to make Johnny Rotten hurl in his grave. Which, in a way, makes it possibly the most punk-rock Sex Pistols cover of all time.

7. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, “Fire and Rain.” The flipside to the pretty Sex Pistols cover is, of course, a punk-rock cover of a James Taylor song. Me First, a “supergroup” side project featuring members of NOFX, Foo Fighters and the Swingin’ Utters, have run the unexpected-punk-cover concept so far into the ground that they’re now covering Japanese bands, but something about a rockin’ “Fire and Rain” still makes us giggle like Beavis and Butt-Head.

8. Edmund Welles, “Big Bottom.” Yes, this is a Spinal Tap cover played entirely on bass clarinets. And yes, it goes to 11.

9. The Bad Plus, “Barracuda.” We should hasten to point out that The Bad Plus, a power-jazz trio from Minnesota, have done killer instrumental versions of several familiar pop and classic rock tunes. This track, however, is not one of them. Have you lost the singer yet, guys? You have? The jazz gods be praised.

10. Richard Cheese, “Baby Got Back.” With all due respect to Jonathan Coulton’s delightful version of this same Sir Mix-a-Lot classic, we highly prefer Richard Cheese’s lounge lizard take (also, the cover of his best-of album, The Sunny Side of the Moon, was too good not steal for our playlist artwork). And in case you’re noticing a theme between this and “Big Bottom”: Yes, we do like big butts and we cannot lie.

11. Señor Coconut, “Smoke on the Water.” This dude has worked his cha-cha magic on everything from Kraftwerk to Prince. But since we decided to take this playlist in more of a classic-rock direction, nothing says “geriatric DJs spinning classic-rock steez” more than a little Deep Purple.

12. The Moog Cookbook, “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.” Van Halen played on vintage synths! OK, Van Halen themselves did this on 1984, but there’s still something pretty unsettling about hearing a programmed robot voice intoning, “If you want it, got to plead for it, baby.”

13. Dread Zeppelin, “Whole Lotta Love.” Possibly the most high-concept tribute band of all time (and yes, we have dropped the ball by not adding them to the Weird List yet), Dread Zeppelin play reggae versions of Led Zeppelin songs, as sung by an Elvis impersonator. Mercy.

14. Tiny Tim, “I Love Rock and Roll.” At the height of his popularity, Tiny Tim turned his quivering falsetto loose on any number of popular songs, from “On the Good Ship Lollipop” to “I Got You, Babe.” And while his falsetto is indeed a marvel, it sounds downright quaint compared to the Tom Jones-like bray he unleashed on Chameleon, an overlooked 1980 oddity that features this amazing version of the song made famous by Joan Jett. Honestly, you don’t have to listen to the whole thing, unless you really want to hear what it sounds like when an aging eccentric bludgeons a song to death as though it’s solely responsible for the decline of his career.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s mix.