Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Re-Post: "Hear The Animals Sing"

Following on the heals of yesterdays' "Barnyard Beat" album of animals "singing" via modern sampling, here's a re-up request for the '50s equivalent: Jim Fassett's tape concrete work for children:

"Hear The Animals Sing"

"Barnyard Beat" may have the modern technology, but it doesn't have the perverted innuendo of this album...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Barnyard Beat: Livestock Rock And Jungle Jams

Musique concrete for pre-schoolers: this 1995 release on the Kid Rhino label takes played-out wedding-dj oldies, and thru the Space-Age miracle of sampling, replaces the lead vocals with animal sounds. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what is meant by "avant-'tard." Despite using the same techniques as the likes of Pierre Henry and John Cage, it will never be listed in the history books along with them, no matter how well it's done. File under "Childrens/novelty" and dump in the bargain bin (where I picked it up for a couple bucks). Ah, but we know the score, don't we, dear maniacs?

It's all more clever than it needs to be. Sonic puns abound, as when owls sing The Who's "We're Not Gonna Take It" - get it: The Whoooo?; and sheep "sing" the Beach Boy's "Barbara Ann" as "Baaahrbara Ann." The sampled birds (not lions) on the version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" is a really impressive work of cut-n-paste. Great job, guys - both me and my 4-year-old appreciate it.

Barnyard Beat: Livestock Rock And Jungle Jams

1. Born To Be Wild - Chicken Wolf
2. Beat It - Mew Kids On The Block
3. Honky Tonk Women - The Old Geesers
4. The Lion Sleeps Tonight - Lion L. Richie
5. Barbara Ann - Ewe 2
6. I Got You (I Feel Good) - Sealy Dan
7. Conga - Simian Sound Machine
8. Wipe Out - Duck Dale And The Pig Tunes
9. Wild Thing - The Red Hot Chili Dogs
10. We're Not Gonna Take It - The Hoooes
11. The Lonely Bull - Cuds N Roses
12. Barnyard Medley - The Animals

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"Hurray, The Rattles Are Here!"

At first (and second, and third) listen, Germany's The Rattles sound like a Beatles clone. And a particularly bizarre and hilarious one, at that. But as our man in Scotland, Count Otto Black, points out: "German beat groups like the Rattles weren't necessarily imitating the Beatles as such. Rather, the Merseybeat sound in general was extremely popular in Germany, and the Beatles were hired to play in Hamburg for that reason. So both the Beatles and the Rattles were trying to jump on the same bandwagon independently of one another. Though of course the Beatles always had a big advantage in that their accents never slipped. It appears that the Rattles already sounded as though they were a deliberate Beatles clone long before the Beatles were famous enough to be worth ripping off...the Beatles were but one of many similar groups, only they happened to have that extra something. Or maybe they just got lucky - most of their rivals made no recordings so we'll never know."

By the time of this 1965 recording, The Beatles were of course well established, and at least one song, "A Lonely Man," strongly suggests "She's A Woman," so maybe they had circled all the way around to intentionally imitating the Beatles. Still, there are some pretty deranged moments here that should clue anyone in that we are most def not dealing with those mop-tops from Liverpool: a version of Doris Day's wistful  ballad "Que Sera Sera" performed like a live mashup with "La Bamba," a highly energetic Bing Crosby (?!) cover, "Swinging On A Star", and a version of "Rockin' Pneumonia" that they pronounce "Rockin' Pumonia." But amidst all the unintentional laffs, there's still plenty of genuinely high-energy good rockin' tonight.

Die Rattles - "Hurra Die Rattles Kommen!"

A1 Come On And Sing
A2 It's My Fault [raunchy Bo Diddley-ish garage stomper]
A3 A Lonely Man
A4 No, No [what are they singing about?!]
A5 She Is The One
A6 I'm Coming Home
A7 Dance
B1 Que Sera
B2 Hold Me
B3 Swinging' On A Star
B4 Dr. Casey [an ode to fictional TV doctor Ben Casey] 
B5 If You Don't Come Back
B6 Little Queeny
B7 Rockin Pneumonia

Thanks to His Countship!

Monday, April 07, 2014

Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra: "Experiments with Auto-Croon"

("Better Than the Beatles" is back on-line.)

Ira Robbin's Trouser Press review of The Bonzo Dog Band begins with an excellent examination of the nature of absurdity in music, an essay equally applicable to San Diego's mad genius(es) the Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra, who finally have a new album, "Experiments with Auto-Croon," just released this past April Fools Day, appropriately enough. I can't think of anyone else currently operating who can successfully navigate such tricky Dada-humor waters as this band. Who else would make their debut album a 5-disk set?

As Robbins admits in his review, absurdity is not for everybody. Most people would probably listen to this album and think: why am I listening to an out-of-key robot singing nonsense over rinky-dink electronica? Well, apart from the catchy tunes, there's also the fact that a song about kid volleyball players who "all become mummies/ for no specific reason" (a song called, naturally, "Volleyball Mummies") is really funny. Okay, it makes me laugh. There's no obvious humor here, no set-up/punchline. This could all easily end up dumb, juvenile, trying too hard to be "wacky!" but it's not. It's droll, deadpan, and just plain weird.

For example: This song asks and answers the question, why are there no mime detectives?

Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra: "Mime Detective"  - and dig that toy piano.

The simple, if quirky, electronic pop formula hasn't changed, but it still veers into new territory like the danceable '60s soul organ of "Stunt Double Shuffle," (tho any DJ who spins it risks his job), and the Martin Denny-like exotica "God of Cocktail Umbrellas," in which we learn that the job of those little umbrellas in your cocktail is to keep the drink from getting wet.  Because who wants a soggy drink?

Also included: two tracks from the now off-line "Name That Tune" cover song quiz: Bon Jovi, and a spiritual ancestor of the Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra: Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London." Visit:


Listen to the whole album streaming HERE.


Friday, April 04, 2014

ODD-STRALIA pt 3: The Invented Instruments of Rod Cooper

Another strange-music-making Australian ("odd-stray-alien," as our expert in such matters Buttress O'Kneel says) is the chap in the above video, Rod Cooper, a metal-worker who makes fantastic plunky/boingy/screechy hand-built metal instruments. Seeing him live would be the optimal way to experience him, I would imagine, considering how, to quote B'O'K: "he used to play in subterranean stormwater drains and stuff, secret illegal gigs that utilised the tunnels' natural reverb to the fullest." And of course, you'd get to see these gizmos up close.

He has a few albums for sale, but here's one you can listen to via Bandcamp as Klunk, a duo with John Bell on vibraphone and percussion:

Klunk: "Metalic"

Many of these improvised instrumentals are nice indeed, with Cooper coaxing all kinds of atmospheric, almost ambient soundscapes out of his Highly Resonant Object. No harsh industrial pounding here. The interplay between vibes and HRO on "Aluminum" is quite lovely, and the dramatic "Columbium" is compelling.  I love jazz vibes, but on some tracks the aimless wandering vibraphone doesn't do much for me. Tracks like the sparse, haunting "Stainless" are more successful.

Here are two samplers, both almost 6 minutes long:



And then there's:


Artist Statement - Like the man says: "Comfort Through Dissonance"

Thursday, March 27, 2014

ODD-STRALIA pt 2: Stinky Picnic

"If you're dead, you're totally dead
If you're dead, you're totally dead, not alive"

Can't argue with that.  These words of wisdom come from the title track to shoegaze-y electro father/daughter duo Stinky Picnic's latest name-your-price album. We've been following their career for a bit now, so li'l girl singer/lyricist/conceptualist Indigo must be getting pretty old.  What is she, like, six now?

The fun and innocence of this is so opposed to our previous example of strange music from Australia, dark satanic rapper Ice Cold, that it could give you whiplash. Highlites include the catchy above-cited title tune, the awesome 2-part "I Am A Robot" (a totally cool bit of pre-school Kraftwerk-goes-psych) and the 54-second "Lullaby for Bunny," in which dad puts down his space guitars and lets a little girl sing a simple song for her bunny - so pure and sincere it could put a lump in the throat of the most heartless bastard. All music should be like this.

Stinky Picnic: "Totally Dead"

Sunday, March 23, 2014

ODD-STRALIA pt 1: Ice Cold

By request, Scott Johnson's "Rock Paper Scissors" is back up. 

You may have seen that "viral" (as the kids say) sensation Babymetal, the cutesy Japanese girl metal band. But from down Melbourne way comes something even stranger: Satanic death-metal that isn't metal at all but hip-hop. Over boomin' (if dark) electro beatz, MC Ice Cold drops rhymes like "Your life I steal and your soul I’m takin /cookin MCs like a pound of bacon... dissers be dissin and the hataz be hatin /but it aint no thang when you’re in league with SATAN" (from the song "Awaken Ancient Spirits"). Vocals delivered, but of course, in that menacing Cookie-Monster growl. Very funny, but despite song titles like "Satan Iz Tha Gangsta" it's not intended to be a parody but rather, according to our Aussie spy Buttress O'Kneel, "he says it's more like a 'what if' - 'what if hiphop had been the outlet for necrosatanists rather than metal?' - like those books that imagine what it would be like if hitler won the war, or if the dinosaurs hadn't died out."

Get 8 free songs from the: 

Ice Cold Bandcamp page

I wonder if anyone has done anything like this before? After all, the inverse - ghetto gangstas playing heavy rock - has been around for decades, e.g.: Ice T's Body Count, Suicidal Tendencies, the "Judgement Night" soundtrack.

More strange sonic wonders from Down Under coming soon.  Thanks, B'O'K!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Let Us Explore The Pocket Calculators of Many Lands

Kraftwerk, the greatest, most visionary band that will never be voted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, are in the midst of an 8 show stand at Disney Concert Hall. And as it has been sold out for months (anyone in L.A. got an extra ticket? I'll do anything!  I'll even pay for it!), I must lamely content myself with this listening party of all the different language versions of their 1981 classic "Pocket Calculator." And I still am not tired of this song. 

5 Pocket Calculators

Kraftwerk- "Taschenrechner" (German)
Kraftwerk - "Dentaku" (Japanese)
Kraftwerk - "Mini Calculateur" (French)
Kraftwerk - "Pocket Calculator" (English)
bonus: Pizzicato Five - "Contact" (from 1995, a kind of live mashup of "Pocket Calculator" with Brigitte Bardot's "Contact")

No-one uses calculators anymore, but otherwise the album from whence this song comes, "Computer World," pretty much nails it.  We do all have computers, which seems obvious now, but sci-fi or futurists never spoke much about home computing or the internet. The future was supposed to be all about space travel.  I have a book from 1979 with predictions for the year 2000, and it's a lot of: moon colonies, Mars landings, etc. At least Isaac Asimov said that we'd be able to read newspapers headlines on TV, which was close. But the song "Computer Love" even predicted internet dating. Kraftwerk for the win.  And these retrospective shows they've been doing lately are their victory lap.

Those men-machines from Dusseldorf also did an unreleased Italian "Pocket Calculator" for TV:

 UPDATE: The Polish version!

Monday, March 17, 2014


Had a request a few months ago for The Ridiculous Trio plays The Stooges album to be re-upped, but the files had gone missing. So big thanks to reader Traitor Vic for sending it our way yesterday - the same day we learned that Stooges drummer Scott Asheton had died.  Tho I'm sure he had nothing to do with that.  (Uh...right, Vic?)

The Stooges Go Polka

I never saw the reunited Stooges. When I saw Iggy live years ago he played lots o' Stooges material and I was satisfied with that, and anyway I'm always dubious about these long-dead bands getting back together. But now I'm regretting it. Hmm...maybe I should see the Sex Pistols next time... 

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Will wonders never cease? Jandek now tours, Dot Wiggin of the Shaggs has a new album, and our own fascinating outsider music discovery (actually, he discovered us) The Everyday Film has given his first interview. This coincides with a new video (see below). We now have a name, face, and a bit of background on transgressive audio artist The Everyday Film, courtesy of Italian writer Davide Carrozza:

Interview with the Everyday Film

Longtime readers of the blog may recall that the Everyday Film project has been so steeped in mystery that we've never known the slightest thing about who or what is responsible for these most striking, disturbing, and mordantly funny recordings. CDs would just show up unannounced and unexplained in my PO box. Well, we now know that the Everyday Film is one Drew Steinman, lives in New Jersey, likes Rick James and Meat Loaf, and is the sole brain behind the music, videos, and artwork.  He admits that he has no musical influences that he can detect, and that just might be the most impressive thing about TEF, that he isn't, unlike just about everyone else, the sum total of his record collection. Steinman's stepping into the light does not destroy the illusion of a bewildering enigma, not with such choice quotes as: "My ideal audience is the person completely alienated and losing touch with reality."

Carrozza also reviews and analyzes TEF's ouvre in a separate article. It is gratifying to see someone take the works of a so-called "marginal" figure of the music world like TEF and give it such a serious treatment.

This site is still the only place to get most of the Everyday Film releases, e.g.: the first four albums. And we have a new video, a preview of the forthcoming album "Bleed Over."  He sez: "Unlike my other stuff this tune is very danceable." 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Gospel Accordion To Frank

And lo! the Lord appeared to Father Frank Perkovich, saying unto him: go amongst the Catholics of the American Midwest, and playeth polka music, so that they might gather in My name on the Sabbath. And Frank of Minnesota took up his accordion and in 2008 releasedeth the album "Songs And Hymns From The Polka Mass" with Joe Cvek and his band. And the blogger did LOL out loud upon listeningeth to it, for he is a damnable heathen. Clicketh on the song title below, so that you might do the Chicken Dance for Jesus:

Father Frank Perkovich: "Chapel in the Valley"

Yes, this is real. Polka masses have apparently been celebrated for years, primarily in the Midwest, tho not without some controversy. Some feel that a secular dance music is not appropriate for a Sunday service.  And some - the REAL heathens! - just don't like polka. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

This Is What You Want, This Is What You Get...

By request, the following golden oldies are now back:


Hollywood Stomp (Los Angeles in song from the 78 rpm era)

Zoogz Rift and his Amazing Shitheads: "Water," and "Water II."

Sunday, March 09, 2014

BAD BOB: "The Tunes They Are A-Changin'"

As if that "Better Than The Beatles" comp we recently posted wasn't enough to blow a baby-boomer's brain, now we've got 23 mind-boggling Bob Dylan covers: celebrity actors who have no business making "music" (Eddie Albert, Sebastian Cabot, Telly Savalas, and yep, The Shat himself), absurdly wimped-out easy-listening crooners and orchestras, milquetoast pop-folkies, bubblegum heartthrobs (Bobby Sherman!  Dino Desi & Billy!), punk new-wavers (Bryan Ferry, and even Da Bruddahs), and a couple outright parodies. 

Off the top of my head, I can think of some others (a Moog version of "Lay Lady Lady," Johnny Cash, and didn't Hugo Montenegro do a Dylan album?) but believe me, this is more than enough to do your head in. Something's going on here, but I really don't know what it is, Mr. Jones.

This comes to us courtesy of MadJon, who gifted us with the "Disco Sellout" collection we posted here a few months ago.

The Tunes They Are A-Changin'

Correction: track 22 is actually "Knockin' On Heaven's Door". And if your version of "My Back Pages" was corrupted, go HERE for a replacement.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Maggie Estep "No More Mister Nice Girl"

A couple/few months ago, our frequent contributor Windy sent me a big ol' batch of vinyl (that I'm still going thru) along with something he rarely sends me: a CD. 'Twas by a half-remembered '90s figure that I vaguely recalled from MTV, Maggie Estep.  Hmm, I thought, why'd he send me this?  And then she died. So that must mean something. Actually, all it probably means is that, for the first time in decades, people are talking about Maggie Estep's brief recording career, so now would be a good time to post her first album:

Maggie Estep "No More Mister Nice Girl"

There really was a brief period in pop culture when poets were supposed to be the next rock stars. The media tried to tell us that about comedians as well. As it turned out, rock stars are the next rock stars, as it was and so it shall always be. But there was a spoken-word boom here in LA in the '80s, with punk-derived rockers like Chris D. of the Flesh eaters, Exene, D. Boon, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Henry Rollins etc. all giving readings, there were spoken-word nights at punk venues, college stations had spoken-word shows, there was a series of Harvey Kubernik-produced (mostly) spoken word albums, with "real" writers like Bukowski and the also recently departed Wanda Coleman getting up there with the rockers. This went national in the '90s, as the entertainment industry was flailing about trying to figure out what the next big "alternative" thing would be that the kids would eat up (e.g.: signing the likes of Foetus and The Butthole Surfers to major labels!).  Poet Maggie Estep got swept up in this, releasing two albums of her reading her poetry and sorta-singing backed, not by beatniks on bongos, but by alt-rockers, including guitarist Pat Place, who played on a lot of those no wave/punk-funk bands we featured here on the "Down By Law" collection. Another member was in the great toy-pop band Pianosaurus.

After mainstream culture wrestled alternativeness into submission, as it usually does, Estep was free to become a novelist, which is what she was 'til her recent death at the unfortunately early age of 50.

The whole "Gen X"/MTV vibe this album gives off is a weird time-travel back to the days of Tower Records, "Beavis and Butthead," deliberately not wearing flannel shirts, gangsta rap cassettes, being young, single and broke, and lashing out at the media hype about people of my generation being young, single and broke. R.I.P. Maggie.  R.I.P the '90s.

1. Hey Baby
2. I'm Not A Normal Girl
3. Paradise Lost
4. Even If
5. Car Guy
6. The Stupid Jerk I'm Obsessed With
7. My Life Of Gardening
8. F*#! Me
9. Scarification
10. Pee Lady
11. Sex Goddess Of The Western Hemisphere
12. I Swear
13. Vegetable Omelet
14. Rip Trip Strip
15. Ingeborg, Mistress Of The Dark
16. Bad Day At The Beauty Salon

Thanks, windy!

Monday, March 03, 2014

THE BLACK SWEDEN: Heavy-Metal Versions of ABBA Hits

As one-joke album concepts go, "Gold" by the one-off Black Sweden works better than most.  Don't know how many ABBA songs one really needs to hear performed in full-on head-banging fashion, but the performances here are skilled as any "real" metal album, and everyone sounds like their having tons o' fun. Worth it alone for their version of "Take A Chance On Me" a la Metallica.

No one's taking credit, but apparently genuine Swedish metal all-stars are behind this.

Figured I'd better post this as copies of this CD are literally going for hundreds on Amazon. (On American Amazon, at least.  Maybe the streets of Sweden are littered with these?)

Black Sweden "Gold"

Friday, February 28, 2014

Fat Head's Conspiracy-Theory Rap

One of the latest amusing bat-shit crazy conspiracy theories is that the contrails exhaust coming out of airplanes are really "chem-trails" that drift on down to populated areas and supposedly do all kinds of terrible things to us. It must be true, it's on the internet! So I was delighted to hear this rap song on the radio that deals with this topic, a much more interesting subject than hip-hop's usual cliches, I'm sure you'll agree. Over a nice head-nodding beat, the rapper spits out a paranoid fever-dream of "weather warfare," demons, black ops, mind control, population control, martial law, etc. Who knows wtf he's talking about? Funny, but pretty freakin' psycho. Makes me wonder how seriously Fat Hed takes all this. You can listen to it here:
Fat Hed "Clouds"

or download it as part of the FREE! album "The Jump Room"

Of course only a really stupid super-villain would attempt a 'chemtrail' conspiracy, as any chemicals dropped at that great altitude would soon disperse into the atmosphere, leaving only harmless trace amounts by the time they reach our level. Or so "They" WANT you to think!  You're so naaiiiiive!!

I was raised during the heyday of the L.A. aerospace industry, and many friends and family members were/are engineers and pilots. (I actually get kinda nostalgic when I see contrails...) But to a segment of the population, science and technology is still as mysterious and scary as it was in the day when the first cinema-goers dove under their seats when a film showed a train approaching. Or the "cargo cults" of the South Pacific who built wooden airplanes in an attempt to lure back the great white gods who landed on their islands during WWII in their magic flying machines, bearing miracles like aspirin and chocolate. Surely, no mortal could create such wonders!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Better Than The Beatles! 26 Tunes That Failed to Oust the Fab-Four From the Charts

Four things learned from this album of recordings released  1963-1965 as a reaction to the Beatles U.S. invasion:

1. The "greatest band of all time" was widely resented/disliked.
2. Some thought they were from London, or apparently didn't know there was a difference between Liverpool and London.
3. Ringo was the most popular Beatle.

Obviously, history has altered our view of the Fabs (no relation) a bit since then. And although the Rolling Stone magazine/rock critic mafia would disagree, I also learned that:

4. The American rock'n'roll scene did not need "saving": there's plenty of great surf, garage, hillbilly, r'n'b, novelty, and girl-group sounds here that sadly would be kicked to the curb until its punk revival more than a decade later.

Better Than The Beatles!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Peter Sellers & Spike Milligan: Strangest Comedy LP Ever?

The Goon Show was hugely influential to Monty Python, British comedy in general, and even The Beatles (George Martin had worked with the Goons before his stint with the mop-tops). Count Otto Black has kindly sent our way this utterly bonkers album from two Goons, writing: "In 1974, Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers thought it might be fun to make a record called He's Innocent Of Watergate, Or, Dick's Last Stand. The result, a gleeful and genuinely deranged mélange of vicious satire, relentless political incorrectness (in every possible sense of the word - you have been warned!), and sheer Dadaism pleased almost nobody and offended quite a few. The title song is actually quite catchy..."

The Count ain't kidding: volume and tape speed fluctuations, obviously fake audience  sounds, and a variety of voices (impressive American accents!) all add up to a head-scratching/head-spinning experience. Especially remarkable considering how Sellers was at the height of his post-Pink Panther fame at the time of this album's release.

Peter Sellers & Spike Milligan - He's Innocent Of Watergate, Or Dick's Last Stand

Plus!  Added to the file, two short tracks from Derek and Clive aka Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, another legendary British comedy duo. If your only knowledge of Moore is his "Cuddly Dudley" rom-com persona, take heed!  With both the pre-Python 'Beyond The Fringe' quartet, and subsequent partnership with Cook, Moore was actually party to some of the greatest British cutting-edge comedy ever. The tracks included here, "Kirk Douglas" and "Sex Crime," are genuinely hilarious, not just the bizarre artifact the Sellers/Spike album is.

Thanks, Count Otto!


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

JOSIE COTTON "Invasion Of The B-Girls"

Yes, that "Johnny Are You Queer?" gal is still around and still recording. Witness this 2007 release that came and went with scarcely a trace, tho it should be of interest to fans of strange music and psychotronic cinema. "Invasion Of The B-Girls" is a covers album of songs that originally appeared in films from the Golden Age of Exploitation, the 1960s/'70s. It lacks a bit of the raunch necessary for the more rock 'n' rollin' songs, tho - "Get Off The Road" (from "She Devils On Wheels"), and the theme to "Faster Pussycat Kill Kill" inevitably suffer in comparison to the Cramps' versions. And of course when the Cramps put their stank on a tune, it stays stunk. But Cottons' voice sounds as good as ever, and the pop-sheen production perfectly suits material like the absurdly melodramatic "Black Klansman," and the "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls" theme.  And kudos to Cotton for singing a song from one of the Mothra films in Japanese!

JOSIE COTTON "Invasion Of The B-Girls"

1. Maneaters (Get Off The Road)
2. Green Slime
3. Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls
4. Girl In Gold Boots
5. Run Pussy Cat
6. Who Killed Teddy Bear?
7. Shiawaseo Yobou (Let's Try To Be Happy)
8. Black Klansman
9. Goodbye Godzilla (Vocal Version)
10. Maneaters (Ursula 1000 Remix Edit)

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Acapella Death-Metal of EyeSea

What's more ridiculous than death metal? Howzabout acapella death-metal? EyeSea's "blue ten" is an entire album of Cookie Monster vocals going 'rowr rowr rowr', screams, and silences. And they don't cheat by sneaking in other sounds - there really are no other instruments.  Are they even "singing" in English, or is this a guy clearing his throat for 22 minutes?  Whatever it is, I was laffin'!  

To the remixers and sound-collagists of the world: you're welcome.

 EyeSea "Stück 6"

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

TWINK The Toy Piano Band: "Happy Houses"

Confounding the naysayers who don't consider the toy piano a "real" instrument, Boston's master of toy-tronica Twink, has just released yet another album, his eighth one I believe. It is appropriately entitled "Happy Houses," as you just can't make sad music on toy pianos. (Although I'd love to see some mopey goths try, wouldn't that would be interesting?)

At first glance this appears to be a somewhat modest effort: it's short (8 songs in a half-hour), doesn't have any gimmicks like sampled kiddie records or guest remixers that are found on prior releases, or the kind of elaborate artwork Twink is known for. Just a man and his toys (and electronics) simply backed by a few other cats on guitar, banjo, horn, flute, bass, and a mystery instrument called a 'playett.' But have no fear: this is some of Mr. Twink's best songwriting yet. The first two songs, "Close To Home" and "Ostrich Hop" (with an most un-childlike free-jazz sax solo) are instant Twink faves. "Gumdrop Glitter" has a '70s Moog disco feel. As the album progresses, things get more odd and experimental. Couldn't find any info on the  instrument called the playett featured on  the exotic waltz "Turtle Trap," but something on that song sounds like an mbira, the African thumb-piano, and something else sounds like a horn man playing a garden hose. "Interloodle" has an unidentified cartoonish flatulent sound that I really like - too bad the song's barely a minute-and-a-half long. The wacky electronics on "Crocodilly" move things into Perrey/Kingsley territory, and despite the ravey trappings of the epic "Frankentoy," I can't imagine any DJ having the nerve to play a song so festooned with clinking, clanking sound effects. Their loss, as it's one of the most ambitious things Twink has ever tried. Toy-prog?

Git tha album off of Twink's happy web-house. Click tha song title to be whisked off to DivShare land:

Twink - "Close To Home"

The FREE! web-release "Miniatures" is also pretty recent, and pretty wonderful.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

4 Albums from Pat Smear: The Lost Years

I had a dream the other night that Elvis Presley was fronting a young, collegiate alt-rock trio called The Masters Of Logic. Elvis, in a white jumpsuit, appeared to be in his '70s Vegas era, and despite the lack of the expected brassy big band, he appeared to be acquitting himself quite nicely with this aggressive guitar/bass/drums lineup. Unfortunately, I can't recall exactly what the music was like.

Even more surreal: the fact that a Grammy was recently awarded to a man formerly of a punk group originally called Sophistifuck and the Revlon Spam Queens, who had food regularly thrown at them by audience members, and would throw up on stage.

Good gawd awmighty, PAT SMEAR won a Grammy.

Smear was in The Germs, perhaps the first true hardcore punk band and certainly one of the most notorious, and I guarantee that no one in the late ‘70s thought that this guy was headed for anything other than jail or a mental hospital. Allow me to cut-and-paste:

The band started when Jan Paul Beahm and Georg Ruthenberg decided they should start a band after being kicked out of University High for antisocial behaviour, allegedly for using ‘mind control’ on fellow students. They named themselves “Sophistifuck & The Revlon Spam Queens,” with Beahm (then ‘Bobby Pyn,’ and later Darby Crash) on vocals, Ruthenberg (then and later called Pat Smear) on guitar… the Germs began as an objectively pathetic musical outfit. The first single…arrived back from the pressing plant with the note, “Warning: This record causes ear cancer” printed on the sleeve by the plant staff, much to the band’s displeasure. They were supposed to appear in the Cheech And Chong movie, Up In Smoke but were not invited back mostly due to the fact that The Germs’ anarchic performance included a full-on food fight.... Singer Darby Crash often arrived onstage nearly incoherent from drugs, singing everywhere but into the microphone and taunting the audience between songs. The other band members had similar problems, with many contemporary reviews citing collapses, incoherency, and drunken vomiting onstage."

Darby did in fact O.D.  Smear spent the next decade/plus hanging around the L.A. scene until fate came a-calling, and he joined another band with a lead singer who killed himself, Nirvana. (If I was singing in a band with Pat Smear, I would be very, very nervous.) Nirvana led to the Foo Fighters, who somehow ended up recording with Sir Paul McCartney last year, who all won a Grammy. Forget the Grateful Dead, this was a long, strange trip.
Smear's a great guitarist, and his contributions to the Germs, and punk legend, are inestimable, but as I recall, after the disintegration of the Germs and his subsequent sometimes-excellent band Twisted Roots (whose stuff is in print) in the early '80s, and before his early-'90s Nirvana/MTV stardom, Smear was considered kind of a has-been, wandering thru the L.A. club scene a decidedly minor player. Even recording for the "It" label of college radio, SST Records, didn't help. I rarely recall his albums getting reviewed, airplay, or any kind of buzz.  I knew a grand total of one (1) person who bought one of his albums, and that was just because, y'know, he was the guy from the Germs.  I don't remember actually hearing the album.
And now Pat's playing with, of all people, a Beatle.  And not Ringo!  A knighted Beatle. And he's winning Grammys. Does the Academy know that they just gave a trophy to a key figure in a scene that was (allegedly) opposed to everything the music industry stood for?  Oops, heads will role!  Or not - if a Beatle says it's okay, then it must be okay. I wonder how many music biz weasels will now claim that they loved punk all along. "Marvelous stuff the young people were doing." 

And so Mr. Smear, we salute you, and your half-assed albums. Albums that, to their credit, often fit no known genre, and are almost punk-free. Albums that have never seen digital release (tho maybe they will now). 
At least he doesn't sound like he's taking himself too seriously on these four obscurities.

Pat Ruthensmear "Ruthensmear" (1988) - Amateur glam w/synths, drum machines, Smear's guitar (work that wah-wah!) and strangled vox; an odd, almost random eclecticism. "Golden Boys" is the completion of an unfinished Germs song.

The Death Folk "Deathfolk" (1990) - Acoustic duo with Gary Jacoby from the band Celebrity Skin, but hardly "folk" music; covers Queens' "'39."

Pat Smear "So You Fell In Love With A Musician..." (1992) Sounds properly grunge - his audition for Nirvana? - but hints of glam still pop thru. As usual, he sounds like he's having fun, uttering lyrics like "Wicked witch, your titties drip red lava 3-D fantasies." 

The Death Folk "Deathfolk II" (1992) - No longer acoustic, but grungy glammy pop-rock. This former punk minimalist is not afraid to guitar-wank as much as any arena-rocker. "Medely" honestly isn't that far removed from Styx' "Come Sail Away." Covers The Go-Gos' "Automatic."

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014

Bandcamp Is Still The New Cassette Culture

Like I was saying...Listen for free, buy if you like.

This batch is loosely associated by a shared fascination with the surreal and fantastic,  injecting a little much-needed magic into our world.

- Ergo Phizmiz "Idiot": The prolific madman across the water has two more winners. This one's a generous 18 tracks of mostly instrumentals (w/some sampled vox) cobbled together out of found-sounds and whimsical instruments. "Ornidisco" is a dance track ingeniously fashioned entirely from sampled bird sound effects. "Night on The Town" is an absurd disco raver performed entirely acappella (complete with beatboxing) that's as funny as it is funky. Avant-garde, or just good ol' British eccentricity? Price: free.

- Ergo Phizmiz "Music for Pleasure": "A 17 track behemoth of Ergo Phizmiz's singular take on guitar based rock'n'roll & pop music." Yep, these ramshackle constructions suggest actual rock music, sometimes in the Neil Innes or Syd Barret vein, with much Kink-y garage punk energy. Bonus points for reviving Bobby Goldsboro's '60s bubblegum gem "Little Things." Album title = truth in advertising. Price: £7.

- Doctor Midnight "Crotch Rocket Extremities and​/​or Popular Culture Atrocities": What the ..? This short (12 tracks in 23 minutes), utterly unpredictable album makes as much sense as that album title. This duo comes from Alabama, not with a banjo on it's knee, but plenty of other noises: sound effects, screaming, computers, piano, marimba, guitars, and scary hillbilly voices that may be sampled, or may belong to the band members. My fave moment is when "Chocodino" almost turns into a remake of Steve Reich's "It's Gonna Rain," followed by 38 seconds of "There Ain't Shit On TV!" Price: free.

Paul and Pierre "Eggs Benedict With Mr Wu On The Seahorse Monorail": Pierre is the man behind naive/ toy-pop masters Carton Sonore; this time out he's joined by Scottish warbler Paul Vickers for actual songs, but still retaining the whimsy of past projects. Acoustic instruments like musical saw and mandolin meet Casio-tronics to realize sea shanty-like sing-alongs replete with fantastical imagery. Well written, wonderfully evocative, effortlessly enjoyable. Price: €7, tho the super song "Lon Chaney" is free, and you know a song has to be good if it's about Lon Chaney.

- Zlata Sandor/Shaun Sandor "Band on the Moon": If you're pressed for time, here's 5 minutes of a father and his 4-year-old daughter singing about the kinds of things you would expect little girls to sing about, e.g.: party balloons, animals, and playing on the moon. C'mon, how can you not like this? Price: $1.00.

Timur and the Dime Museum "X-ray Sunsets": These Angelenos conjure up a dark carnival for accordion, ukulele, violin, and on the rollicking "Distance Of The moon," a spot of toy piano, with a bona-fide opera singer up front; I featured their amazing take on Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" here previously, but this album is all original and it's all good. Don't be surprised if David Lynch uses the dreamy doo-wop ballad "Asleep At The Wheel" in his next film. Flamboyantly theatrical without quite being campy. Recommended, even if you hate opera. Price: $7.

Tho he was hardly an indie band/ bedroom producer like the above, I still would like to point out that - holy crap! - there are now 48 Fela Kuti albums now available on Bandcamp.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Vote For Hyemen & Metalfunkel!

WFMU is hosting a battle-of-the-bands right now thru Feb. 4, and of the three finalists, I really like the hilarious Hyemen & Metalfunkel, who do spot-on parodies of heavy-metal classics as performed by Simon and Garfunkel. Their version of Black Sabbaths' "Paranoid" is one of the funniest things I've heard lately, but they also do justice to Van Halen, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, etc.  It helps that I've always liked Simon and Garfunkel. Even tho I hate Paul Simon.  Odd, isn't it?  I guess I just really like S&G's vocal harmonies and that '60s folk-rock sound.  And they were young, which makes Simon's pretensions bearable, no different from any number of other earnest college students bullshitting in the dorm room.   

Unfortunately, Hyemen & Metalfunkel are currently losing to a boring mainstream rock band, so do your patriotic duty, and vote your conscience.

Speaking of metal parodies, a reader recently wrote asking if Metalachi, the Los Angeles combo who play metal classics in a Mexican mariachi style, have an album out yet.  They do!  When I first wrote about them, they only had a few tracks up on MySpace, but their short but very enjoyable debut album "Uno" is now available, boasting swooningly romantic, trumpet-and-strings takes on Guns 'n' Roses, Bon Jovi, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, and this Ozzie standard:

Metalachi - "Crazy Train"

Muy bueno, muy silly.