Weird of the Day: ZX Electric, “Altered States”

ZX Electric

A gentleman by the name of John Wedge dropped a band from Liverpool called ZX Electric into our inbox over the weekend, and we’re definitely intrigued by their lo-fi, retro sound and especially the strangled, haunted voice of their lead singer, Ben Mawdsley. They have two albums up on Bandcamp called Obsolete (posted May 2013) and Fixed Unknown (posted January 2014). At first, because of the music’s sparse, no wave vibe and squiggly, analog synths, we thought they might be reissues—especially when we found one of the band’s YouTube videos and it was tagged “rare post punk obscure 1981.” But we’re pretty sure they’re contemporary.

Here’s a track from Fixed Unknown, “Altered States.” To quote Julian Cope, who’s a fan: “Kiddies, this artist deploys enormous emptiness as part of his major musical arsenal, occasionally tearing at the heartstrings with hoary chord sequences and anguished vocals so appallingly pained that, veritably, it maketh me want to rend my own garments.” What he said!

You can hear more of ZX Electric’s desolate ditties on Bandcamp.

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“Devo Hardcore Live!” is coming via PledgeMusic

DEVO

Remember when we told you about how awesome the Hardcore DEVO tour was? Still bummed that you missed it? Or you went, but you just can’t get enough “Bamboo Bimbo” and “Clockout”? Well, good news: DEVO documented one of the shows on the tour and is gearing up to release the whole thing in a variety of formats via MVD Entertainment and the crowdfunding site PledgeMusic.

For as little as $10, you can get a digital download of Devo Hardcore Live!—or you can spring for a little extra and get the soundtrack on CD or vinyl, as well as the film itself on DVD or Blu Ray. There are also goodies like signed T-shirts, concert posters and set lists. The trailer for the film posted on the PledgeMusic site looks pretty sharp, so this should be a great memento for you hardcore Devo-tees out there.

The campaign is already nearly 50% funded (PledgeMusic doesn’t reveal total dollar amounts), but don’t think of this as a donation. It’s more like a glorified pre-order.

We’ll leave you with a more lo-fi glimpse of the Hardcore DEVO tour. This is “Jocko Homo,” from the Seattle stop of the tour, just a few days before they filmed the whole thing in Oakland. Yep, still pretty weird after all these years.

Weird of the Day: Le Singe Blanc, “Gru”

Le Singe Blanc

How many weird bands are there in France, anyway? It’s like half the population over there traded in their Serge Gainsbourg records for some Captain Beefheart and Mr. Bungle. Yesterday a French reader named Laurent sent us yet another list of weird French bands, and yet again, we’d never heard of half of them. If you guys keep this up, we may need to open up a satellite office in Paris. You know, with our millions of blog dollars.

Anyway, among the many excellent bands Laurent suggested we check out is an experimental rock trio from Metz called Le Singe Blanc, which is apparently French for “The White Monkey.” They kind of sound like what might happen if a post-punk/math-rock band was started by a bunch of Muppets. Here’s the video for their song “Gru,” which you should really not watch if you love birds.

You can hear more of Le Singe Blanc on Bandcamp and Amazon.

DEVO announces 10-city “Hardcore DEVO Live” tour honoring Bob Casale

DEVO circa 1977
DEVO, pre-Energy Domes

Exciting news for hardcore DEVO fans: The pioneers of devolved rock have just announced a 10-city tour that will focus on their early, experimental, pre-Are We Not Men?-era music. They’re calling it, appropriately enough, the “Hardcore DEVO Live” tour and dedicating to the memory of Robert “Bob 2” Casale, who passed away earlier this year. A portion of the tour profits will even go towards Bob 2’s family—so come prepared to load up on DEVO merch.

Tickets for the tour (full dates below) go on sale in most cities tomorrow (Friday, Apr. 4th). It looks like they might be releasing pricier VIP tickets first, but they could be worth the $100+ price tag; they’ll get you a meet-and-greet with the band and first crack at the merch, which promises to include some limited-edition photo prints from the band’s 1974-1977 period. For ticket purchasing links and other details, hit up ClubDevo.com.

Given the tour’s ’74-’77 time frame, the set list should include all sort of lost nuggets and rarities—including, hopefully, this one:

Here are the Hardcore DEVO Live dates. Hope to see y’all at the L.A. show!

June 18 – Baltimore, MD – Rams Head
June 19 – NYC – Best Buy Theater
June 21 – St. Charles, IL – Arcada Theatre
June 23 – Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall
June 25 – Seattle, WA – Neptune
June 26 – Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom
June 28 – Oakland, CA – Fox Theatre
June 29 – Los Angeles, CA – Wiltern Theatre
June 30 – Solana Beach, CA – Belly Up
July 2 – Austin, TX – ACL/Moody Theatre

 

R.I.P. Bob Casale, DEVO guitarist

Bob Casale

Anyone who reads this blog probably knows this by now, but we lost another member of DEVO this week. Bob Casale, one of the band’s founding members, died Monday of heart failure at the age of 61. His death comes less than a year after former DEVO drummer Alan Myers died of cancer. Yeah, it’s been a rough couple of years for DEVO and their fans.

Casale played guitar and keyboards and was known as “Bob2” because guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh was “Bob1.” Here’s what his brother, DEVO co-founder Gerald Casale, said about Bob2 on the band’s website:

As an original member of Devo, Bob Casale was there in the trenches with me from the beginning.

He was my level-headed brother, a solid performer and talented audio engineer, always giving more than he got.

He was excited about the possibility of Mark Mothersbaugh allowing Devo to play shows again.

His sudden death from conditions that lead to heart failure came as a total shock to us all.

Added DEVO frontman Mark Mothersbaugh:

We are shocked and saddened by Bob Casale’s passing. He not only was integral in DEVO’s sound, he worked over twenty years at Mutato, collaborating with me on sixty or seventy films and television shows, not to mention countless commercials and many video games.

Bob was instrumental in creating the sound of projects as varied as Rugrats and Wes Anderson’s films. He was a great friend. I will miss him greatly.

I know we’re usually a bunch of snarky snarkheads on this blog, but not this week. Our hearts go out to everyone in the DEVO family.

Let’s play this post our with some live DEVO circa 1979. It really sucks that two of the five guys in this clip are no longer with us.

Flaming Lips reveal their punk roots on previously unreleased 1983 demo

FlamingLips1983

If you left any Flaming Lips fans off your Christmas list, there’s still time to get them a cool stocking stuffer: a blue seven-inch vinyl release of the band’s second demo from way back in 1983, when they were just another scruffy post-punk college-rock band with a shouty lead singer (Wayne Coyne’s brother Mark, who left the group in 1985). The untitled four-song demo was originally recorded on cassette tape and has never been previously released to the public. Only 2,000 copies of the blue vinyl were released, all on Dec. 24th to independent record stores. Our friends over at The Future Heart have diligently assembled a list, via Twitter, of which stores still had copies left as of yesterday. There are also apparently still some copies of the Lips’ first EP floating around green vinyl, as well.

Wanna listen before you buy? Of course you do. It’s an on-demand world. So here, feast your ears on what the press release aptly describes as the Lips’ early “primitive shambolic drug-damaged punk-pop.” These first two tracks are called “The Flaming Lips Theme Song 1983” and “The Future Is Gone”:

And here’s “Underground Pharmacist” and “Real Fast Words.” Dig that walking bassline from Michael Ivins.

Lucrate Milk

Lucrate Milk
Artwork lifted from a rare live cassette featured on this site

This week’s weird band was one of many we’re still sifting through from an aptly named reader called Sick Nick. Thanks for all the suggestions, Nick! Clearly, you’re a sick man, indeed.

Lucrate Milk was a French punk/No Wave band active from about 1979 to 1984. They’re often compared to other bands of the era like The Slits and X-Ray Spex, mostly because they featured a saxophone and aggro female vocals. But their twisted, dadaist take on punk rock was really like nothing else before or since.

The band was started by a pair of underground artists named Lombrick Laul and Tomas Huser (aka “Masto Lowcost”), who borrowed their name from their day jobs as milk delivery men. Adding a drummer named Raoul Gaboni, an American-born keyboardist named Nina Childress and, briefly, a vocalist called Helno, they began by playing various punk squats around the seedier parts of Paris and stenciling their name all over town. According to band legend, they forced one another to play their least favorite instruments—with Laul picking up the bass and Masto taking on the saxophone, which he did indeed tend to play like he was awkwardly handling a cumbersome foreign object. Presumably because it was everyone’s favorite, nobody played guitar.

Lucrate Milk live shows were noisy and highly theatrical affairs, often featuring bizarre homemade costumes and highlighted by Childress’ spastic stage presence—she took over vocal duties when Helno left pretty early on. Here’s a clip from one of their last shows in February of 1984, rescued from the dustbin of punk-rock history by the miracle that is YouTube:

Laul and Masto Lowcost designed all of the band’s graphics and videos, most of which were not music videos per se but just used as projections during the band’s live shows. Sadly, most of these are not available online, or maybe anywhere, but a few shreds of their video output still exist. In particular, there’s a 2006 DVD that was released as part of a compilation of their music, and it seems to contain a few classic Lucrate Milk clips (though we haven’t had a chance to see it) as well as newer visual interpretations of their stuff like this one. The DVD’s not widely available, but this site appears to still have it in stock.

After Lucrate Milk called it quits, Laul and Masto went on to work with another, more popular French punk band called Bérurier Noir, who were sort of a cross between Lucrate Milk, Black Flag and DEVO. Nina Childress became a successful painter, and poor ol’ Helno died of a heroin overdose after briefly fronting this band. Yeah, there was a lot of weird music in France in the ’80s.

We’ll leave you with the greatest surviving piece of Lucrate Milk eye candy, the fantastically twisted “Nepla Relou,” which sounds like The Residents and X-Ray Spex trapped under a collapsed circus tent and looks like a Troma movie directed by Johnny Rotten. Oh, and we’ll add this quote from another website, which sums up Lucrate Milk’s music better than we ever could: “It’s absurd, short, violent, brilliant and funny, like your mate puking on himself.” Yep. It’s exactly like that.

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