Freaky Friday: “Too Many Cooks”

Standard

I saw this on Dangerous Minds late last night, but apparently it first aired on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block.  I’m not sure how much I want to say about this strange little clip, except that it’s very, very funny.  It also plays on my love of TV theme songs, as well as fond memories of my 80s adolescence.  Other than that, it really does need to be seen.  Otherwise, you might not believe anyone would be twisted enough to come up with this.

Yeah.  That just happened.

Repost: “Fish Heads”

Standard

I’ve been catching up on my DVR viewing (Sleepy Hollow is just as bananas as it ever was).  But I keep thinking I can smell tuna sandwiches somewhere.  I don’t know what that means.  But it led me back to this Freaky Friday classic.

I chose this old Dr. Demento standard by Barnes & Barnes for this weeks freaky post because I wanted to lighten things up after last week’s visit from The Residents. (Although, let’s face it, pretty much everything is happier than that freaky short film. Sorry if I actually freaked anyone out; that’s not actually the point of Freaky Friday.) Except the video for “Fish Heads” is a lot freakier than I’d remembered it being.

I’d buried this in the comments section quite some time ago, but didn’t pay much attention otherwise. “Fish Heads” is one of those songs meant to amuse and nothing more. There is no hidden meaning, no secret political agenda (although I’d like to hear it if anyone can come up with some kind of philosophy to attach to this one). It’s just a surreal little trip into the brains of Barnes & Barnes.

Art and Artie Barnes are actually former child star Billy Mumy and his childhood friend Robert Haimer (thanks, Wikipedia!). They got together as adults and recorded some weirdly funny songs and short films. “Fish Heads” is the best known, eventually becoming the most requested song in the history of the Dr. Demento show. There’s a whole backstory about the “twins” being from another planet, which explains the guys dressed in garbage bags with funky makeup, I guess. (I assume that’s Mumy and Haimler dressed up in lo-tech, low-cost alien “costumes.”)

Is there any redeeming social value to any of this? Well, it makes people laugh. That ought to be good enough for anyone.

Freaky Friday: “I Talk to My Haircut”

Standard

So Dangerous Minds has once again turned me on to a little bit of insanity I’d never heard of.  The two albums released by Reverend Fred Lane appear to be completely bananas.  Which makes them pretty damn awesome in my book.

I freely admit that I choose this song because I dug the title, but it turned out to be a pretty fun listen.  Although I was pretty entertained by the other clips I heard, too, so you should just search him on YouTube.  It’s all pretty strange.  What I hear most in Reverend Fred Lane’s music is the roots of another absurdist musical favorite, They Might Be Giants.  I have no idea if John and John ever listened to this guy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.

Of course, Reverend Lane isn’t a real guy.  Or, he is real, but he’s not a reverend.  Or named Fred.  It’s a persona created by an artist named T.R. Reed.  The music encompasses pretty much every genre of American music, while the lyrics are Dada-esque in nature (read: they make no sense whatsoever).  This isn’t novelty music, per se, but more like performance art.  What stands out most is the freewheeling abandon of these tracks.  Reed clearly decided at some point to not limit himself in any discernible way.  This is what the phrase “anything goes” was invented for.  He just tossed everything in, including the kitchen sink.

This stuff is wonderfully weird, but it’s not mainstream in any way.  The Reverend Fred Lane is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea.  Which of course means that these recordings are currently out of print.  I hope someone realizes there’s a market for this stuff and re-release it.  Soon.

Freaky Friday: Two Virgins

Standard

Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins is the first recorded collaboration between John Lennon and Yoko Ono.  Lennon had become enamored with both Ono and her work after visiting one of her gallery shows.  They had not yet married, and the Beatles had not broken up.  But Two Virgins signaled a clear shift in Lennon’s artistic direction.

This is only music in the loosest sense, but it is pretty radical stuff.  Sound effects, repeated noises, screaming, and an overall feeling of chaos are jarring to people expecting the Beatles.  Two Virgins was not popular with a lot of fans.  But listening to it now, it’s easy to see how ahead of its time this work was.  This album, as well as Unfinished Music No.2:  Life with the Lions and Wedding Album were explorations in a very personal aural landscape.

On one level, the work is somewhat self-indulgent.  Lennon and Ono seemed to be doing whatever appeals to them with no real thought to listeners.  But I think that’s also part of the point.  The inward-looking nature of these sounds, the intimacy of just the two of them recording together, creates a very strange psychological landscape.  And although it is rather personal in nature, I think there’s still room for the listener to gain something from the experience.  The repetition is meditative for me.  My love of John Lennon is no secret, so I will readily concede my bias here.  But I think this is the kind of thing that could be played in a dark auditorium or art gallery as part of an installation.  It might not be for everyone, but I find the experimentation of Two Virgins mind-opening.

Freaky Repost: Laurie Anderson

Standard

Sorry I totally spaced on posting yesterday.  I’ve been running around doing stuff today, so I didn’t really prep any good new freaks.  Here’s one of my favorite old freaks for your re-enjoyment.

 

Laurie Anderson is an artist. Her work is a brilliant commentary on American culture, values, and mores. She is the author and creator of herself. For women, that last statement is very important, because so much of what women do in this culture is defined, at least in part, by their relationships with men. But Anderson has never been in anyone’s shadow. She got her start in New York in the 1970s, during that amazing heady period when punk and disco were born. Now Anderson was never a punk or a disco diva; her musical sensibilities were wide-ranging, but much of it could be traced back to experimental music. It’s also important to note that while Laurie Anderson uses music as a medium, she isn’t really a musician. She’s an artist.

One of her earliest installations at a gallery was a jukebox that played 45s of songs she wrote. One of these was “It’s Not the Bullet That Kills You (It’s the Hole).” These songs were never released as songs, although a few copies are still around. This particular song seems to be about misplaced values and a culture of violence, a world where the victim gets blamed for the crime (sadly, this is still familiar for some crimes).

It doesn’t hurt that Anderson’s compositions are attractively catchy. She’s clearly got a tunesmith’s ear for what works musically. Her songs are interestingly literate, with good hooks. She often creates instruments to help craft her songs and performances. One of her earliest creations was a violin with a tape recorder attached to it, which eventually evolved into her tape bow violin. It creates eerie sounds that perfectly echo the dread underlying much of her work.

Of course, Anderson is at her best when she’s performing. Her concerts aren’t really shows, but more like experiences. In 1986, she released Home of the Brave, a film version of performances at the Park Theater in Union City, New Jersey. Some kind soul has posted the entire film on YouTube, which I’m including here (thanks, LegeCre). It is by turns thrilling and unsettling. Enjoy.

Late Freak Out: Skinny Puppy

Standard

I’ve been trying to catch up on Pop Culture Happy Hour podcasts the last few weeks, with mixed results.  I was almost completely up to date last year when Dad started getting sick, and I fell way behind again.  As of right now, I’m up to the end of January and Oscar nominations (it is kind of fun listening to all the predictions they got wrong).  But it also means that the blog sometimes slips onto the back burner as I’m giggling along with four of my favorite NPR employees (you knew I was a nerd, right?).

But I thought I’d throw this one out here for you late-nighters, even though it might turn you into an insomniac.

I don’t know much about this style of music.  Except that it kind of terrifies me.  Nine Inch Nails actually comes from this sort of Industrial/Electronica/Metal school of music.  But Trent Reznor has, in becoming the public face of this style, softened it somewhat for more mainstream consumption.  NIN is frequently pretty dark shit, but it’s also tuneful and melodic and really very artful.  Skinny Puppy makes even the earliest NIN music seem like cheerful Pop made by teddy bears.

I’ve sort of deliberately not learned much about Skinny Puppy (here’s their Wikipedia page if you want to know the basic facts).  I first heard them back in the late 80s.  I don’t remember the name of the album, but I listened to about one and a half tracks, and then I had to listen to something else.  Or watch cartoons.  Or maybe the news, which was happier than Skinny Puppy by a long shot.  I haven’t even watched the entire clip I chose to post.  It’s after 10 PM as I’m writing this, and I’d like to be able to sleep sometime tonight.  (To be fair, I’m sure the members of the band are perfectly nice human beings, and that they have legitimate reasons for their artistic and musical choices.  I just don’t care to know right now.)  It’s a little bit like watching a scary movie after a certain time; at some point, you make a conscious choice to watch the sun come up because the shadows are just a little bit too dark.

But all my heebie-jeebies aside, Skinny Puppy is really good at what they do.  And it may well be that scaring listeners silly is an intentional goal.  If it is, bravo, fellas.  You succeeded with me.

Freaky Friday: “Elvis is Everywhere”

Standard

I’m a little off today.  The contractors stayed late working on the laundry room (and apparently went on a heroic quest for the new back door).  But if there’s anything that can pick me up, it’s the thought that Elvis really is everywhere.

I’m sure the conspiracy theories and tabloid stories began within just a few days of Elvis Presley’s death.  If Americans love anything more than Elvis, it’s a good conspiracy theory.  Elvis didn’t die; he was abducted by aliens.  Or he grew a beard and became a long-haul trucker.  The denial of his passing was just the way some people dealt with losing their idol.  It’s almost a secular version of Jesus’ death and resurrection (appropriate since Easter is almost here).

Now that I’m thinking about it, that seems to be what most conspiracy theories are about: denial.  Holocaust deniers.  9/11 truthers.  Kennedy assassination hobbyists.  Civil War re-enactors who rig it so the South wins.  Fanfiction “fix-it” stories (which might explain what’s been wrong with Agents of SHIELD all season).  If they deny something traumatic or unpleasant happens, if they find “evidence” that something else happened instead, then the thing they’re denying didn’t really happen.  Or at least it didn’t happen the way everyone else says it did.  You can see it happening in real time with Malaysian Airlines 370.  Those people demanding answers and proof that the plane crashed into the ocean are trying to find a way to cope.  (Of course, to be fair, there is something really hinky about the whole thing.)

We all want life to be easy, for there to be answers to all of our questions.  My biggest question right now is how I got from Mojo Nixon to conspiracy theories, but hey, let’s just roll with it.  As a Buddhist, I do believe that in some sense, Elvis never really left the building.  No one is ever really gone; they’re just on another plane of existence.  Their energy is still part of the universe.  But that doesn’t answer all the questions, and it doesn’t make actual life any easier knowing that.  I’ll still have to get up and deal with bills and dishes tomorrow.  Chop wood and carry water.

But at least I know that I’ve got a little Elvis in me.