April 30, 2008

GG Allin on Pitchfork TV

GGAllin.jpgFor the next couple of days, Pitchfork TV are offering us the chance to watch Hated, the notorious documentary about GG Allin, one of the most extreme performers ever to front a punk band. As lead singer of his band, the Murder Junkies, Allin's stage act often involved bloody self-harm, defecation on stage, and the flinging of faeces and food extracted from his anus at the crowd. When not engaged in such antics, Allin screamed his way through songs with an invariably violent, nihilistic and misanthropic bent. According to Allin, in was all about bringing "danger" back into rock'n'roll, and it earned him a fervent cult following.

This doco by Todd Phillips focusses on a Murder Junkies tour in the late 80's and it includes much NSFW footage of Allin in action, along with evidence that he carries his posture of being anti-everything other than gutter-level perversion and random psychotic violence into everyday life. In addition, we get to meet some of the other "characters" in his band, like his doting Hitler-mustachioed brother, Merle, and a hippy drummer who performs naked because clothes irritate his skin. There are also great back story interviews with uncomprehending former teachers and bemused schoolmates; and a fan who shares John Wayne Gacy's assessment of GG's personal hygiene with us.

And, finally, let me repeat: this doco is very very NSFW...

Posted by Warren at 08:17 PM

April 27, 2008

Erotic Oriental

Tani.jpgFrom the mid 60’s through to the early 80’s, one of the most prolific and successful of Japanese film genres was a local style of pornography known as pink films. By the late 70’s, they accounted for more than 70% of domestic film production and encompassed material aimed at a wide array of “tastes”.

Among the tastes catered for was S&M, which started finding its way onto Japanese screens in the mid 1970's and attracted enough of a following to turn its female principals into stars who could use their fame to branch out into other areas... like music.

For the past couple years, the boutique label Tiliqua Records has been diligently seeking out the recordings made by these "bondage queens" and re-releasing them in strictly limited editions. Surprisingly enough, what they've found is both slick and musically solid and, in some cases, quite arresting. Take Naomi Tani, for instance.

For much of the 1970's, she was the reigning queen of S&M pink films. When she decided to leave the industry at the end of the decade, she released a musical swansong, Modae no Heya, which combines traditional instrumentation and lush orchestration with "provocative" but tastefully restrained spoken vocals.

Naomi Tani - Showa Kare Susuki

Sadly, the CD that this comes from is pretty much sold out, but a little bit of hunting may unearth others from this series. Even if it doesn't, make sure you bookmark the Tiliqua site so you can be ready when their next installment hits the Web.

Posted by Warren at 09:33 PM

April 25, 2008

President, Prophet, Seer, Revelator... And Crooner

Jeffs.jpgFather Yod, Charles Manson, David Koresh - all of them were cult leaders with musical aspirations who pursued them with varying degrees of success. Now a fourth name can be added to this list - Warren Jeffs, "President and Prophet, Seer and Revelator" of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or FLDS). This breakaway Mormon sect was formed in part as a protest over the mainstream Church's renunciation of polygamy in the 1930's. For the FLDS, polygamy is not merely acceptable but a requirement if a man wants to achieve salvation. (Jeffs’ father and the previous sect leader, Rulon Jeffs, really took this doctrine to heart, acquiring at least 20 wives.) To ensure that the process unfolds in a smooth and expeditious manner, the spiritual leader can assign young woman of “marriageable” age to a husband – regardless of that young woman’s wishes.

Warren Jeffs attempted to do this in 2005 with a 14 year female cult member who had been promised to her 19 year old cousin. After being repeatedly raped by her assigned spouse, she went to the police and, on the basis of this and other charges, Jeffs was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in late 2007. After this, the authorities entered the FLDS compound in El Dorado, Texas, to look for more evidence of under-aged marriages - most of which would naturally have been arranged by Jeffs. (As part of these investigations, the FBI are now engaging in mass DNA testing of sect children to establish if any of them are the offspring of illegal unions.)

And what of Jeffs musical career?... Well, he initially found musical "fame" via samples of one of his racist/homophobic sermons that were incorporated in the song "Warren Jeffs Explain" by Chicago experimental rock band Kinkzoid. Recently though, it has come to light that Jeffs wrote and recorded songs of his own and the compound where the sect was based was even named after one of them - "Yearning For Zion". Kinkzoid's song can be heard on their MySpace page; Jeffs' own composition, which is a syrupy concoction of tremeloed synth, gentle piano and his drenched-in-saccahrin vocals, comes to us from the good folk at WFMU.

Warren Jeffs - Yearning For Zion

Posted by Warren at 08:25 PM

April 22, 2008

Great Moments In Reflexive National Chauvinism

The Olympic torch relay is currently working its way nervously through its Australian leg and much as I sympathise with and support the current round of protests against it, I know that if similar actions had been taken in the lead up to the Olympics in my own country in 2000, then there would have been widespread domestic outrage and demands for the modern equivalent of a hanging, drawing and quartering of anyone involved. (Even if such protests were entirely justified, it wouldn't matter... that's the sort of country Australia is.)

So it comes as no surprise whatsoever to discover that a group of Chinese punters have responded to the recent torch relay protests by recording and distributing a cheesy piece of Mando-Pop that savages Western media coverage and has an accompanying video with images of Josef Goebbels.

The song is called "Don't Be Too CNN" and the YouTube version of it can be viewed above. The lyrics (which were translated by Wall Street journalist Sky Canaves) go something like this:

CNN's warped reporting on Tibet, and the Tibetan separatist attacks on
the Beijing Olympics torch relay, made me write this song
Don't be too CNN
That day on the internet I suddenly saw a photo
It showed the riots taking place in Tibet
CNN's simple promise, the whole truth is inside
But I gradually discovered, it's actually deception
No matter how much the world changes, the blue sea becomes a field of
mulberry trees
The fake South China tiger and this kind of photo [CNN Lhasa image], I
despise them equally
You can't turn lies into the truth by repeating them a thousand times,
The dark night makes my eyes black, but I will still use them to seek the light
How they rack their brains, to turn falsehoods into the truth, don't be too CNN
How can you possibly turn Jay Zhou into Li Yuchun?
How they rack their brains, to turn falsehoods into the truth, don't ever be CNN
I preferred that you all just be very stupid and very naïve
I preferred that you all just be very stupid and very naïve

Posted by Warren at 01:27 AM

April 10, 2008

The Mystery Instrument Of Washington Phillips

Phillips.jpgWashington Phillips was a Texan gospel singer who only ever recorded 16 songs back in in the late 1920's, but he has been a source of enduring musical fascination ever since. One of the main reasons for that fascination is the instrument he plays on those recordings to accompany his singing. The sound it produces is reminiscent of a battered toy harpsichord which is capable of veering from the ethereally beautiful to the completely carnivalesque, but no one knows exactly what it is.

Some musicologists have speculated that it might be a Dolceola, a commercially-produced early twentieth century cross between a toy piano and zither, but according to the engineer who recorded Phillips, the instrument was a homemade creation that "nobody on earth could use except him".

Over the years, Phillips' work has appeared on a variety of compilations and has been released in full by several labels (most recently Yazoo and Mississippi). For your listening pleasure, I'm passing on two tracks that have been covered by famous fans of Phillips. (The first one appeared on a 1971 album by Ry Cooder, and the second was covered by Will Oldham's band, Palace Brothers, in 1993.)

Washington Phillips - Denomination Blues
Washington Phillips - I Had A Good Father And Mother

Posted by Warren at 09:10 PM

April 07, 2008

Two Unusual Musical Career Paths From Two Centuries

Freezepop.jpgSetting up a MySpace page for your band is all well and good but to make the leap from the long tail to the short head, you still need a helpful leg-up. And if you don’t get it from the industry, the music press, mp3 blogs, or a massive groundswell of fans, what other options do you have? Well, how about getting a job as a music director for a video games company?

Back in 1999, Freezepop had just started out as an electro-pop outfit in Boston when one of their members, Kasson Crooker, signed on as a sound designer and composer at Harmonix, a games house devoted to vocal/instrumental “karaoke” games. In the years that followed, Harmonix released a series of well-received games of this sort and all the while, Crooker was there, inserting Freezepop songs into many of the projects he worked on. Then, in 2005, Harmonix (and Freezepop) hit serious paydirt with the outrageously successful Guitar Hero. As the franchise grew into a phenomenon, Freezepop became a band with a million fans who not only heard their music but played along with it.

(Ironically, this band - who became the catalyst for a million masturbatory guitar-god fantasies - contains no guitars and even revels in that most “unrock” bastard child of the guitar – the keytar…)

Here’s an 8-bit remix of Freezepop’s first video game outing – Science Genius Girl

Jewface.jpgIf you were an aspiring Jewish songwriter in New York in the first decade of the 20th Century, then your first port of call was vaudeville and this would invariably mean writing Jewish minstrel songs. Just like their “black” counterparts, these songs were parodic riffs on contemporary stereotypes of Jews. Unlike them though, they were written by Jewish songwriters for a Jewish audience. And they weren’t just a fringe activity – one of the greatest American songwriters of the early 20th century, Irving Berlin, started out penning songs like “Cohen Owes Me $97”, a minstrel ditty about a Jewish businessman on his deathbed who is obsessed about the money owed to him by one of his debtors.

In addition to providing amusement to a Jewish audience, these songs were popular with the gentiles who perceived them as pandering to their anti-Semitic tendencies. Probably for this reason, they remained largely concealed for much of the latter part of the 20th century and have only really come to light with the release of the Jewface compilation in 2006 (which jokingly refers to itself on its cover as “Perhaps The Most Offensive Album Ever Made”.) And here, from that album, is a 1908 tale of inter-racial love in the Wild West.

Edward Meeker – I’m A Yiddish Cowboy

Posted by Warren at 09:36 PM

April 03, 2008

Chinese MC Hammer

Good Lord... I'm gobsmacked. Not so much by the limber-limbed MC Hammer wannabe in this clip, but by the mother who continues impassively knitting while her hyperactive son gets jiggy all over their living room. (via Metafilter)

Posted by Warren at 12:18 AM

April 02, 2008

Black Mirror: Reflections In Global Musics

Black_Mirror.jpgApart from anything else, Black Mirror: Reflections in Global Musics is a testament to the diversity of obscure global music that one can unearth in a modern multicultural city if one takes the time and effort to look. The album, compiled by record store proprietor Ian Nagoski, is an astonishing treasure trove of early twentieth century “world music” sourced from dusty old 78s that he picked up in thrift stores, flea markets and private collection sales; all no more than 30 minutes drive from his home in Baltimore. (In addition, the total sum paid for the 32 recordings on the album amounted to no more than $125.) The tracks come from countries as diverse as Ireland, Poland, Syria, Cameroon, India and Laos, and include some genuinely historical artefacts such as the first commercial recording of Balinese gamelan. Here, for your listening pleasure, are just two. The first is a lively African interpretation of Cuban rhumba by a mid 50's ensemble from Cameroon; and the second is a 1919 recording of the unearthly wailing vocals of Greek rebetika singer Marika Papagika.

Ngo Mebou Melane - Paul Pendja Ensemble
Smyrneiko Minore - Marika Papagika

The album is released on the Dust To Digital label and can be purchased from their website.

Posted by Warren at 11:16 PM