Laibach’s “The Lonely Goatherd” video is creepy. And charming. But mostly creepy.

laibach-sound-of-music

Slovenian art-rockers Laibach have long possessed an uncanny ability to take even the most well-worn songs and make them sound unfamiliar and more than a little creepy, from “In the Army Now” to “Jesus Christ Superstar.” But they’ve really outdone themselves with their recent reinvention of The Sound of Music.

After releasing videos of their oddly affecting interpretations of the title track and “My Favorite Things,” they recently dropped the project’s third and most bizarre video yet, for their mournful take on “The Lonely Goatherd.” In the clip, which features guest vocalist Boris Benko alongside Laibach’s gravel-voiced frontman, Milan Fras, Fras plays shepherd to a flock of dancing young girls in kneesocks as Benko looks on through a pair of binoculars in his alpineer’s tweed jacket and hiking boots, shotgun ominously slung over one shoulder. It’s all very voyeuristic and vaguely pedophiliac until Fras and Benko suddenly break out their own awkwardly charming dance moves near the video’s end. Fras even yodels, if you can call anything he does with his graveyard rasp yodeling. So maybe it’s all good, innocent fun. Unless it isn’t.

For more on Laibach’s The Sound of Music, read our last post about it or visit the website of their label, Mute Records.

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The Tiger Lillies

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(Photo by Regis Hertrich)

This week’s weird band was suggested by a reader named Thomas, aka Dr. Benway, whose profile on deviantART.com is really cool but also makes us hope we never run into him in a dark alley. Fortunately, he lives in South Africa, so we’re probably safe.

Thomas recommended that we check out the Tiger Lillies, a London trio who have been doing the whole Brechtian punk cabaret thing since before the Dresden Dolls were even a gleam in Amanda Palmer’s heavily mascara’d eye. Truly, these guys are pioneers, and they don’t really get the credit they deserve, probably because they’re morbid and British and the lead singer is a chubby guy in whiteface who plays the accordion and sings in a castrati-style falsetto. They’re too scary for the old-timey/hot jazz crowd and not sexy and/or edgy enough for the goth/steampunk crowd. But they’re kinda cooler than either of those scenes, and at least twice as original.

The Tiger Lillies were founded in 1989 by Martyn Jacques, a classically trained self-taught opera singer and accordion player who, according to his official bio, lived above a brothel in London’s Soho district. Jacques joined forces with percussionist Adrian Huge and, eventually, bassist/Theremin/musical saw player Adrian Stout, who came on board in 1995. Together they developed a style of music that mixed jazz, punk, English music hall, gypsy folk, French chanson, show tunes, Threepenny Opera and Tom Waits-ish musical primitivism, all held together by a jet-black sensibility (most of their songs are about criminals, pimps, prostitutes, drugs, murder, suicide, and children meeting untimely ends; they’ve done an entire album inspired by Edward Gorey stories, if that gives you an idea) and Jacques’ squeezed-nads falsetto, which one reviewer described as sounding “as though a dove has flown out of his throat. A mangled, bloody dove but still.”

The Tiger Lillies are ridiculously prolific, having recorded more than 30 albums during their 20-odd-year career. But they’re probably best-known for their musical, Shockheaded Peter, which won a pair of Olivier Awards when it ran on London’s West End (England’s version of Broadway) in 2002. Based on a series of gruesome children’s stories written by a German lunatic asylum doctor in the 1840’s, the songs are all equal parts horrifying and hilarious, with lots of lyrics about what happens to “naughty romping girls and boys/Who tear their clothes and make a noise.” (No, they don’t just get sent to the naughty step. Mostly, they meet untimely ends.)

Live, the Lillies seem like some kind of strange Victorian carnival act come to life, with Jacques done up in grotesque clown paint and all three dressed like 19th century gangsters. Decent live clips of them on YouTube are frustratingly hard to come by, but here’s a TV show perfomance of “Bully Boys,” one of the songs from Shockheaded Peter, that gives you a pretty good idea of what they’re ab0ut. Klaus Nomi meets Tom Waits meets Jacques Brel? Something like that.

(P.S. The Lillies’ latest project premieres in Paris next month: a stage adaptation of Coleridge’s epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. We’ll post a full report on the show after it opens; in the meantime, you can get updates on “ROAM” by visiting the blog of its visual artist, Mark Holthusen.)

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Evelyn Evelyn

Conjoined twins called Evelyn Evelyn who only have two arms between them, but somehow manage to play everything from accordion to piano to guitar to ukulele. It’s a heartwarming tale, really, of overcoming physical obstacles in the pursuit of creative self-expression. Maybe they can get a Discovery Health Channel special and a Lifetime movie of the week.

Spoiler alert: Despite their rather elaborate backstory (born Eva and Lyn Neville on a farm in Kansas in 1985, shipped off to the circus at age 11, etc., etc.), Evelyn Evelyn are clearly the invention of the musical duo who claims to have “discovered” the twins via MySpace: Amanda Palmer, of Dresden Dolls fame, and Jason Webley, an accordionist and former street musician from Seattle who shares Palmer’s love of vaudeville, Brecht and old-timey folk music. We weren’t familiar with Webley before (based on his MySpace page, his solo stuff kinda sounds like a cross between Tom Waits and the Decemberists), but we’re big fans of Palmer, and we gotta say—even by her eccentric standards, Evelyn Evelyn is pretty out there. Conjoined twins shtick aside, the duo’s debut album (due out in March) reportedly features a song called “MySpace” featuring guest vocals by (ready?): Weird Al, Andrew W.K., Neil Gaiman, Tegan & Sara, Gerard Way and Frances freakin’ Bean Cobain. Somewhere in rock ‘n’ roll heaven, Kurt Cobain is laughing his ass off.

Anyway, here’s a little interview with Palmer and Webley, along with a clip from Evelyn Evelyn’s first public performance. Perhaps the biggest mystery of all: Where did Webley’s beard go?

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