Can a GG Allin documentary be heartwarming? This one sure tries

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Before I watched GG Allin: All in the Family on Showtime this week, I was pretty sure that the world really didn’t need another documentary about punk rock’s most notorious jockstrap-wearing, poop-flinging dickhead. Todd Phillips’ Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies, released in 1993 just before his death, did a pretty comprehensive job of summing up everything that was both appalling and fascinating about GG Allin‘s transgressive behavior and confrontational live shows. He came, he saw, he sang a few songs, threw a few punches, pissed on the stage, went home and died of a heroin overdose. The end. Right?

Well, no. What makes GG Allin: All in the Family worth watching is that it focuses less on the megalomaniacal asshole behind such eternally offensive hardcore classics as “Bite It You Scum” and “Expose Yourself to Kids” and more on how his family and his band, the Murder Junkies, have dealt with his legacy. Along the way, you meet Allin’s sweet but prickly mother, Arleta; his brother, Merle, who played with GG in the Murder Junkies while he was alive and has kept the band limping along in the decades since his death; and the Murder Junkies’ longtime drummer, Donald “Dino” Sachs, who even more than Merle (who, let’s be honest, seems more interested in cashing in on his brother’s reputation than embodying it) might be the closest thing GG has a true acolyte, a guy who even into his fifties (sixties?) still plays naked and obligingly lets fans jam drumsticks up his ass at every show.

I realize it’s probably a stretch to call a movie that features drumstick ass-play (and plenty of footage of GG himself, naked, bloodied and picking fights with his fans) “heartwarming” — and many will probably find the inhabitants of Sami Saif’s film as dislikable as the man whose shit-smeared shadow looms over everything they do. But I found it hard not to be touched by how devoted, in spite of everything, these misfits remain to honoring their fallen son, brother and bandmate. Merle and Dino cycle through a revolving door of hapless lead singers who can never hope to replicated GG’s onstage antics, and trudge through gigs at shit-hole punk-rock clubs where half the crowd is there hoping to see a trainwreck, not a concert. Arleta guards GG’s grave in rural New Hampshire from marauding fans — until the church where he’s buried finally locks it away to prevent further desecrations. “You don’t want people coming from Canada to piss and shit all over your grave,” an exasperated Arleta declares at one point — which is a fair statement, even though it’s probably also fair of GG Allin fans to assume that pissing and shitting on their hero’s headstone is an appropriate way to pay their respects.

GG Allin: All in the Family was originally released in 2017 until the title The Allins; you can watch a trailer on the film’s original website. It now appears to be a Showtime exclusive, which means you need to be subscribed to their cable channels or their streaming app to view the whole thing. Watch it at your own risk. Until then, here’s Merle hyping its release from a year ago:

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Machida Machizo

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Our regular readers know by now that Japan produces way more than its fair share of weird music — so much so that some of the weirdest stuff remains virtually unknown to Anglo audiences. That’s certainly the case with the recorded works of punk singer, poet, novelist and cat-lover Kō Machida. When our good friend the mysterious Interweb Megalink sends us something and is like, “I don’t even know what the hell this is” — which is how we got introduced to Machida’s 1986 masterpiece, Doterai Yatsura — we are way off the outer fringes of the Roman alphabet internet.

Machida, whose real name is also sometimes transliterated as Kou Machida, got his start in 1978 in a punk band called Inu, which is a Japanese word for “Dog.” They released one album before breaking up about three years later, a fun but not particularly weird set of herky-jerky, Clash-like rave-ups called Meshi Kuuna!, which translates to something like, “Don’t Eat!” There’s also apparently a second album released after they broke up called Ushiwakamaru Nametottara Dotsuitaru Zo, but I haven’t been able to track down any of the music.

In fact, most of Machida’s catalog remains offline, or at least unfindable unless you’re able to search for it using Japanese characters. But his first solo album, 1986’s Doterai Yatsura (sometimes called Wild and Crazy Guys, though I can’t tell whether that’s an English translation of the Japanese title, or just based on the fact that cassette versions of the album said “Wild and Crazy Guys” in English on the cover), is a cult classic that’s been uploaded to YouTube in various forms over the years. I hardly ever post full album streams on this site because I know you’re all busy people with short attention spans, but I have to share all 36 minutes of Doterai Yatsura because it’s amazing.

Great, right? You can still hear Machida’s roots in angsty post-punk but he’s also experimenting with tape loops and analog synths, and it sounds like he’s drawing from No Wave, industrial, early video game music and maybe the noise experiments of The Residents and Hanatarash, Yamataka Eye’s notorious pre-Boredoms noise-rock group. There are bagpipes and harmonicas and tribal percussion freakouts (Cromagnon might be another influence) and weird spoken-word passages and looped sex noises. It’s surprising and disorienting in the best possible way — maybe less so if you’re fluent in Japanese, although Machida is apparently known for playing with language in ways can be cryptic even to native speakers and often impossible to translate. (One song title on Doterai Yatsura, for example, is usually translated as “Primitive Hitman” but more literally means “A Man Who Killed a Parakeet That Hit a Conga Drum”.)

Doterai Yatsura is all the more remarkable because as far as I’ve been able to tell, Machida never really recorded anything else like it. This track from his next release, a 1987 EP called Hona, Donaisee Iune, still has highly eccentric vocals, but musically it’s downright accessible compared to his previous work:

And I’m pretty sure this is a track from a 1992 album called Harafuri, credited to Machizo Machida and Kitazamagumi, which I believe was the name of his band at the time:

More recently, Machida appears to have morphed into a sort of Bowie/Bryan Ferry art-rocker; at least that’s certainly the vibe he’s channeling in this clip:

But these days, Machida is more famous in Japan as a novelist. His 2004 novel Punk Samurai Slash Down, set in Edo-era Japan but sprinkled with anachronistic language and modern cultural references, was recently adapted into a feature film that I hope will be coming to our shores soon because it appears to feature monkey warriors and big dance numbers and samurai armies battling to the strains of “Anarchy in the U.K.” Speaking of films, Machida has also starred in a few himself — most famously, a 1995 film called Endless Waltz in which he played a free jazz saxophonist. So yeah, he’s a true Renaissance man. And did I mention that he also loves cats?

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Charamel

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Recently, music biz veteran Eric Alper posted a tweet that read simply, “When you’re overqualified for the job,” and included a video featuring some person in a big red Japanese anime costume playing drums at what seems to be, judging from the music, some sort of children’s concert. (It’s hard to tell because the camera never leaves the drummer, but the music sounds like something you’d hear on the Japanese version of Barney & Friends.) Then, about 45 seconds into it, things take an unexpected turn. See for yourself:

Needless to say, we had to know more. Some commenters on Alper’s Twitter post (which has been retweeted over 70,000 times, as any Japanese anime character playing drums like Dave Lombardo rightly should be) said the character was part of a band called Charamel. Futher digging, with the help of Google translator and KnowYourMeme.com revealed that the character itself is called Nyango Star, and it’s been making the rounds for about three years, releasing drum cover videos like this insane pass at Japanese kawaii metal darlings Babymetal’s “Akatsuki.”

Nyango Star even has his/her/its own website, which includes an origin story that explains the character is a hybrid cat/apple — the reincarnated spirit of a dead cat buried in an apple orchard who was told by the spirit of an apple tree that only by going to Hollywood and becoming famous could it return to its original cat form. So it decided to become a famous drummer. See? It all makes perfect sense.

Somewhere along the way, Nyango Star teamed up with three other costumed characters to form the rock group Charamel. I could find almost no information about Charamel in English beyond their character names — besides Nyango, there’s Funassyi (the lead singer, who I think is supposed to be a canary, or a pear, or maybe a canary/pear hybrid), Akkuma (the guitar-playing bear) and Kapal (the bass-playing turtle). [Update: Our readers inform me that Kapal is definitely not a turtle but a “water goblin,” and Funassyi is a “pear fairy.” They’re also all examples of Japanese “yuru-chara” mascots, which are like American sports mascots except they tend to be cuter and more surreal and can represent anything from cities to corporations to public transit systems.] I think they formed sometime in early 2017 and debuted with this music video, which is probably my favorite thing to come out of Japan since the aforementioned Babymetal. (Give it about 23 seconds; much like Nyango Star’s drumming at the children’s show, it takes an extremely abrupt turn for the awesome.)

I’m sure we’ll learn more about Charamel very soon, as nothing from Japan this amazing stays under the radar for long. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this video of Charamel in concert — the sound quality sucks, but it’s worth watching just to see a glowstick-waving Japanese crowd go apeshit for this stuff. Also, Funassyi’s got some sick moves.

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Radioactive Chicken Heads get in the Halloween spirit with “Cluck at the Moon”

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Our favorite carrot-fronted, chicken-themed punk band, Radioactive Chicken Heads, are getting into the Halloween spirit early (or right on time, judging from how many aisles of candy and rubber skeletons took over my neighborhood drugstore this week). Their recently released video for “Cluck at the Moon” pays homage to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Ozzy Osbourne, and your favorite zero-budget B-movie splatter flick as it tells the tragic, horrifying tale of an innocent young carrot transformed by the light of the full moon into a bloodthirsty, teenaged werechicken. Watch.

“Cluck at the Moon” is from the Chicken Heads’ 2017 album Tales From the Coop, a mostly horror-themed collection of ska-tinged, spook-punk romps with titles like “Wiccan Chicken,” “Frankenchicken” and my personal favorite, “Poultrygeist.” (That’s one of those jokes that’s still great even when you see it coming from a mile away, right?) They even do a cover of “Somebody’s Watching Me” — remember that ’80s chestnut, by the instantly forgotten one-hit wonder Rockwell? It featured guest vocals by Michael and Jermaine Jackson, which makes no sense until you find out that Rockwell was the son of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy. Usually nepotism produces zero-hit wonders, but occasionally it pans out.

Anyway, we’re sure RCH’s fans will “gobble” this one up. Ha! No wait, that’s a turkey pun. We’ve never had much cluck with poultry puns. Or have we?!

 

The Verboden Boys

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Lots of punk bands go through members faster than they go through safety pins, but usually it takes them a decade or three to rack up truly impressive, Social Distortion-like numbers. The Verboden Boys, however, have amassed a small army of members in a much shorter span of time through a method far more intriguing than the usual drug overdoses and “creative differences”: They’re a franchise punk band, with chapters in cities all over the world.

Founded in 2015 by Dennis Tyfus, a Belgian artist, musician and head of punk label Ultra Eczema Records, and fellow musician Josh Plotkin, the original Verboden Boys chapter was based in Antwerp and, as far as I’ve been able to tell, played one gig — with Tyfus on “too loud vocals and synth” and Plotkin on drums — before breaking up. But fear not, for that one performance — all 14 minutes of it — lives on thanks to the Internet gateway to immortality that is YouTube.

Tyfus’ franchise concept behind Verboden Boys lives on, too — sort of.

Originally Tyfus laid down some ground rules each chapter had to follow: no songs longer than two minutes, all songs had to pull from the same list of titles (though beyond the titles, they could apparently sound like pretty much anything) and all chapters had to perform on the same day. Amazingly, he appears to have pulled off that last rule on May 18, 2015, the date of the Antwerp chapter’s first (and only?) performance. A Verboden Boys playlist on YouTube, put together by the Tapeways label, is full of performances by other Verboden Boys chapters apparently playing on that same day, mostly elsewhere around Antwerp (the Deune and Borgerhout chapters) but also in Melbourne, Montreal and, of all places, Easthampton, Massachusetts. I spent three years in grad school not far from Easthampton and I can assure you that even though the Pixies got their start in that corner of the world, it is one of the least punk-rock places you can imagine. So rock the fuck on, Easthampton chapter of The Verboden Boys. You’re like a punk-rock Alamo out there amidst the leafy splendor of rural New England.

Since 2015, there hasn’t been much activity in Verboden land — with one notable exception. Earlier this year, The Verboden Boys’ Belfast chapter released an album called Band From Reality (The Complete Demos) that takes the basic template of Tyfus’ original — shouty, over-driven synth-punk — and amps it up roughly 5,000 percent, until almost every track is just a few seconds of shrieked vocals, short-circuited synths, blast beats and random noise. The whole thing can be listened to in just over 17 minutes — or seven if you skip “Never Die,” the 10-minute closing track that’s basically an ambient, post-coital comedown from the violent ear-fucking of tracks like “Homeless With a Drum Machine” and “Nazi Synthesizer.” Among the things they’ve tagged it with on Bandcamp are “terrorcore” and “synthetic hypergrind,” both of which are pretty apt descriptors.

Verboden Boys (Belfast Chapter) were introduced to us by Chris Storey from Doggy Bag Records, the label that had the balls to unleash this stuff upon an unsuspecting populace. Even Storey wasn’t quite sure what had become of all the other chapters, but noted that, “to my knowledge, the Belfast chapter is the most unhinged.” We’d have to agree.

If you’re interested in starting a new Verboden Boys chapter of your own — well, you can probably just go ahead and do it. Asking permission isn’t very punk, now is it? But if you want to be all up-and-up about it, you could try sending a message to Dennis Tyfus via his label as ultraeczema@hotmail.com. Who knows? Maybe if enough new chapters spring into action, he’ll even revive the Antwerp original.

[Note: This post originally neglected to mention Josh Plotkin as co-creator of the Verboden Boys concept. Sorry, Josh!]

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Clown Core

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Last week, a video surfaced on YouTube of a band called Clown Core performing a song called “Hell” inside a porta-potty. It went viral in a matter of days, getting reposted by Adult Swim and written up on various metal sites, because it is awesome. Here, judge for yourself:

Did you catch all that? The horror movie synths, the industrial beats, the death metal vocals, the Kenny G interlude? Can you grasp the sheer, unadulterated genius of it all? Maybe you better watch it again just to make sure you didn’t miss anything. We’ll wait.

Although prior to last week, hardly anyone (including us) was aware that Clown Core existed, the duo has actually been around since at least 2010. That’s when they released their self-titled debut album, which features 13 similarly unhinged ditties with titles like “Diarrhea Inferno Welfare Burrito” and “I Ate a Luna Bar and My Dick Fell Off.” It’s available on Spotify and iTunes, where it’s listed under “Children’s Music.” What’s remarkable is how fully formed the whole Clown Core concept seems to have been, even back then. Mostly using just sax, keyboards and drums, the duo mix punk-rock, death metal, jazz and plenty of comic relief (the Benny Hill theme shows up at one point, and there’s also a death metal cover of “Deck the Halls”) to create a sort of cartoon version of Mike Patton-era Mr. Bungle by way of Moon Hooch. They’re clearly not taking any of it seriously, but they’re also clearly very good musicians — which just makes it all that much funnier.

“Hell” is from Clown Core’s just-released new album, which is called Toilet, presumably because these guys were smart enough to realize that Porta-Potty is a terrible album title. It’s an even nuttier, more tightly wound hodgepodge of abrasive sounds than their debut, with more dubstep-like synths and death metal vocals and song titles like “Google Your Own Death” and “The Area 51 Snack Bar Sucks.”

So far there are no clues as to who’s behind the clown masks. Aside from their two albums, their online presence is limited to a YouTube channel and a Twitter account that’s less than a month old (and already three times more followers than us — thanks a lot, Internet). [Update: They also have a Facebook page.] We’re not even sure where they’re from, although the fact that the Porta-potty in the “Hell” video has a SoCal Industries logo suggests that they’re based right here in Southern California. Maybe they’re a spinoff of our favorite local masked electro-punks, Fartbarf? Although last we checked, no one in Fartbarf plays sax. Maybe it’s a couple of the guys from Kneebody — the jazziest track on Toilet, “Truth and Life” (also, at 2:44, the longest), actually sounds kinda like Kneebody in places.

Ultimately, though, who cares who’s behind Clown Core? Let’s just enjoy the fact that while I was writing this post, they released a second video, this time for Toilet‘s skittering title track. It also takes place inside a SoCal Industries porta-potty — but this time, the porta-potty has moved! What does it mean??? (Also, trigger warning for anyone who was molested by a clown as a child.)

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Tartar Control

Tartar Control
This and header photo by Patty Courtland

This week’s weird band was a tough call. You see, Los Angeles is home to not one, but two punk bands that dress up like Mormon missionaries. The Mormons did it first, forming back in 1998, and they take the extra step of wearing bicycle helmets to really complete the standard Mormon missionary look. Tartar Control came along much more recently, so normally, we’d give the nod to The Mormons. But Tartar Control has a robot, and when calculating any band’s weirdness quotient, robots beat originality every time. Plus, Tartar Control’s music videos rule.

So congrats, Tartar Control! You are officially the weirdest Mormon punk band not only here in L.A., but possibly anywhere in the world. Joseph Smith would be proud.

Tartar Control’s two human members, Sean and Robert, claim to be actual Mormons from Salt Lake City, who were sent to do their church mission in South Central Los Angeles. When and how they acquired their bassist/drummer robot, Robot, remains something of a mystery, unless you know how to read binary code.

Sean and Robert started out singing in the church choir, but somewhere along the way, they developed a taste for punk rock. They first caught our attention with the video for “Diabolical,” which is a delightful 83 seconds of gore, mayhem and goat-fucking:

Then we found the video for “Jesus Is Love,” which shows the band wreaking havoc in their native habitat, Anaheim punk club the Doll Hut:

Those songs are both from Tartar Control’s first album, 2012’s Holy Crap, as is their most recent video, “Smoking Crack,” which came out last year. We assume, since they’re Mormons and all, that “Smoking Crack” is a cautionary tale. Normally, I’m sure Robert, Sean and Robot all Just Say No.

Late last year, Tartar Control released their second album, We Forgive You. So far they haven’t made any videos for it, but they did release this fun little album teaser:

We haven’t had a chance to listen to all of We Forgive You yet, but so far, our favorite track by far is “My God’s Cock.” I didn’t know Mormons were so into talking about the magical powers of the Good Lord’s schlong, but they do wear magical underwear, so I guess crotch-related magic is a theme with them.

We’ll leave you with one of Tartar Control’s many helpful public service announcement songs (along with “Cramps Don’t Mean You’re Pregnant” and “Satanists Are Fucking Dicks”): “Brush Your Teeth.” Cleanliness is next to Godliness, kids, so brushing your teeth is like putting a little Jesus in your mouth.

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