The Zambonis

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Full disclosure: I have never liked hockey. Maybe it’s because I grew up in upstate New York, where hockey was rammed down every boy’s throat like a puck made of broken teeth and bruises. And yeah, okay, I was forced to play in the Squirt and Pee Wee leagues, and I sucked. So that may have something to do with it.

But The Zambonis are almost great enough to make me a hockey fan. Almost.

Started way back in 1991 in Connecticut (R.I.P., Whalers), The Zambonis are the world’s only hockey-themed rock band. Now you might think this is a somewhat limited genre to work within, and frankly, you’d be right. But somehow, against all odds, these dudes are getting ready to release their sixth—sixth!—album, Five Minute Major (In D Minor), on Feb. 14th. Just in time for Valentine’s Day! Because nothing says romance better than songs like “I Got a Concussion (When I Fell for You).”

The Zambonis have built up a pretty decent following among puckheads over the years. They’ve played the NHL All-Star Game twice, written a theme song for the Boston Bruins (“To Bleed Black and Gold”) and even got their song “Hockey Monkey” used as the theme music for The Loop, a short-lived Fox sitcom. The illustrious Jonathan Richman once called them “a beach party on ice.” We like to think of them more as Weezer with mouthguards. They don’t take themselves or their music too seriously (how could they, really?), but most of it is catchy as all get-out.

Side note: Founding Zamboni Dave Schneider is something of a specialist in the art of Extremely Specific Rock Bands. He’s also the co-creator (with Adam Gardner of Guster) of The LeeVees, a band that only writes songs about Hanukkah. And no, it’s not actually all that weird to be both Jewish and into hockey.

Second side note: Believe it or not, the makers of the Zamboni® ice resurfacers actually sent a cease and desist to The Zambonis in 1998. After some legal wrangling, Zamboni® finally let The Zambonis license the name—and, we sincerely hope, granted their wish and finally let them drive an actual Zamboni.

Now, if you’re not already sick of all this hockey talk, why don’t you watch The Zambonis’ latest video, “I’m a Puck.” It’s got a cool sort of NRBQ/Brian Setzer/rockabilly vibe that we’re digging. Maybe it’s…puckabilly? (Ouch. Feel free to cross-check me into the boards for that one.)

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Naked & Shameless

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Greetings, weirdlings. Once again, your votes have landed another band on our carefully tended Weird List. So pat yourselves on the back and give it up for Naked & Shameless, the undisputed punk kings of acoustic kitsch rock! (It says so, right on their website.)

We first learned about these roaring drunks right from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Buck F. Naked (BFN, to his friends) wrote to us and proposed that we blog about him and his partner, Dave Shameless, and their “brand of Good Times and Strange Salvation.” After a little spirited back and forth on the relative merits of Buck’s band and our website, we finally agreed to a truce and decided to give our readers (or Naked & Shameless’s fans, who—let’s not kid ourselves here—probably outnumber our readers) to vote on whether N&S were weird enough for us. Over 90% of you said, “Hell yes.” So here we are.

Now at first glance, Naked and Shameless might not seem all that weird. They play stripped-down rockabilly-influenced rock (“drunkabilly,” they call it—catchy!), wear Hollywood cowboy hats and Elvis shades, and sing wacky Mojo Nixon-ish songs about what one song neatly sums up as the “Four Food Groups”: caffiene, nicotine, alcohol and pussy. (Mostly alcohol.) Every rockabilly bar in America probably has a house band like this, right?

But it’s at their live shows (or so we hear—haven’t made it out to one ourselves yet) that N&S really bring on the weirdness. There are inflatable bananas. There’s vomit. There’s “pan-substance wrestling,” which apparently consists of Buck finding willing young things in the audience and tussling with them in vats of mud, beer, BBQ sauce or whatever else is handy. Buck’s also been known to drink everything behind the bar, including the cleaning supplies. So there’s a little G.G. Allin in these guys, too…if G.G. were more of a happy drunk and less of a violent, drug-fueled psychopath.

Oh, and then there’s this: Buck married beer. No, really. There was a ceremony with its own website and everything. And by all accounts, their union is still a happy one. So kudos to you, Buck and beer! Turns out some things in this world were meant to last.

Anyhow, here’s a video of Buck’s “I drink everything” stunt, which we really hope is either a clever deception or not something he does much anymore. That can’t be good for the stomach lining. Also, what would beer say? Probably, it’d call you an unfaithful bastard, Buck. And rightly so!

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The Legendary Stardust Cowboy


Today’s weirdo was suggested to us by a fellow named Bunche, who has a nifty little blog called The Vault of Buncheness that we highly recommend checking out. He mostly seems to write about movies and comic books (and was apparently once on the staff at Marvel Comics—we’re not worthy!), but he’s also a connoisseur of weird music, and suggested we get better acquainted with a dude called The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, whom he calls a “phantom genius who unfairly hovers deep in the outskirts of musical limbo while other far less trailblazing country stylists such as Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, Sr. have gained immortality.” Holy crap, Bunche! Calm down already. You convinced us.

The Legendary Stardust Cowboy—or “The Ledge,” as he likes to call himself—is the stage name of one Norman Carl Odam, an early rockabilly performer from Lubbock, Texas whose greatest (well, okay, only) claim to fame was a 1968 novelty hit called “Paralyzed.” Clocking in at roughly two and a half minutes, the song is basically just one long proto-psychobilly freakout, with The Ledge wailing and yodeling incoherently over one frantically strummed chord and some frenzied drumming (played, oddly enough, by T-Bone “I somehow survived this to go on and produce the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack” Burnett), punctuated by what we’ll call, for lack of a better term, a bugle solo. It makes the Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” sound like a Puccini aria by comparison.

By his own account, The Ledge cooked up “Paralyzed” because he wanted to write “a wild song that would captivate everybody.” Improbably enough, it worked. The song got Odam a recording contract with Mercury Records, landed him on Laugh-In (which was a very big deal in 1968), and even attracted the attention of a young British singer named David Bowie, who later created a character named Ziggy Stardust as a nod to The Ledge. This part sounds made-up, we know, but it’s really true. There’s a widely circulated photo of Bowie and The Ledge together from around 2002, when Bowie covered another Odam song, “I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship,” for his Heathen album. They’re buds.

Unfortunately for The Ledge, he would never be able to repeat the success of “Paralyzed.” But that sure as hell hasn’t stopped him from trying. Odam continues to record and perform to this day—mostly, it seems, for people who are just interested in making fun of him, but he soldiers in with the cheerful demeanor of someone who’s either batshit crazy or has achieved some Zen-like level of enlightenment the rest of us poor suckers can’t even conceive of. It’s probably a bit of both.

We’ll leave you with one of The Legendary Stardust Cowboy’s most famous clips. This is from a performance of “Paralyzed” that was done for an Australian variety show called Hey Hey It’s Saturday. The image quality is atrocious but fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), the sound is pretty top-notch. If The Ledge were actually forming words, you could almost make out what he was yelling.

The Baseballs

The world is full of gimmicky cover bands, and we suppose The Baseballs aren’t really all that different. But their gimmick is a pretty great one: Take the mainstreamiest of mainstream pop hits of the past few years and do them up greaser/rockabilly style, complete with Elvis-style hiccuppy vocals, upright bass and doo-wop harmonies. Add to all this the fact that they’re from Germany and bring a certain Teutonic stiffness to the whole thing, and you have the recipe for a fairly surreal but occasionally awesome listening experience.

The Baseballs have apparently been big in Europe for a couple years now, where their cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella”–the best thing they’ve ever done, as far as we can tell–was a huge hit all over the continent. They’re just now starting to crack the UK and no doubt have their sights set on America next. Will U.S. audiences embrace a bunch of German dudes–named Sam, Digger, and Basti, we might add–who look and sound kinda like Sha Na Na and do really earnest versions of Snow Patrol and Katy Perry songs? Your guess is as good as ours. But we will boldly predict right now that they’ll probably make a cameo appearance on the next season of American Idol. The producers of that sinking battleship eat this kind of kitschy shit up with both hands.

The Baseballs’ original videos, which are all shot to look like grainy ’50s newsreel footage, are kind of entertaining, but they pale in comparison to the many clips floating around YouTube of the group’s appearances on various European TV shows. To give just one example: The Finnish version of Big Brother chose to have the band perform inside a glass box. Why? Were the producers afraid those Finnish Big Brother kids would rip Sam, Digger and Basti limb from limb in a rockabilly-induced frenzy? We’ll never know.

As great as that Big Brother clip is, to really get an idea of the Hasselhoffian awesomeness of these guys, we prefer this video that’s apparently taken from some Scandinavian version of Top of the Pops. (The Baseballs are huge in Scandinavia. In fact, you might say they should change their name up there to The Softballs. Boom! Sorry, we might be a little drunk right now.) The music is so inauthentic to begin with that somehow, the lip-syncing totally works.

Side note: The Baseballs call their sound “voc ‘n’ roll.” Suddenly, our Softball joke doesn’t sound so lame, does it?

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Mojo Nixon

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mojonixon

We’re kind of late to the party on this one, but as most of his fans probably know by now, Mojo muthaufuckin Nixon is back, baby! Mr. Bo-Day-Shuss hisself got some attention a few weeks ago when he announced that he’s be making his entire catalog available for free download on Amazon.com, and even more attention this week when it was revealed that Amazon users have downloaded over one million Mojo Nixon songs. So suck it, Radiohead!

Obviously, this is all great news, because Mojo Nixon is without doubt one of the great underated artists of the eighties…or any era, for that matter. His loopy rockabilly songs celebrate and poke well-deserved fun at all the pop culture trash that makes America great, everything from MTV VJs (“Stuffin Marthas Muffin”) to Elvis (“Elvis Is Everywhere”) to the Eagles (“Don Henley Must Die”) to Debbie Gibson (“Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child”). He’s even got a new album out called Whiskey Rebellion that goes after Dr. Laura and Judge Judy. Clearly, this man has a television and he’s not afraid to use it.

Musically, Nixon isn’t all that weird…he’s just a satirist with an Elvis fixation…but the decision to make his entire catalog available for free makes him deserving of a shout-out on TWBITW, we think. Here’s what the man himself said about his million downloads feat:

“Great googley moogley. I’m almost speechless. A million Mojo songs stirring up trouble across this great land. I’m a cult artist and apparently I’ve grown the cult and made the cult happy. A little blast of joy in these dark and desperate times. A retired lunatic with no Facebook, no Twitter, no MySpace or tour. Not even an e-mail list. Never underestimate the power of the Mojosity. The true sound of the American nutjob is forever. You can’t kill rock ‘n roll. The question is–did I lose a million dollars or gain a million fans?”

The free download part is supposedly gonna end any day now, so get your ass over to Amazon.com and start downloading. Meanwhile, here’s a little reminder of why it’s Mojo Nixon’s world, we just live in it. (And yes, that’s Winona Ryder.)

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