David Liebe Hart joins forces with members of Half Japanese and the results are amazing

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We’ve made no secret before in these virtual pages of our love for outsider musician, puppeteer and alien abductee David Liebe Hart. But we’ve neglected to sing the praises of Half Japanese, the long-running lo-fi rock act fronted by brothers Jad and David Fair. Since the late ’70s, they’ve churned out a massive catalog of tunes that manage to be deliriously catchy even when the guitars are out of tune (which they usually are). Kurt Cobain was a fan, as is Daniel Johnston. They’re great, and definitely weird enough to eventually earn a spot on our ever-expanding list.

So what do you get when you cross David Liebe Hart with Jad Fair and another frequent Half Japanese member, Baltimore multi-instrumentalist and all-around weirdness connoisseur Jason Willett? Possibly the best album DLH has ever recorded: For Everyone, which sets Hart’s rants and digressions to music as endearingly off-kilter as his half-sung, half-guy-on-the-bus-talking-to-no-one-in-particular vocals. There are paeans to Valerie Harper and Beatrice Arthur, an ode to a dead pet fish, an electro-funk screed against fake dating profiles (“Robot Girls”), and controversial diatribes on everything from Disney characters (“I Like Donald Duck Better Than Mickey Mouse”) to classic sitcoms (“I Like Vivian Vance Better Than Lucille Ball”).

The album’s Hartiest moment, for my money, is “Lentil Beans,” on which the singer professes his romantic (and occasionally carnal) love for the titular legume. “If you were a lady, I’d marry you,” DLH declares. “You’re better than black-eyed peas.” Personally, lentils give me gas, but I admire the man’s passion for his food. Here, have a listen:

For Everyone is out today via Joyful Noise Recordings and available for stream or purchase (on limited edition orange vinyl — only 100 copies left as of this writing) from Bandcamp. With respect to Jonah Mociun — whose loopy electro-pop has provided DLH with excellent musical accompaniment for the past several years — Jad Fair and Jason Willett have provided the perfect soundtrack for David Liebe Hart’s peculiar brand of endearingly eccentric songwriting. It’s occasionally hilarious, occasionally creepy — poppy, atonal, avant-garde and accessible all at once. It reminds me a little of what might happen if Wesley Willis, Tom Waits and Fun Boy Three (remember them?) joined forces, but really, it’s one of the most original things you’ll hear all year.

I have an uncontrollable urge to leave you with another track, so here’s “Haunted by Frankenstein.” Bump this at your Halloween party and give extra candy to the folks willing to dance to it.

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Stinky Picnic

stinky-picnic

Usually when we — or anyone, really — throw around the term “outsider music,” we use it to connote impenetrably idiosyncratic music made by adults so eccentric they have to work alone because they can’t find anyone else who shares their vision. That’s why we were so delighted when our favorite Down Under reader, Interweb Megalink (not his/her real name), led us to the Australian duo Stinky Picnic. The father/daughter team of A.D. Machine (guitars, loops and backing vocals) and Ponky Pie Pea (singer, songwriter, keyboardist and the brains of the whole operation) make music as idiosyncratic as any Daniel Johnston or Mission Man tune — but in doing so, they transform outsider music into “the most normal, unconditionally loving activity available in the home,” in the words of author Neil Nixon, who included them in his book 500 Albums You Won’t Believe Until You Hear Them.

Stinky Picnic started when Ponky Pie Pea was three years old. You won’t be surprised to hear that she named the band. She’s now all of 10 or 11 and her songwriting skills have grown exponentially in that time. If we’re being honest, A.D. Machine had to do much of the heavy lifting on Stinky Picnic’s early work, fleshing out his daughter’s adorable but fairly straightforward sung-chanted lyrics about hamsters and logs and whatever else struck her fancy at the moment he pressed the record button. But after a few years and a shit-ton of releases, the kid is a budding genius of melody, harmony, surrealism and comic timing. Behold the marvel of all the aforementioned elements that is “Hairy Bananas” — and bear in mind that this was part of a rehearsal for a gig at the Make It Up Club, where all songs are improvised, so Ponky Pie Pea is coming up with this shit straight off the dome. Eat your heart out, Imogen Heap! (Disclaimer: Imogen Heap is great. But she’s famous for that vocal looping stuff and you gotta admit, this kid’s got “Hide and Seek“-level skills.)

Like most kids of her generation, Ponky Pie Pea is super into Minecraft. (I don’t get it, either, but I’m old and the only game app on my phone is Sudoku.) So she and A.D. also made a trilogy of albums with songs inspired by Minecraft, and set some of them to Minecraft videos. Here’s the one for “Pigs” — made when Ponky was about eight — which is in absolutely no danger of being confused with the Pink Floyd song.

I’ll leave you with possibly my favorite Stinky Picnic song: “Maybe a Mongoose,” another epic jam recorded when Ponky was eight or so, from their 2016 album A Horrible Hodgepodge. At one point, she scat-sings like a tiny, Australian Ella Fitzgerald. It’s way funkier than it has any business being — and like all of Stinky Picnic’s oeuvre, it’s a nice reminder that before we were all taught to conform, we were all outsiders, running wild with our imaginations and spouting nonsensical ideas more entertaining and probably just as valid as whatever crap the so-called “adult world” is churning out these days, like This Is Us or a new Chainsmokers album or whatever.

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Mandek Penha

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A few months ago, we received an email that began with the words, “Greetings Weirdest Band in the World from The Current Earthly Embodiment of Lord Mandek Penha!”

Lord Mandek — or The CEE, as he seems to prefer to be called — went on to explain that he is the leader of a North Korean-based cult called The Church of Sarrean Alignment (C.S.A.), which recently relocated to Melbourne, Australia because, you know, recruiting new members for your cult is tricky when you’re based in the most closed society on the planet. He’s also now trying to launch himself as a pop star, because I guess that’s the best way to recruit cult members nowadays, or something. Actually, I’m not entirely clear on what the music has to do with the cult and vice versa, but it doesn’t really matter when it leads to wonderfully bizarre music videos like this one:

Mandek Penha may or may not be the creation of an Australian performance artist, but rather than speculate on his identity, it’s far more fun to buy into the elaborate mythology he’s created around Mandek Penha and his church. Apparently the Church of Sarrean Alignment dates back to 1350 and exists to spread love and fight the evil influence of an ancient race of beings called The Hish’ry Cosh’ry, who spread Hidden Negative Energy through their many emissaries on Earth, the Hish-Pigs — whose ranks include Rod Stewart (saw that one coming) and, uh, Louis Armstrong. (Sorry, Lord Mandek, we here at TWBITW will forever love Satchmo. Does that make us Hish-Pigs?) I would’ve assumed Bon Jovi was definitely a Hish-Pig, but judging from this video, he’s actually a high priest in the C.S.A.

There’s way more about Mandek and his cult church on his website, but the cosmology is way too complicated to fully explain here. Suffice it to say the C.S.A. promises eternal life to all its followers in an alternate world called South Sarra — black-and-white Nikes and Kool-Aid consumption optional, one hopes. Also, The CEE is currently seeking Brides (and really, what cult leader worth his salt isn’t?) that he can impregnate to bring forth into the world the Future Earthly Embodiment. Through mechanisms that aren’t quite clear to me — possibly because I haven’t yet joined the church and achieved enlightenment, or possibly because I am unwittingly a Sarrean Interloper — it’s apparently already known that this next Current Earthly Embodiment will be female. In fact, she already has her own EP, Our Future: The Next Earthly Embodiment, which came out back in 2012. Here’s a video from it, which also provides a glimpse of Church of Sarrean Alignment educational methods.

If you want to join the Church of Sarrean Alignment, you can, of course. Here’s a list of current members, ranked according to their level of enlightenment, or something. And here’s a registration form for new church members, which asks them to list their strengths and weaknesses and “accept the total spiritual authority of The Current Earthly Embodiment, and every Embodiment of Lord Mandek Penha for the rest of our time on Earth.” The form doesn’t ask you to send money, which is just one of several clear indications that despite some superficial resemblances to Scientology and the people in that crazy Wild Wild Country Netflix documentary, this is definitely, totally not a cult. Look, Lord Mandek even got a bunch of his followers to make a video called “We Are Not Cult” to prove it.

There, don’t you feel better? I know I — wait a second, is that longtime friend of the blog Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin in there doing the “We Are Not a Cult” dance? Holy shit, it is! Petunia, for the love of pete, get the fuck out of there!! IT’S A GODDAMN CULT!!!

Oh yeah, I almost forgot the most important part, and the whole reason The CEE graced us with his email communiqué in the first place: Mandek Penha has a new album out! It’s called Our Present: The Current Earthly Embodiment and it’s available now via Bandcamp for a mere $20, which includes a poster and Lord Mandek’s undying (no, really, he’s a multidimensional immaterial being who lives forever) gratitude. I can attest that playing it on repeat does not automatically indoctrinate you into the Church of Sarrean Alignment, but it does ward off Hidden Negative Energy. And Rod Stewart. I haven’t seen him once since I started listening!

I’ll leave you with the final track from Our Present, “Must Reach IMZ,” which gives you a pretty good idea of the overall vibe of the album — alternately melodramatic and catchy synth-pop, punctuated by lots of choral vocals and the occasional sax solo. Oh, and “IMZ” are an ancient alien race and the sworn enemies of The Hish’ry Cosh’ry. Followers of Mandek Penha will eventually merge their DNA with that the IMZ, or something. Sorry, I’m not good at explaining religious stuff. My entire religious upbringing consisted of my parents giving me an illustrated children’s Bible on my 10th birthday and saying, “Let us know if you have any questions.”

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David Liebe Hart

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If you were a fan of the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, you’re probably familiar with this week’s weird artist. But what you might not realize is that David Liebe Hart, with his puppets and quirky lo-fi songs about aliens and insect women and staying in school, was not some surreal creation of that most surreal of late-night comedy shows. David Liebe Hart is a real live person, and to this day he’s still making his wonderfully weird music and even weirder music videos.

An actor originally from the Chicago area (where, he says, he was abducted by aliens as a child) and now based in Los Angeles, Hart had a few small television roles early in his career on shows like Good Times, What’s Happening and Golden Girls. But he became best-known in the L.A. area in the 1990s for his musical puppet act, which he performed around town as a street busker and on a local cable access TV called The Junior Christian Teaching Bible Lesson Program. Thanks to the miracle of YouTube, you can still watch some of Hart’s early cable-access performances, which are fantastic.

So Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim didn’t exactly pluck Hart out of obscurity when they put him on the first season of their Awesome Show in 2007; he was already a cult figure around L.A., on par with other eccentric Hollywood fixtures like Known Actor Dennis Woodruff and Thai Elvis. But they were smart enough to just point a camera at him and let him do his thing, showcasing his menagerie of puppets, his slightly out-of-control baritone bray of a singing voice, and some of his most outlandish songs. He’s probably still most famous for “Salame,” the tune with which he made his Awesome Show debut (accompanied by his most famous puppet, Jason the Cat), but for our money, Tim & Eric scored Peak DLH with “I’m in Love With an Insect Woman.”

“Insect Woman” is amazing for a lot of reasons, but my favorite thing about it is probably how clearly Hart is in on the joke. Though some Tim & Eric fans seemed to react with alarm upon learning that his act existed outside the show (sample YouTube comment: “The realization that Tim and Eric met a crazy man and put him in front of a camera makes you a little sad”), I think part of David Liebe Hart’s genius, if you can call it that, lies in his ability to simultaneously embrace the absurd elements of his act and also fully commit to his underlying messages. He doesn’t really care whether you take him seriously or not; he just wants you to believe the aliens are out there — and to stay in school. It’s like Wesley Willis meets Space Alien Donald meets Sesame Street.

Since the sad demise of the Awesome Show, DLH has been keeping busy. He’s released numerous albums, written a book of poetry, played the mayor of Chicago in a B-movie called White Cop, launched his own podcast (“Adventures With David”), and done a national tour fronting a punk band. Since 2014, he’s teamed up with a new musical collaborator, Jonah Mociun, who’s given his songs a more fully produced, jaunty electro-pop sound. He’s also continued to embrace his silly, self-deprecating side; songs of his most recent album, Space Ranger, include “I Caught My Pecker in My Zipper,” “No Sex Since ’94” and “I’m Not a Hoarder.” (And we have it on good authority that, yes, that really is his apartment in the video for the latter track.)

But to this day, it’s when Hart sings about aliens and outer space this his weird light burns brightest. We’ll leave you with the totally cosmic video to another track from Space Ranger, “Space Train,” which features a fellow eccentric by the name of Tennessee Luke. According to Mociun, who wrote to us recently to share some of DLH’s latest stuff, Luke “believes he controls the weather with his mind.” Needless to say, we’re already fans.

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Five Starcle Men

Five Starcle Men

Happy 2016, weirdos! Here’s our resolution: to get back to updating this site on a weekly basis again. Also to drink less, exercise more, and spend more time with family. Yeah, we don’t like our chances of sticking to any of it, either.

Our first weird band of 2016 was suggested to us by a few readers: Djzen John, Jake Kirby and Andrew. It’s no wonder Five Starcle Men comes up frequently when discussing weird music, because even though they’re about as obscure as it gets (their fan-created Facebook page has a mere 56 likes), and haven’t been active since the ’90s, their small catalog of recorded output is about as bizarre as it gets. The most obvious touchstone is The Residents, and there’s also a little Captain Beefheart and maybe early Ween, in their early bedroom-stoner tape experiment days. But really, most of the stuff on Gomba Reject Ward Japan, a compilation of Five Starcle Men material released for free by Lost Frog Productions via Archive.org in 2007, exists in its own universe of psychedelic tape loops, thrift-store drum machines, detuned guitars and unintelligible lyrics.

Not much information on Five Starcle Men is out, but it appears to have been mainly the work of two young men from Lancaster, California named Glen Hobbs and Luke McGowan. Lancaster is an outer suburb of Los Angeles in the high desert, near Edwards Air Force Base, a surreal yet crushingly boring corner of America full of ex-military burnouts and neatly grid-patterned streets that lead to nowhere. It makes sense that two smart, creative kids from such a cultural wasteland would do lots of drugs (particularly DXM, a cough suppressant with dissociative properties, similar to ketamine) and invent a whole mythology of “alien drug torture” and “deadly cartoon culture governments,” as it says on their Archive.org page. Unfortunately, the experiment came to an abrupt end when Glen Hobbs committed suicide in 1998.

Besides Gomba Reject Ward Japan and its cryptic accompanying bio, which also mentions that “using modern cultural, pharmacological, and other technologies, these young suburban punks constructed highly aestheticized, delusional realities for themselves and their viewers,” the other main artifact of Five Starcle Men’s existence is a video from a 1993 performance the band gave at Mondo Video here in Los Angeles. The video (embedded below) was shot and later uploaded by a friend of the band’s who goes by the name Rich Polysorbate 60. Rich was a longtime member of the L.A. Cacophony Society and has a reputation for making up mythical/historical characters and presenting them as real, so at least one person (a guy from fellow Weird List entrants Baboon Torture Division, in fact) has suggested, not unreasonably, that “it could be a fictitious band invented by Rich.”

While this is an intriguing theory, you can see in the video below that there appear to be two young men at the center of the chaos, wearing matching caps and fiddling with gear and cables. Are they Glen Hobbs and Luke McGowan? Perhaps. It’s also possible that this is Glen Hobbs’ gravesite, even though it’s in Colorado for some reason. And Luke McGowan might be the same Luke McGowan who is now a part-time Professor of Psychology at Cal State Fullerton — that doesn’t quite match the official bio’s note that McGowan “now studies science, philosophy, and history at university,” but it’s close.

In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter who was behind Five Starcle Men. Whoever they are, or were, they left behind some amazing, surreal, alien music. Take a few swigs of Robitussin and enjoy.

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Fadades

Fadades

A little over a year ago, we introduced our readers to Fadades, a one-man black metal project from France that is either the best genre piss-take since Vegan Black Metal Chef or the greatest misunderstood metal genius this side of Dwarr. Either way, his music videos, which generally feature lots of Egyptian iconography and UFOs and Monsieur Fadades shaking his fist in the air while he roars like a constipated Brian Johnson, are endlessly entertaining, even though his music — always presented in 5.1 surround sound! — consists of little more than inexpertly played, doom-metal guitar chords, lurching, arrhythmic blast beats and the occasional celestial choir and thunderclap.

That video, for a song called “La Colère de Ramsès” or “The Wrath of Ramses,” was discovered by the metal community in 2012, briefly turning Fadades into a viral sensation. But it was originally posted in 2010, and was actually its mysterious creator’s eighth attempt to find visuals worthy of his primitive but oddly compelling take on black metal. Tracing Fadades’ origins back before “La Colère de Ramsès” is actually a pretty interesting exercise in seeing how some weirdos are made, not born. When he was just starting out, there was little indication that Fadades would go on to become the black-metal nut job we all know and love today.

Fadades’ very first video, “DAS,” uploaded in 2008, features some sweet computer graphics and, about four seconds in, what appears to be a fleeting glimpse of Fadades himself sans makeup, looking quite normal and clean-cut, actually. Even the music itself, more of a cross between industrial and groove metal, isn’t all that mind-blowing.

For his next video, “Nucléaire,” he’s still operating in a groove-metal/industrial/EBM vein, but his vocals are beginning to develop that tell-tale Fadades death rattle. He also shows up again briefly in this one looking like a clean-cut college grad, only now he’s at least strapped on a spiked cuff and studded leather shoulder strap. With these tiny steps, the metamorphosis begins!

After a series of weird but not very good videos that cribbed most of their visuals from video games, Fadades finally took his great leap forward in early 2010 with “La Fureur d’Outre-Tombe” (“Fury From the Grave”). The Fadades character emerges here fully formed, with black rooster wig, fishnet shirt, elaborately spiked cuffs and tongue gymnastics all in place. The Egpytology stuff would come later; here, he’s just rocking out against the rather conventional black metal backdrop of an old graveyard, presumably somewhere near his hometown of Mulhouse in Alsace, near the German/Swiss border.

And he’s been rocking the one-man metal and bizarro music videos ever since. Through 2012, he churned out his ridiculous videos at a pretty steady clip, including this one, which may be our favorite, because it features Fadades crash-landing his UFO on a planet the color of Pepto-Bismol and using his raygun to do battle with killer fern fronds and a giant perfume bottle. Can’t wait to watch it now, can you?

Since 2012, Fadades’ output has been more sporadic, but he’s still out there somewhere, wandering the Egyptian desert and/or the frostbitten wastes of whatever part of Alsace black metal fans congregate in. Actually, scratch that last part — Fadades clearly doesn’t go anywhere other people congregate, even black metal fans. If ever there was a lone wolf of outsider metal, it’s Fadades.

We’ll leave you with Fadades’ latest video, “Jurassic Extinction,” which he just released last month. In it, our hero uses his awesome homemade guitar, the Hyperbolika (seriously, it’s a pretty sick-looking axe), to ignite a nuclear holocaust that triggers the extinction of the dinosaurs. At least we think that’s what’s happening. In any case, it features both Fadades and computer-animated dinosaurs, so you know it’s going to rule.

P.S. Shout-out to readers Lou and Yummi Tomato, the former for introducing us to Fadades and the latter for reminding us that for some unknown and inexcusable reason, we had yet to add him to the Weird List. About time we did, right?

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Mission Man’s new video just gave us the warm fuzzies

Mission Man

We haven’t been posting as much lately, I know. What can I say? Life shit. But when our old Ohio hip-hop pal Mission Man tweeted us his latest video, we just had to share it with you folks out there in Readerland. (By the way, don’t panic: Mission Man did not die in 2012. That’s just a copyright date range in the above graphic. He’s alive and well and still rockin’ the mic.)

MM’s vid for “Love, Funk and Soul” makes us happy, and not just because it features more cowbell. Mainly, it gives us a case of the warm fuzzies because it proves what we’ve long suspected, but seen precious little evidence of: Mission Man has fans. In the clip, they can be seen taking selfies with him, partying with him, throwing snowballs at him, and, at around the 1:08 mark, getting up onstage and dancing with him. Dude’s grind is definitely starting to pay off. Let this be an inspiration to us all.