The man behind Twink the Toy Piano Band has a new project inspired by “Eraserhead”

cat-temper
Cat Temper, bringing his keytar magic to underground cinema since 2019 

One of my all-time favorite weird bands we’ve ever written about is Twink, a Boston-based project humbly subtitled “the Toy Piano Band.” And while it’s true that, yes, many of Twink’s sounds come from toy pianos and other toy instruments, what Twink mastermind Mike Langlie does with those sounds goes way beyond the sort of plinky-plinky novelty shit you probably associate them with. Twink’s music incorporates elements of everything from trip-hop to techno to chamber pop, in a surprisingly lush, occasionally funky style he calls “toytronica.” If you’ve got an hour or three to kill, I highly recommend heading over to Twink’s Bandcamp page and bopping along to tracks with titles like “Chocolate Chipmunk” and “Pipper Snitch.” You won’t be sorry.

But hey, if toy pianos aren’t really your thing, Mike’s got a new project that might be more your speed. It’s called Cat Temper and his first release under that name is an alternative soundtrack to David Lynch’s cult classic Eraserhead called Henry. You can creep out to the 90-minute album on its own, or you can sync it up to Eraserhead‘s opening credits like your stoner older brother used to sync up Dark Side of the Moon to The Wizard of Oz, and let Langlie’s eerily beautiful soundscapes give Lynch’s stark black-and-white images a whole new vibe.

I haven’t had a chance to listen to Henry all the way through yet, or experiment with syncing it to Eraserhead — I think I probably need to re-up my weed stash before I embark on that particular venture. But I’m about seven tracks into it and it’s great so far — much creepier and analog synth-y than Twink, and also a welcome departure from the film’s original, claustrophobic soundtrack.

You can preview a sample of Henry below, and buy the whole thing on Bandcamp for a mere $5 — a steal for 90 minutes of music this quirky and clever. Nice work, Mike! I bet Lynch would approve. Maybe if he ever revives Twin Peaks again, Twink and Cat Temper can have a toy piano and keytar duel at the Roadhouse.

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Twink releases new video, gives new meaning to the term “house music”

Twink, Happy Houses

Friend of the blog Mike Langlie, the man behind Twink, the toy piano band, has been quite the prolific fellow of late. Just four months after his last album, Miniatures Volume 1—an album composed entirely on the Yellofier iPad app—Mike’s twinking out another new album. This one’s called Happy Houses and while he hasn’t shared his recording process with us, we’re pretty sure based on lead single “Close to Home” that toy pianos and banjos were involved.

Happy Houses doesn’t get here until Feb. 10th, but you can catch the video for lead track “Close to Home” right now—right here on this very page, in fact. We’re convenient like that. Rest assured that no cartoon houses were harmed in the making on this video. Although the dude who stars in it probably walked into a few walls and truck fenders because I don’t think he can actually see where he’s going.

Oh Yeah: Twink the Toy Piano Band releases free album built with Yellofier iPhone app

Twink-Miniatures

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard anything from Twink, our favorite toy-based band. So we were delighted to learn a few days ago that, to celebrate the launch of his revamped website, Twink mastermind Mike Langlie is giving away a free, nine-track LP of new music. The collection is called Miniatures Volume 1 and it has the distinction of being the first album ever created entirely with the Yellofier iPhone/iPad app. Yellofier, for those of y’all not familiar, is a music-making sampler/sequencer app created by Boris Blank, one-half of the Swiss electronic duo Yello. Never heard of them? Oh yeah you have. Get it? Cuz the song is called “Oh Yeah”? Oh, we crack ourselves up.

Anyhoo, to download your copy of Miniatures Volume 1, scurry on over to Twink.net. You can also name your price if you feel like throwing Mike a little extra coin.

The Yellofier app is not free, but at $2.99, it’s still a steal. You can read more about it and watch a demo video here.

If you’re a try-before-you-buy type, feel free to preview the album below. It’s a veritable symphony of plinks, plunks and plastic beats.

Weirdify Playlist 10: Novel Steez

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Happy Friday, kids! What say we get the weekend started with a fresh Weirdify playlist? This week’s theme: novelty songs.

Now in a way, nearly everything we’ve ever posted on TWBITW is a novelty song. But more precisely, a novelty song is any tune that’s more about making the folks laugh than it is about making any lasting artistic impression. Whether it’s a one-off by an otherwise serious (or at least semi-serious) band, or one of many from a master of the form (Barnes & Barnes, we bow down), a good novelty song should exist in its own little universe, totally apart from any considerations of what’s hip or trendy or even in good taste.

Also—and this may be a totally arbitrary distinction, but it feels important to me—novelty songs and comedy songs are not quite the same thing. This goes back to the “own little universe” thing: Comedy songs are usually created in response to or in parody of something, but novelty songs stand on their own. Also, novelty is weirder than comedy, I think. So no Lonely Island, no “Weird Al,” no Flight of the Conchords, not even any Tom Lehrer, excellent though all those artists are. They just don’t quite fit with the rest of this playlist.

OK, Jake says I should shut up now and get on with the music. So fire up the ol’ Spotify and let’s get novel:

1. Lonzo and Oscar, “I’m My Own Grandpa.” I decided to class things up around here a little and start with one of the classics. Lonzo and Oscar were a jokey country duo who scored big in 1947 with this, their one and only hit. Side note: This song was performed on the first season of The Muppet Show in 1976. Even after the Civil Rights era, incest jokes and making fun of hillbillies were still considered good family entertainment.

2. Ween, “Piss Up a Rope.” Gene and Dean Ween mostly played it straight on their Nashville album, 12 Golden Country Greats, but fortunately they decided to have a little fun with this boot-scootin’ kiss-off to a woman who “takes all my money and leaves me no smokes.” Who needs that kind of ag?

3. The Tiger Lillies, “Piss on Your Grave.” While we’re on the subject of pissing…

4. Evelyn Evelyn, “Elephant Elephant.” Amanda Palmer, one half of this fake-Siamese-twin duo, just raised a million bucks on Kickstarter. That’ll buy a lot of elephant feed. Is there such a thing as elephant feed? Anyway, Palmer definitely ain’t singin’ the…

5. The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, “Credit Card Blues.” It’s an anthem for our times, really.

6. Red Shadow, the Economics Rock n Roll Band, “Gone, Gone, Gone.” As is this. Actually, this song is from the 1970s, when ripping off the Beach Boys was probably seen as “edgy.” Speaking truth to power was so much more adorable back then.

7. Wild Man Fischer, “Flaming Carrot Theme Song.” Did you know Frank Zappa’s semi-homeless protege once wrote a theme song for the Flaming Carrot comic book? Us neither, till we started researching this playlist. But we’re glad he did.

8. Klaus Nomi, “Rubber Band Laser.” Even by the bizarre standards of New Wave’s greatest counter-tenor, this track from his unfinished opera, Za Bakdaz, is pretty out there.

9. The Zambonis, “Zamboni Race in Outer Space.” It’s about drag racing ice-resurfacing machines—in space. Any questions? Too bad, we’re moving on anyway…

10. The Emotron, “Drink a Beer for Me.” A heartwarming song about one man’s love affair with beer.

11. Fred Schneider, “Monster.” Every time B-52’s frontman Schneider opens his mouth, it’s a novelty song. This one is especially silly though. Spoiler alert: It’s not actually about his penis.

12. Barnes & Barnes, “Boogie Woogie Amputee.” This duo is deservedly famous for their classic novelty tune, “Fish Heads.” But did you know they also recorded this totally awesome and slightly offensive ode to a girl who likes to go out dancing and “shake her stump”? Well, now you do. You’re welcome.

13. Twink, “Tiny Footsteps.” Toy pianos and squeeze toys gettin’ down with their bad selves. Fact: If you play this for dogs and/or babies, they will totally lose their shit.

14. Tiny Tim, “I Got You Babe.” If you hear the words “novelty song” and don’t immediately think of Tiny Tim, there might be something wrong with you.

15. Crispin Glover, “Clowny Clown Clown.” Yes, this creepiest actor this side of Gary Busey released an album in 1989—produced by Barnes & Barnes, no less. It’s called—let me make sure I’ve got this right—The Big Problem ≠ The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be. There was even once a phone number you could call if you thought you had figured out The Solution, but sadly, it’s been disconnected, along with Glover’s career. These things happen.

16. Jim’s Big Ego, “Bite Me (Hard).” Back when I lived in Boston, Jim Infantino and his band Jim’s Big Ego were one of the city’s most entertaining local acts. Most of his stuff is more clever than this, but for some reason that “Should I change my whole way of being?” line gets me every time.

17. The Upper Crust, “Little Lord Fauntleroy.” An AC/DC-style tribute to that really stupid children’s book your grandmother gave you for your eighth birthday. No? Just me? OK, moving on…

18. Schwarzenator, “Conan: The Destroyer.” An Iron Maiden-style tribute to the least necessary sequel of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career. More unnecessary than Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, you ask? I say yes and I stand by that opinion. Bring it, film nerds.

19. Rasputina, “My Captivity by Savages.” A dramatic reading of a 19th century bodice ripper about a poor blonde settler girl enslaved by Injuns. See, kids? Your local library can be fun.

20. Slim Galliard, “Fuck Off (The Dirty Rooster).” A classic novelty platter from the man best-known for “Flat Foot Floogie (With the Floy-Floy)” and for making up a fake language called “vout” that mostly seems to have been a way to get dirty words past the radio censors. Another version of this song called “Chicken Rhythm” actually turned up on a compilation called Jazz for Kids. So yes, parents who play Jazz for Kids, you are subliminally telling your children to fuck off. Just thought you should know.

21. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, “Constipation Blues.” Screamin’ Jay is, of course, the man behind “I Put a Spell on You.” But his other crowning gift to popular culture has to be this epic 1970 ode to taking a long, slow, painful dump. Stay with it till about the three-minute mark…that’s when he really start squeezing out greatness. (Shout-out to Bobo Golem Soylent-Greenberg for reminding us about this track and about the existence of Slim Galliard. You, Bobo, are a gentleman and a scholar!)

Hope you enjoyed this week’s playlist.

Weirdify Playlist 4: Techno Fucking Way

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Sometimes here at TWBITW, we like to get on down with our bad selves. And by “bad,” we mean, “in no fit state to be getting on down with anything, unless it’s a couch or a mattress with good lumbar support.” Still, we do try to give the old carcasses a little wiggle every once in awhile. And there’s nothing more fun to wiggle to (or easier, especially for us white folks) than a some good old-fashioned boot-in-a-dryer music. We’re talking techno*, people!

This time around, I’ve decided to annotate the playlist a bit. So read on to learn more about the 14 artists and tracks represented in this mix—and while you’re reading, fire up the ol’ Spotify and see if you’re capable of dancing and reading at the same time. I bet you can do it.

*And related genres of EDM. Don’t get all purist on us, k?

1. The Soft Pink Truth, “Soft Pink Missy.” SPT is Drew Daniel, one-half of the experimental electronic duo Matmos. His stuff is often filed under “microhouse,” all of which sounds pretty weird—but Daniel is especially adept at constructing dance tracks built out of tiny edits from all sorts of sampled material. I figured this was a nice, gentle way to ease y’all into some of the harder stuff coming.

2. The Vegetable Orchestra, “Pumpkin Jam” (Märtini Brös remix). A not-so-weird track, until you realize that most of it was created using instruments made out of vegetables. Märtini Brös, the German duo who did the remix, have created some pretty weird dance tracks of their own, including this one.

3. Greenskeepers, “Man in the House” (GK 911 remix). This Chicago house/electro-pop group makes many songs with a twisted sense of humor, most famously “Lotion,” a bouncy New Wave jam narrated by Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs. This one isn’t quite that weird, but it’s got a fun beat.

4. Justin Martin and Sammy D, “The Southern Draw.” This one takes awhile to get going, but stay with it, and it gets wacky, trust me. It’s from the Dirtybird label, which releases a lot of terrific, offbeat techno—but nothing more offbeat than this.

5. Oli Chang, “Chicken Techno.” I’m pretty sure this one needs no explanation.

6. Die Antwoord, “I Fink U Freeky.” The raviest rave anthem from South Africa’s awesomely twisted “zef rap-rave” crew. I still can’t quite believe that they played this on Letterman.

7. Von Südenfed, “Flooded.” A collaboration between the German experimental electronic duo Mouse on Mars and Mark E. Smith from The Fall—who turns out to be a surprisingly excellent dance music vocalist, at least in small doses. No, this isn’t strictly speaking techno, but it fucking rocks. And no, it’s not dubstep, either. Can we all please agree that not everything with a dark, twisted bassline is dubstep? Thank you.

8. Anklepants, “Deadline 4734 vs. Inside Your Face” (Imposex mix). We just featured this guy as our Weird Band of the Week. At first I was mostly just fascinated with his creepily lifelike monster mask, but the more I listen to his music, the more I’m digging it. He’s not really techno either, and I’m not even sure you can dance to this stuff, but it’s amazing.

9. Laibach, “Wirtschaft” (Richie Hawtin Hardcore Noise Mix). One of the greatest techno producers of all time, Richie Hawtin (aka Plastikman), turns one of the weirdest industrial bands of all time into a jam for the ladies. That is, if those ladies like slam-dancing in steel-toed boots.

10. Underworld, “Moaner.” Underworld are one of those bands that became so popular, it’s easy now to forget how totally fucking wackadoodle even many of their best-known tracks are. This isn’t even their wackiest, but I think it’s one of their most underrated, with an insanely building synth line and Karl Hyde declaiming his surrealist raver poetry like a man possessed. God, they were so good back in the day.

11. Matthew Herbert, “February.” A British producer known for building his tracks out of field recordings of everything from bodily functions to household objects, Herbert released his weirdest and most controversial work last year: One Pig, an album of abstract musique concrete built from the sounds of the life cycle of a commercially raised pig, from birth to slaughter to dining table. On this track, from late in the album, you can hear butcher’s saws and the sounds of percussion instruments made out of the pig’s bones. It’s sort of the opposite of Vegetable Orchestra—and while I admit it’s pretty disturbing stuff, it kinda makes you crave bacon, doesn’t it?

12. Gangpol & Mit, “Balatchi Basketcha.” This track is about as close as the French kitschtronica duo G&M ever come to techno—and still, it’s less clubby, more Saturday-morning-cartoony, if Shag ever did Saturday morning cartoons. How awesome would that be?

13. Twink, “Slush Bunny.” Toy piano techno. You’re welcome, humanity!

14. Sir Ivan, “San Francisco” (John Kano radio mix). Yes, is the second playlist we’ve ended with Sir Ivan, but you know what? Fuck it. There’s something about his cheesy house/techno remakes of classic hippie songs that just seems like a fitting grand finale to an hour’s worth of weirdness. Such a strange vibration!

Hope you enjoy the playlist. If you do, tell a friend.

Weirdify Playlist 2: The Island of Misfit Toys

Greetings, weirdlings! Welcome to our second Weirdify playlist, live now on Spotify for your listening delectation. This time around, we got inspired by our Weird Band of the Week, Twink (the Toy Piano Band!), and decided to make a playlist full of songs that evoke childhood in various ways. You’ll hear toy instruments, sampled children’s songs and stories, 8-bit, chiptune and videogame references, and the ravings of a paranoid schizophrenic or two. (What can I say? I had some weird babysitters.)

To hear the full playlist, cruise on over to ShareMyPlaylists.com. Here’s what you’ll get:

1. Twink, “Rocket Pop”
2. The Books, “The Story of Hip Hop”
3. Powerglove, “Inspector Gadget”
4. Gangpol & Mit, “The 1000 People Band (Part 1)”
5. Vegetable Orchestra, “Scoville”
6. Gidropony, “We Are Sex Toys”
7. Quintron & Miss Pussycat, “Swamp Buggy Badass”
8. Wesley Willis, “I Whipped Spiderman’s Ass”
9. Max Tundra, “Will Get Fooled Again”
10. Ponytail, “Flabbermouse”
11. Dead Man’s Bones, “Pa Pa Power”
12. Psapp, “Tricycle”
13. Kid Koala, “Fender Bender”
14. Lemon Jelly, “Nice Weather for Ducks”

If at any point you get bored, feel free to skip to the last track, because it’s truly one of the greatest things you’ll ever hear. Trust us on this one.

Here’s the link again. Enjoy!

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Twink

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Lots of bands use toy instruments in their music, but few do it with as much dedication as Mike Langlie, the man behind Twink, the Toy Piano Band. Since 1999, Mike has been using his growing collection of toy pianos and other gear you’d more likely find at Toys R Us rather than Guitar Center to crank out seven albums’ worth of surprisingly diverse music. Given that Langlie himself calls this stuff “toytronica,” “cartoon pop,” or even “cutetronica,” you might assume it all sounds like it ought to be coming out of an ice cream truck. And yeah, some of it does. But much of it’s also funny, creepy and occasionally beautiful. Turns out these toys aren’t strictly for kids.

Mike was kind enough to send us a copy of his latest album, Itsy Bits & Bubbles, which is about as fun-loving and candy-colored as its title, although there’s a surprisingly strong bottom end to some of the tracks, too—I think it’s safe to say the man’s been listening to some dubstep. He’s also posted videos for most (all?) of the new album’s tracks, all built around cleverly edited vintage black-and-white cartoons. Here’s one of our favorites, for a truly twisted track called “Flibberty Gibbet.” Wonder if any DJs spin this type of stuff at Electric Daisy Carnival? If they don’t, they really should.

Bonus factoid: Among the various labels that have released Twink’s music over the years is Seeland, the label run by Weird List veterans Negativland. Told ya this stuff ain’t just for kids.

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