Ghost

Ghost-2018

A lot of readers have been suggesting for years that we add the Swedish group Ghost (or Ghost B.C., as they were briefly called here in the States) to the Weird List. But we never did, because frankly, once you look past their costumed, pseudo-Satanic theatrics, their music is about as mainstream as it gets. Yeah, the guitars shred and churn in a vaguely metallic way, but they still make My Chemical Romance sound like Slayer by comparison. One of the tracks on their latest album, Prequelle, even features a saxophone solo — and not a screeching John Zorn saxophone solo. More like a Supertramp saxophone solo. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — it’s just not even within shouting distance of weird.

But you know what? A band fronted by a Satanic anti-Pope called Papa Emeritus and made up of anonymous, masked minions called Nameless Ghouls playing what amounts to latter-day hair metal (minus the hair) is, we gotta admit, pretty goddamned weird. Especially at this point in the band’s history, when they’ve been at this for over a decade and managed to achieve something dangerously close to mainstream success while still seeming like an elaborate piss-take of metal’s fascination with Satanism.

The genius and/or huckster (depending on how you feel about Ghost’s shtick) behind all this is a guy named Tobias Forge, whose biggest claim to fame pre-Ghost was fronting a moderately successful Swedish death metal band called Repugnant. For years, Forge managed to keep his own identity in Ghost a secret, only speaking to press in the role of a Nameless Ghoul, even though he played Papa Emeritus onstage from the group’s inception. As word that he was Papa Emeritus began to leak out, he even tried to throw fans and press off by repeatedly firing and replacing Ghost’s evil lead singer with new Papa Emerituses (Emeriti?) — Papa Emeritus II, Papa Emeritus III and short-lived fan favorite Papa Emeritus Zero, who teetered onstage with a cane and an oxygen tank. All were played, of course, by Forge, and most Ghost fans seemed to be in on the joke — but it still added to the band’s air of mystery.

Early Ghost albums mixed galloping metal guitars, pop hooks and Forge’s oddly lightweight vocals (he sounds, not unpleasantly, kind of like a Swedish cross between Billie Joe Armstrong and Placebo’s Brian Molko) with the occasional church organ or medieval-sounding choir, making explicit the idea that they were literally worshiping Satan through their music. Think of it as anti-Christian contemporary rock.

Here’s a taste of their live show. We always suspected Satan was really into Carmina Burana and apparently Ghost think so, too.

In early 2017, Forge’s identity was officially revealed when four former Nameless Ghouls sued him, claiming they were all owed back pay, in some cases stretching all the way back to 2010, and that they were denied treatment as equal bandmates in the project. (Forge hasn’t responded to the suit’s financial claims, but has asserted that Ghost is essentially a solo project, as he writes all the music and is the group’s sole constant member.) The suit, as far as we know, is still pending — but that hasn’t stopped Forge from releasing a new Ghost album, Prequelle, and unveiling yet another lead singer character: Cardinal Copia, who in the video for lead single “Rats” seems less like a demonic clergyman and more like a gothed-out version of Jim Carrey’s character from The Mask, complete with some very Michael Jackson dance moves.

Not surprisingly, a lot of metalheads detest Ghost, which kinda makes us like them even more. Even though this line from a recent article by an angry metalhead for Vice is 100% accurate: “Their entire publicity strategy is like a teenager arriving at Christmas dinner with a face tattoo and then screaming, ‘GOD, LEAVE ME ALONE!’ every time someone points it out.”

Links:

 

Advertisements

Weird of the Day: Los Doggies, “Pari Passu”

Los Doggies

Los Doggies are an “indie prog” band from Upstate New York who make music that’s simultaneously poppy and full of music-nerd plays on harmonic theory and whatnot. (I say “whatnot” because I know next to nothing about music theory, but I believe “whatnot” is a technical term meaning “stuff jam bands do”). Their drummer Evan sent us a bunch of tracks last night, our favorite of which is this video treatment for Los Doggies’ version of a sexytime song, “Pari Passu.” I say “version of” because…well, you’ll see. Most sex songs don’t contain references to cephalopods and philtrums. (Or is the plural philtra? Philtrae? I bet the Los Doggies guys know. They seem like smarties.)

“Pari Passu” is from the band’s latest album, e’rebody, which you can hear and obtain via Bandcamp.

Univore

Univore

When I think of Chicago, I think of deep dish pizza, Da Bears, Ferris Bueller, and that one time I bumped into Trent Reznor at O’Hare (true story). I certainly don’t think of weird music, but I may need to recalibrate my mental image of Da Chi. The city that gave us Wesley Willis and Jan Terri seems to be a reliable breeding ground for eccentric musical artistes. And carrying on in that grand tradition is the mysterious duo called Univore.

Univore first surfaced in 2010 with an album called Casale Project, which set the occasionally poetic ramblings of Italian-born artist Marco Casale to a series of breezy jazz/prog/disco/space-rock instrumentals. The music on Casale Project is semi-weird at best—though it does feature the occasional out-of-left-field blast of Love Supreme saxophone—but Marco Casale is a wonder, over-enunciating in his thick Mediterranean accent about America’s hair (“is like wheat on fire!”) and the dude he’s gonna bust up for stealing his bicycle seat. And when Univore started casting Casale is a series of zero-budget videos—all, for no apparent reason, with Asian subtitles—well, shit just got crazy in the best possible way.

Now it’s important to note that Casale is merely a guest vocalist and that, really, Univore is the work of two gentlemen by the names of David Bachmann and Nicholas Flandro. They describe themselves as a “media production duo” who are available (according to their website) for “original music, video production, content creation, ideating, as well as art direction and copywriting.” If I ever find myself stuck in O’Hare again (and Trent Reznor is nowhere to be found), I know who I’m calling when I’m in need of some ideating.

In addition to Casale Project, Univore have released two other albums: Love Letters, a 2011 concept album made up of “letters of affection to various fictional women” and Beasts From a Silk Womb, a “confluence of apocalyptic imagery” masquerading as makeout music from the ’70s. Here, for example, is a shag-run and lava-lamp jam about how we’re destroying the planet. Our technological advances will be our ultimate undoing, am I right, ladies??

Love Letters and Beasts From a Silk Womb don’t feature the campy vocal stylings of Mr. Casale, but Bachmann and and Flandro clearly know a good thing when they’ve found one and have been careful to cast the photogenic DeNiro/Aeillo lookalike in all their videos. Last year, they finally did a proper reunion with him and created a one-off song and short film called “I Dream the Video,” which is almost too well-produced for its own good. It left us longing for the simpler pleasures of their masterpiece, “Champagne Taste,” which against all reason and logic is impossible to stop watching. As one YouTube commenter put it: “Oh, no! I shouldn’t be watching this video.”

P.S. Many thanks to new reader Jake Kirby for turning us on to the unique charms of Univore, along with several other weird artists. Sorry we didn’t pick Hasil Adkins, Jake. Maybe next time.

Links:

Jan Terri

Jan Terri

Happy 2014, weirdos! Are you as hungover as we are? I hope not, because this week’s weird artiste can be tough to listen to with a throbbin’ noggin.

We were introduced to Jan Terri the same way most folks are: Someone sent us a link to a YouTube video called “Worst music video ever,” a badly ripped copy of Terri’s “Losing You” that’s gotten over 3 million hits. And while “Losing You” is not the worst music video ever by a long shot (as far as we’re concerned, Brokencyde still wears that crown), it’s not exactly a cinematic triumph. The camerawork could best be described as “easily distracted” and Terri has so little screen presence she’s upstaged at the 1:05 mark by a drainpipe. The tune itself is actually pretty catchy, but Terri sings it like someone at a karaoke bar trying to do a song she’s never heard before. At first glance, it’s a train wreck.

And yet…Jan Terri’s music sucks you in, and not just because it really is catchy. Like all great outsider music, there’s something pure and unaffected about it. Songs like “Losing You” and “Make It With You Babe” are such determined yet failed attempts to make slickly produced pop-rock that the failure itself becomes more compelling than actual slickly produced pop-rock.

Terri released two albums and a handful of videos on VHS tape in the early ’90s, but few people outside her hometown of Chicago knew about her until Marilyn Manson, of all people, became a fan. She opened for him in 1998 and appears in his God Is in the T.V. video collection. Soon after that, however, she stopped pursuing music to take care of her mother, who suffered from dementia and passed away in 2008. So when her videos started becoming viral hits on YouTube in the late ’00s, no one really knew what had become of her. She was even rumored to have died.

Instead, much to the delight of her growing fan base (and us here at TWBITW), Terri resurfaced in 2011 with new music and a holiday-themed video that showed she hadn’t lost her knack for kitschy YouTube fodder:

Since her comeback, Terri’s released another two albums’ worth of frozen-in-the-’80s pop anthems: The Wild One, a country-tinged effort with awesome cover art, and last year’s No Rules, which features some of her rockingest tunes to date. We’ll leave you with the video for the No Rules track “Skyrockets,” which was shot right here in L.A. (or, more specifically, “on location in Beverly Hills, Malibu & Hollywood”) and proves that, even after 20 years, Jan Terri is still, as I believe the kids like to say, unfuckwitable.

Links:

Dick4Dick

Dick4Dick

If memory serves me…and between advancing middle age and too much Jagermeister, it doesn’t serve me all that well…we’ve never added a band from Poland to The Weird List before. Well, this week, that’s finally gonna change. Meet Dick4Dick, the band you should in no way confuse with the gay porn site of the same name. By the way, this probably goes without saying, but if you’re at work, you probably shouldn’t click that link. Unless you work at a gay porn site, in which case…are they hiring?

Dick4Dick were introduced to us by a reader from Poland named U.Do. I thought everyone there was named stuff like Zbygnyrw and Wyrzcrskntz and other random combinations of consonants, but what do I know? Anyway, U.Do describes Dick4Dick like this:  “Known mainly for their performances – stage used to explode during their fetish, glam rocky and extremely funny shows. Most of their songs somehow paraphrases the old hits with a dirty twist.” Intrigued, we checked out the video U.Do sent our way and it was love at first stolen Sabbath hook:

Did you watch all the way to the 1:18 mark? If not, what is wrong with you? Go back and play the whole thing. We’ll wait.

Awesome, right? Why do they suddenly start singing about Chicago ghettos? Who knows? Like all the best weird music, it makes absolutely no sense and totally works, all at the same time. We were hooked.

With a little more digging, we learned that…well, actually, we learned almost nothing, because very little has been written about this band in English. Here’s what we do know: They’ve been around since 2004 and released four albums. At one time, they had five guys, but now they seem to be down to four: Baron Baye, M.Bunio.S, Goodboy Khris, and Great Adaggio. They haven’t released any new music since 2010, but M.Bunio.S and Goodboy Khris have a new electro-disco side project called Dickie Dreams Soundsystem that released some new music via SoundCloud about a year ago.

But details, shmetails. The main attraction here is D4D’s music videos, which are generally just as mind-blowing as “Drink My Kefir,” even when the music skews more towards not-so-mind-blowing ’80s-style power-pop. There’s more than a little Spinal Tap in these guys, or maybe Die Antwoord if Die Antwoord was more into Cheap Trick and Headbangers Ball than The Prodigy and Atlanta hip-hop. Check out the serious wind-machine rock-god posturing in this clip:

They’ve got loads more videos on YouTube, some just as weird, some just kinda odd in that “I guess they think this shit is cool in Poland” sort of way, like this one where the band plays slithery electro-pop in black hoodies in a park while the lead singer menacingly sips a glass of whiskey, and then a bunch of people collapse in crosswalks all over the city for no reason. (Actually that one has an fucking excellent ending, but I’m not gonna give it away here.)

But we’ll leave you with the clip that, based on everything we’ve seen so far, sums up Dick4Dick’s rock-star/goofball swag the best. It’s called “I know, you need my rocknroll” and after you watch it, you will also find yourself needing a really good pair of sweat-resistant wristbands.

Links:

The Polyphonic Spree


Good news in our inbox this week: The Polyphonic Spree are back! It’s been four years since we last heard from the world’s largest, most cult-like symphonic indie rock band and frankly, we’ve missed them. Well, I have. Jake thinks they sound like a bad combination of the Flaming Lips and Hair—to which I say,  how could any combination of those two things possibly be bad?

By now the Spree’s backstory is familiar to most: Started in Dallas in 2000 by lead singer Tim DeLaughter and his wife, Julie Doyle (who never gets any credit, but should—she manages the band, sings in the choir and co-writes much of their material with DeLaughter), the Polyphonic Spree rose from the ashes of DeLaughter’s previous band, Tripping Daisy, which broke up following the drug-related death of their guitarist, Wes Berggren. DeLaughter fell into a deep depression following his friend’s death, but worked his way out of that dark period in part by crafting the Spree’s euphoric, celebratory sound. He and Doyle also wanted to make something more epic and orchestral than a typical indie rock act—and to get the sound they wanted, the band’s membership eventually swelled to over 20 people. Then, as a final touch, DeLaughter decided to have everyone don white robes like some kind of hippie church choir.

These days, lots of bands do the whole cram-lotsa-people-onstage and have them run around playing cellos and glockenspiels and other instruments you don’t normally associate with a rock act. But the Spree stand out for a couple reasons. For one, they were really the first band in the modern era to do this sort of thing. Arcade Fire, Beirut, Edward Sharpe—none of them existed back in 2002 when the Polyphonic Spree released their first album, The Beginning Stages of…. Secondly, it’s hard to name another band, symphonic or otherwise, with an ouevre as specific as the Spree’s. Pretty much every track on their first two albums sounded like a cross between “Let the Sun Shine In” and the last three minutes of “Hey Jude.”

The Spree did go a bit darker for their third album, The Fragile Army—and they donned matching black, military-style uniforms for the promo photos and tour—but even that one ended with a feel-good rave-up called “The Championship.” Well, technically it was called “Section 32 (The Championship),” because all of their songs are “sections” of a complete, larger work.

(By the way, since we’re talking about the Spree in terms of their weirdness, I should also mention that one of their songs, “Section 10 (A Long Day),” is just 36 minutes of looped, processed vocal tones, like Philip Glass after one too many shroom caps. So there’s that.)

We’re still not sure what DeLaughter and company have in store for their next album, but they just released the album’s first single. Sort of. The song, “Bullseye,” is only available as part of an iPad app, which also features an interactive, animated video. You can see/hear a preview of the app and the song on the Polyphonic Spree website. Jake and I aren’t cool enough to own iPads yet, so if anyone downloads the app, please give us a report. It’ll set you back a mere $1.99.

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with my all-time favorite Polyphonic Spree moment. Needless to say, this is one of those bands that really has to be seen live to be fully appreciated—the sheer, overwhelming sonic assault of all those voices and instruments bashing away at DeLaughter’s happy-happy anthems is like a tent revival for hipsters. But as great as some of those anthems are, none of them tops the Spree’s insanely awesome cover of Nirvana’s “Lithium.” Kurt Cobain would have approved—yes, even the bit with the harp.

Links:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine