Puddles Pity Party

Puddles Pity Party

Do clowns freak you out a little? Yeah, me too. Which is why seeing Puddles Pity Party, starring a hulking, unspeaking clown named Puddles, definitely made me uneasy. But I powered through. I’m just glad I wasn’t one of the several audience members he tormented throughout the show—including one guy in particular who was clearly freaked out by clowns. Man, Puddles really went for the jugular with that poor bastard. He’s like a cat who picks out the most allergic person in the room and curls up in their lap, purring happily.

Puddles is the creation of a six-foot-eight singer from Atlanta named Michael Geier, who used to be part of an all-clown band called Greasepaint. When Greasepaint went their separate ways, he took Puddles solo, rebranding himself as the “Sad Clown With the Golden Voice,” singing covers of pop songs in a mock-operatic style that contrasted sharply with his white facepaint and hulking frame. His most famous song is a cover of Lorde’s “Royals” that you’ve probably seen by now:

But that track just scratches the surface of Puddles’ repertoire. He also does a mean Leonard Cohen:

And here, perhaps most impressively, he mashes up Celine Dion and Metallica:

That’s his assistant, Monkey Zuma, in that last video. For some reason, when I saw Puddles here in L.A. at the Troubadour, Zuma was not in attendance. Maybe she got sick of being paid in bananas.

Anyway, if you’re not too scared of clowns, I highly recommend treating yourself to the epic sing-a-thon that is Puddles Pity Party. Just be warned: This is one clown that likes to get into the faces of his audience. Especially the ones who look like they might be scared of clowns.



Maywa Denki

Novumichi Tosa of Maywa Denki

We’re cheating a bit with this week’s “band,” which is really more of a multimedia art project. But music is an integral part of the Japanese “art unit” Maywa Denki, so we’re giving them a pass.

Maywa Denki specializes in creating what co-founder Novumichi Tosa calls “nonsense machines”: mechanical objects that may or may not serve some useful purpose, but achieve that purpose in absurd or impractical ways. Their most famous creation, which Novumichi is brandishing in the above photo, is a note-shaped musical instrument called an otamatone, a made-up Japanese word that sounds (intentionally, we presume) quite a bit like “automaton.” You play the otamatone by sliding one finger up and down the instrument’s neck to hit specific notes, while squeezing the instrument’s “mouth” to control volume, tone and pitch. They come in various sizes and, in the right hands, can be made to produce all sorts of different (but always vaguely silly) sounds:

Maywa Denki has mass-produced some smaller versions of the otamatone, which has helped spread its popularity and led to some pretty great YouTube videos by other musicians. But the otamatone is just the tip of the nonsense machine iceberg. Maywa Denki has an entire product line called Tsukuba dedicated to ridiculously elaborate (but, usually, easy to play) musical instruments, like a set of six guitars played via a pedal organ and a “rhythm-making machine” that’s basically just a series of on/off switches attached to a turntable, all of which can be worn like a keytar.

Most of Maywa Denki’s larger instruments haven’t been mass produced, for obvious reasons, but Novumichi and his brother, Masamichi, occasionally take their nonsense machines out for concerts—or, as they like to call them, “product demonstrations.” Dressed in DEVO-like matching blue jumpsuits, the Tosa brothers and their assistants put a dizzying array of different machines through their paces in the service of creating music that is, surprisingly, pretty catchy and accessible. Videos don’t quite do the whole spectacle justice, but this Slovenian clip is one of the better ones we could find:

More recently, Maywa Denki have launched their own fashion line, Meewee Dinkee. Naturally, they produced an indecipherably bizarre video to promote it:

Sadly, most of the coolest pieces in the fashion line are already sold out. But we have no doubt the brothers Tosa are already hard at work on their next art “products.”

Our thanks to reader Frederick for posting the Meewee Dinkee video on our Submit a Band page and sending us plunging down the Maywa Denki rabbit hole. We’d like to dedicate this otamatone video to you, sir!


OK, the guest list for Flaming Lips’ “Sgt. Pepper” tribute album is pretty great

Flaming Lips

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”


Weird of the Day: Dustin and Takako, “She He See Feel”

Dustin Wong and Takako Minekawa
Photo by Hiromi Shinada

Baltimore guitarist Dustin Wong hasn’t gotten any less prolific or weird since his band Ponytail disbanded in 2011. After releasing several intriguing solo albums, Wong has now joined forces with Japanese singer Takako Minekawa to push his experiments into something resembling pop music, if pop music was a delicate vase just begging to be shattered into a million pieces.

The duo’s debut album, Savage Imagination, is due out next month on Thrill Jockey. For a taste, check out this video for the track “She He See Feel,” which features a diorama Dustin and Takako created for the album cover and some rubber-limbed dance moves.

You can pre-order Savage Imagination via the Thrill Jockey website.

Weird of the Day: John Callaghan, “This Is So Embarrassing”

John Callaghan

When our friend Richard There played a few shows in the U.K. two years ago, one of the performers he was on the bill with was a British singer/songwriter named John Callaghan. I guess he turned John onto our website, because yesterday John wrote to us and shared a few of his delightfully eccentric videos, including his latest one, which we’ve embedded below.

“I’ve been described as ‘weird’ quite a bit,” Callaghan says in his email. “I certainly don’t take being weird as my starting point. I’ve always simply tried to be interesting and good because ‘being good is different enough.'” He calls his stuff “eccentronica,” which is our new favorite made-up word.

Callaghan’s songs, while certainly offbeat, also have an appealing retro-pop quality to them; in different arrangements, they could be Thomas Dolby or ’80s-era Bowie. And his videos are often quite ingenious. Here’s the backstory for how he created this one:

Whenever I’m in a large, empty and private space I always think I should record a music video. And I’ve been trying to overcome my inertia by producing more material, too. So when I had an art college studio to myself for an hour (after posing for a life drawing class) I used the costumes I’d brought to pose in and my tablet to record some footage to toy with.

To learn more about John Callaghan and hear more of his music, visit his website.

Heiter bis Wolkig

Heiter bis Wolkig

Meet our latest poll winners: Heiter bis Wolkig, self-described purveyors of “weird German cabaret bullshit.” And when it’s German bullshit, you better bring a plunger. That sausage and sauerkraut diet is murder on the ol’ gut pipes, if you catch my drift.

Anyway, we actually don’t know much about these guys, because they didn’t tell us much and nearly everything that’s been written online about them is in German. But hey, Google Translator to the rescue!

Apparently, Heiter bis Wolkig started way back in the ’80s as some kind of college theater art prank. A bunch of schoolmates from Cologne started making parody songs as part of a cabaret night and I guess things kinda just snowballed from there. They even had a sorta-hit in 1992 with a song called “Hey Rote Zora,” a parody of “Here Comes Pippi Longstocking.” If you speak German, I guess it’s fucking hysterical… although even for us non-Germans, the part where it turns into a snot-punk rave-up is pretty fun stuff.

In case you’re wondering, Heiter bis Wolkig either means “Partly Sunny” or “Partly Cloudy” or possibly both those things, because Germans are complicated.

Back in the day, Heiter bis Wolkig was a whole gang, but only two of them, Marco and Micha, have been crazy enough to keep at it into their forties. God bless ’em, right? Seems like they revived Heiter bis Wolkig in 2012 after a long hiatus with a couple of releases: a “maxi-CD” called Pop Ma$$akker and a single called “Generation D.” No, I don’t know what a maxi-CD is, either. It’s either a CD that doubles as a tampon or it’s what we Americans call an EP or “extended play” release.

Anyway, Heiter bis Wolkig’s new stuff is still super-satirical, but it covers more ground genre-wise. Here they are making fun Lady Gaga-style electro-pop, while running around London in fat suits because I have no idea why:

Actually, maybe “satirical” isn’t the right word for lyrics like “Stupid Gaga music for fucking silly skanks.” How about we just call it put-down pop? That’s catchy, right?

Here they are making fun of pop-punk. Yeah, they’re shooting fish in barrels here, but there’s something ever so slightly off about the whole thing that makes it just downright delightful. Also, they throw in a “fucking motherfucker” madrigal interlude, just cuz. And they’re wearing white jumpsuits that say “ZOMBIEPROOF” on them. Because fans of pop-punk are a bunch of fucking zombies, I guess? I dunno, the fact that half of it makes no sense at all is what makes it work.

And finally, here’s the German version of their Lady Gaga parody, which honestly works even better than the English version. Side note: Back in my skate-punk days, I totally used to own that baseball cap.

So anyway, congrats on winning our poll, Heiter bis Wolkig! We look forward to you shitting on other forms of music us Americans love soon. Maybe dubstep? Dubstep is always a good target.


Weird of the Day: Mongolian Nazi pop

O. Ankhaa

OK, this is one of the most batshit things we’ve posed in a long time, and you regular readers know I don’t make such claims lightly. Yesterday we were reading on Dangerous Minds (yeah, we spend way too much time on that blog) about a thing called “Asian Hitler chic,” where kids in Japan, Thailand and other parts of Asia dress up in Nazi garb because I guess they think it looks cool and because, hopefully, they have no idea that the Third Reich was one of the most evil, racist, genocidal empires in all of human history.

Anyway, the whole article is pretty mind-blowing, but for our purposes, the most mind-blowing part came at the end, when the author posted up this Mongolian music video of a dude crooning jazzy pop while dressed in full Gestapo drag, surrounded by swastika banners and comely video vixens. Wait for the part where it suddenly goes into some kind of digital hardcore breakdown and then a fucking Carpenters sample. It’s bonkers.

We tried really hard to dig up more info on the star of this thing, but so far we’ve come up empty. His name seems to be O. Ankhaa and the song is called “Gulug,” but that’s about as far as we’ve gotten. If anyone knows anything else about him, please share.