Weirdify Playlist 9: Summer Freaks

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It’s been too long since we posted a new Weirdify playlist, don’t you think? Let’s make up for lost time with an extra long mix for your first of what will hopefully be many backyard summer shindigs. Fire up the grill and dig in, kids. Memorial Day is just around the corner.

1. Signmark feat. Osmo Ikonen, “Speakerbox.” We’ll kick things off with our favorite feel-good jam from the world’s only (as far as we know) deaf Finnish rapper, Signmark. No, this song isn’t actually the least bit weird, but you don’t want to start your guests off with Caroliner, for Christ’s sake. Let the poor people ease into it.

2. Here Come the Mummies, “Freak Flag.” OK, now we’re getting at least slightly weird, courtesy of Tennessee’s most decomposed funk band. We’ll have a Mothership connection in 3, 2, 1…

3. Parliament, “Rumpofsteelskin.” If all you really know about George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic is “Give Up the Funk,” you’re probably wondering why we included them on the Weird List in the first place. This song should help clear that up.

4. That 1 Guy, “Funk Bean.” Nearly as funky as a fully operational Mothership, Mike Silverman’s Magic Pipe can summon Primus fans from miles around like a giant dog whistle. Even to non-Primus fans, it’s pretty groovy. (Also, apologies to That 1 Guy for jacking the cover art to his album Packs a Wallop! for this playlist. Don’t wallop us with your Magic Pipe, K?)

5. Fol Chen, “Cable TV.” Because nothing says summer like a song about watching Pay-Per-View in a fleabag motel. Or does that say “meth deal”? Either way, it’s got a beat and you can bop to it without spilling your margarita.

6. Hank3, “Six Pack of Beer.” After much deliberation, we decided to spare you and your BBQ guests the mighty racket that is Hank3’s cattlecore (that’s cattle auctioneers set to speed metal, y’all) in favor of this pickin’ and grinnin’ ode to the beverage of choice at BBQs everywhere.

7. Bob Log III, “Shake a Little, Wiggle It and Jiggle It Too.” The other great “III” on our Weird List, Bob Log III dresses up like a down-on-his-luck Evel Knievel and plays gutbucket slide-guitar blues, preferably while a willing young lass perches on his knee. And yes, he’s our hero.

8. tUnE-yArDs, “My Country.” This song from Merrill Garbus and her oddball, lo-fi jam band is perfect for Fourth of July parties. Sort of.

9. Dolchnakov Brigade, “Dating in Space.” It’s about time in the party for a little jam for the ladies, don’t you think? This DEVO-esque electro-pop freakout from our favorite pseudo-Russian Brooklyn band is just the ticket for getting the girls moving, at least in a confused, slightly epileptic way. (Can you be only “slightly” epileptic? You can when Dolchnakov Brigade is playing.)

10. DEVO, “Beautiful World.” Name-checking DEVO reminds us—every good party mix needs a little DEVO, don’t you think? Also, is it DEVO or Devo? Discuss.

11. Yip-Yip, “Slime Shuns Sun Shine.” Quick, say that song title ten times really fast. Now quick, try dancing to it. Which is harder? Discuss.

12. Waylander, “Re-Born to the Fight.” We’ve neglected the headbangers at your little backyard shindig for far too long. A little Celtic metal should satiate their desire for something more rockin’, while giving your other guests a chance to do a little jig and/or whiskey shots. Everybody wins.

13. The Misfits, “Teenagers From Mars.” You might think the punk band most closely associated with Halloween is not a very appropriate choice for a summer-themed party mix. And you’d be right. But fuck it, we’re throwing them in there anyway. Have another beer and roll with it.

14. The Flaming Lips, “Fryin’ Up.” Not the weirdest song the Lips ever did by a long shot, but it’s got a good party-rock vibe and that lyric about “blowin’ everything off on Monday,” which seems appropriate. Plus, the title is a reference to fryin’ burgers, right? Right?

15. The Upper Crust, “Eureka – I’ve Found Love.” We continue the rock portion of this mix with a tender love song from our current Weird Band of the Week, the Boston-based AC/DC-meets-Marie-Antoinette awesomeness that is The Upper Crust. Bibo ergo sum! Look it up, motherfuckers.

16. Bang Camaro, “Pleasure (Pleasure).” Boston’s other great novelty rock act (seriously, it’s like no one there can just headbang without irony), Bang Camaro achieve that multi-tracked ’80s hair-metal vocal sound with a ten-plus member “dude choir.” They have also clearly studied Pyromania to an unhealthy degree. OK, that’s enough rock for one party, don’t you think? Moving on…

17. Fool’s Gold, “Surprise Hotel.” This Afro-Hebrew-jam-pop band was one of the first acts we ever blogged about. In hindsight, they actually don’t seem all that weird compared to most of the bands on the Weird List, but damn if songs like this one don’t shout “summer!” like a happy parent shouting “mazel tov!” at their daughter’s wedding.

18. MaxNormal.TV, “HipnWidIt.” We’ve never featured our current No. 1 Weirdest Band on a Weirdify playlist before, and I wasn’t sure we’d be able to, considering Waddy Jones and co. pretty much scrapped this whole band when they reinvented themselves as Die Antwoord. But amazingly enough, Spotify does have some Max Normal tracks, including this shameless “Blue Monday” rip. But hey, even a secondhand version of the familiar New Order synth riff should get your more well-lubricated guests shaking a leg or two.

19. Dirty Sanchez, “Really Rich Italian Satanists.” Let’s keep the dance party vibe going with a little high-camp electroclash. Nothing says “party” like a bunch of drag queens channeling an Italian Satanic murder cult, am I right? Now pass the Campari, bitch.

20. Sir Ivan, “Hare Krishna.” We interrupt this party for a hands-in-the-air hippie moment from our favorite Raver Billionaire. Everyone loving one another? Good, let’s move on…

21. Sparks, “Now That I Own the BBC.” We really don’t mention often enough how freakin’ awesome Sparks are. This is from their Pet Shop Boys on Acid phase, as I like to call it. Enjoy.

22. The Superions, “Who Threw That Ham at Me.” We introduced this band from Fred Schneider of the B-52’s as a strictly Christmas-themed group, but they do summer-themed songs, too. And then they do this song about canned-meat tossing. You might want to make sure all the meat at your BBQ is in a secure place before this comes on.

23. The Wet Spots, “Do You Take It…?” (Dr. Feelin’s O.R. Dance Remix). By this point in the party, you’re probably wondering which of your guests like to get freaky. Here’s a hint: The ones who won’t look you in the eye while this track is playing? Not freaky.

24. Mojo Nixon, “I Ain’t Gonna Piss in No Jar.” OK, so by now, if you’re a party host worth your margarita salt, most of your guests are too drunk to dance. But too drunk to sing along to a Mojo Nixon song? We’re pretty sure that’s not physiologically possible.

25. Naked & Shameless, “And Then the Drugs Ran Out.” At all of Jake’s parties, this song is basically last call.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s mix. And remember: Always recycle your empties. Unless someone peed in them.

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Sparks help Gemma Ray sing Sparks

When U.K. songstress Gemma Ray decided to cover a couple of tunes by one of her favorite weird bands (and ours), Sparks, she got a little more than she bargained for. The Sparks boys were so taken with her torchy vocals on two of their songs, “How Do I Get to Carnegie Hall” and “Eaten by the Monster of Love,” they decided to “Sparks-ify” them by adding their own quirky arrangements and production touches. Call it Sparks remixing Gemma Ray covering Sparks. Or something like that. Actually don’t overthink it, just head over to The Quietus, where you can stream both tracks.

Ray also shot a silly but rather awesome video for “How Do I Get to Carnegie Hall,” which recently premiered on NME.com. We must confess to not knowing much about Gemma Ray, but she sure is prettier than Sparks’ Mael brothers (sorry, guys).

The “Gemma Ray Sings Sparks With Sparks” single comes out Feb. 21st on Bronze Rat Records. You can pre-order the 7″ vinyl here.

As for Sparks? They’re still tinkering with their Ingmar Bergman musical. Those crazy kids!

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Sparks

Some bands, when you first encounter them, might seem a bit quirky, but they don’t strike you as especially weird. Then you find out they’ve been at this for 40 years—and during that time, they’ve gone from everything to glam-rock to disco to New Wave to chamber-pop to (no joke) Swedish radio musicals. Oh, and one of the guys favors creepy Hitler/John Waters mustaches.

Sparks was started in 1968—1968!—by a pair of brothers from L.A. named Ron and Russell Mael. Originally calling themselves Halfnelson, they signed to Todd Rundgren’s Bearsville record label, changed their name to Sparks, and put out a couple of albums of eccentric but unremarkable, Pink Floyd-influenced psychedelic rock. Their first big break came after they parted ways with Bearsville, relocated to London, and got involved in the glam-rock scene. Their two 1974 albums, Kimono My House and Propaganda, were big hits in the U.K., even landing the band on Top of the Pops. Their music from this era was sort of a weird mix of Roxy Music, T. Rex and bubblegum pop, and seemed to anticipate the rise of New Wave.

By the time the rest of the rock world had caught up to Sparks, the Mael brothers had moved on, teaming up with disco/electronica pioneer Giorgio Moroder for their synth-heavy 1979 album, No. 1 in Heaven. The band continued to explore various synth-pop and New Wave styles for the next decade, scoring their first U.S. hit in 1983 with “Cool Places,” a song they recorded with one of their biggest American fans, Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s.

After a late ’80s/early ’90s hiatus, the band resurfaced in 1994 with Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins. Although not a commercial success—except, for some reason, in Germany—it was one of the most well-reviewed albums of Sparks’ career and was instrumental in establishing the Mael brothers as icons of campy, outsidery pop music. Ron, the principal lyricist, was writing increasingly eccentric and sometimes flat-out goofy songs like “(When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing” and “Now That I Own the BBC”—both of which kind of sound like send-ups of the Pet Shop Boys, except that the Pet Shop Boys actually stole most of their ideas from Sparks in the first place.

Since then, Sparks have released an album of alternate versions of their own songs (called, appropriately, Plagiarism, and featuring cameos from Mike Patton, Erasure and Jimmy Sommerville), an experimental symphonic album called Lil’ Beethoven, a satirical concept album about modern romance called Hello Young Lovers, and this year, a radio musical commissioned by Swedish National Radio called The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman. Clearly, these guys will try pretty much anything. In 2008, they even performed all 21 of their albums on consecutive nights in London (Ingmar Bergman was album #22).

Taken individually, any one Sparks song—or even any single album—isn’t that weird. With this band, it’s more of a cumulative effect thing. Still, much of the material on 2006’s outstanding Hello Young Lovers stands as some of the weirdest stuff they’ve ever recorded—and how many bands can claim to be out-weirding themselves 38 years into their career? To quote the song featured in the video below, “Screw the past!”

Links:

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