Tuesday, May 31, 2005


More rock-xotica: If anyone has the right to cover The Clash's "Rock The Casbah" it's Rachid Taha. After all, he's from Algeria, an arabic North African country that might actually have casbahs. Since the fundis took over, however, he's been based out of Paris (anyone playing pop music in Algeria nowadays will find themselves at the business end of a machete wielded by one of Allah's more intolerant servants.) It's both amusing and bewildering to hear a song from the punk era sung in Arabic, and featuring the likes of the Egyptian Strings Ensemble. From Taha's latest album "Tekitoi":

Rachid Taha "Rock El Casbah"

And no sooner did this come out then Paris' DJ Zebra creates a mash-up of "Rock El Casbah" with popular Scandinavian garage-rockers The Caesars' "Jerk It Out":

DJ Zebra: "Jerk The Casbah"

Friday, May 27, 2005


Thurl Ravenscroft possessed one of the greatest names in music history, did he not? Although many may not know that name, they certainly know his voice, a bass rumble so deep it could probably rattle windows. He lived a long, rich life, passing away recently at age 91, which makes one pause to wonder: WHO will now be the voice of Tony The Tiger? Yep, 'twas Thurl who originated the voice of the Kellog's Corn Flakes mascot back in 1952. In 1966, he sang "You're A Mean One, Mr Grinch" for the classic animated special "How The Grinch Stole Christmas." But my favorite performance of his has to be the song he recorded in 1969 for Disneyland's Haunted Mansion ride:

"Grim Grinning Ghosts"

All together now: It's grrrrrr-reat!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

More Vegetable Music

Last year we covered the First Vienna Vegetable Orchestra, which prompted a reader (thank you, whoever you are) to point me towards The Wyld Men, who also make music out of vegetables. The Viennese are a serious group of European artistes whose sounds are inspired by abstract electronica - quite a contrast to these wacky theatrical American folkies, who are prone to wearing loincloths and playing in mud. Apart from fashioning flutes and whistles out of carrots and yams, they are also the creators of the "Slide-Potato" and The Whiskey-in-the-jar-phone: "( a slide wistle with the plunger removed, which is then submerged in a jar of whiskey. The pitch is controlled hydraulically--alcohaulically?-- by moving the jar of whiskey). This instrument, of course, accompanies the song "Whiskey in the Jar ".

Listen to "Rutabega Blues"

from the album "Veggie Music"

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


As Howard Stern fans know, Mr Methane is a British chap known as the world's only musical "flatulist" - put a microphone up to his bum, and he'll fart his way into musical history. He certainly has a remarkable, erm, "breathing" technique that allows for unprecedented control of rude sounds. Unfortunately, Phil Collins was unimpressed with Methane's "Controlled Anal Voicing" and wouldn't allow the release of a parody of one of Collin's big hits. I suppose I could be doing a lot of things with my life - medicine, law, science, who knows - but, no, I had to track down:

Mr Methane "Curry In The Air Tonight"

Monday, May 23, 2005


Robert Moog turns 71 today. Or maybe it was yesterday. Regardless, the inventor of the synthesizer deserves our heartiest best wishes. The Moog wasn't just the first synth - during the '60s it was virtually the ONLY one, and hence, the name Moog (rhymes with "vogue") was synonomous with the synthesizer. Not until the '70s did other challengers like The Arp get into the picture. This University of Iowa Moog demo from the '70s contains a truly odd "remix":

"Envelope Follower" That'd be a cool band name, eh?

Electronic music technology has, of course, come a long way since the '60s, but some synthesists prefer vintage analog gear over this newfangled digital stuff. Thelonious Moog play the music of legendary jazz pianist Thelonious Monk in a wonderfully wacked-out Space-Age style that, upon even a brief exposure to their album "Yes, We Didn't," would cause jazz purists to clutch their chest and topple over backwards.

"Off Minor"
"Bye ya"
"I Mean You"

Friday, May 20, 2005


It's been exactly 25 years (give or take a day or two) since Ian Curtis of Joy Division took his own life. Joy Division carried on as New Order of course, and recorded their own share of classics, but who knows how much more powerful they would have been had Curtis stayed in the band. Joy Division was a big part of my punk-rock boyhood, so let's raise a glass and salute Ian Curtis as we listen to his biggest hit...er, well, a loungey bossa nova version of his biggest hit performed by

Prozak For Lovers: "Love Will Tear Us Apart"

Since the French group Nouvelle Vague's bossa nova takes on punk classics have been so popular around here lately, let's check out this American combo who did the same thing several years before, but who didn't garner nearly as much attention. Prozac For Lovers' self-titled self-released album, available thru CDBaby.com, features chilled remakes of hippy rockers like "Don't Fear The Reaper" and "Proud Mary" mixed with punk chestnuts like:
"London Calling"

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Like many, I discovered Unarius through their wild psychedelic shows on public-access cable TV. Founded in 1954, Unarius is a UFO cult based in Southern California who not only believe in aliens ("the Space Brothers") that guide and protect us, but also in reincarnation - one founding Unarian wrote a book called "I, Bonaparte" chronicling his past life as Napoleon.

This has turned into Music Videos for Maniacs lately, hasn't it? But since the Unarians don't have any CDs available yet ("Coming Soon!" their website promises), let's watch the Unarius choir known as And The Angels Sing sing:

"Starship Hope"

The Space Brothers were supposed to arrive in 1974. The date got pushed back to '75, '76, and 2001. The Space Brothers may be flakes, but Unarians still have starship hope.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


This probably the first time I've covered an artist on a major label. But this is the first time I've heard of a black rapper in a cowboy hat who drops rhymes over country music instead of boomin' hip-hop beatz. And it may be the last. But I hope not. Cowboy Troy's new album came out last month on Warner Brothers Nashville and is drawing strong views on all sides of the usually narrow confines of country music. But no matter how one feels about hip-hop or country, there's no denying the goofy charm of a rap song that gives a history lesson on:

"Texas," sporting lyrics like, "The first elected president was named Sam Houston/Come on everybody, get loose in...Texas." Beats bitches & bling-bling anyday, eh pardner? The follow-up to the brilliantly-named EP "Hick-Hop Hysteria" is called "Loco Motive," samples of which can be heard here, with songs ranging from "My Last Yee-Haw" to "Do Your Thang."

Saturday, May 14, 2005


May 15 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the city of Las Vegas, a city so near and dear to my heart I just had to commerate this occasion with, what else, a lounge singer. It's said that Vegas casinos started offering free entertainment in their casino lounges in the '50s as a way to keep the wives and girlfriends of the gangsters who were running things in those days happy while the boys were gambling. Most lounge records were not sold in stores - you had to purchase these often self-produced records from the performers themselves (hey, if they had a record contract, would they be working lounges 6 nites a week, 3 shows a nite?). Years later, they turn up in thrift-stores, used record sales, garages sales, etc. From whence comes today's selection, taken from an album called "The Many Moods Of Mike Hudson" which, judging by the leisure suit he's wearing on the cover is probably from the dawn of the '70s. Can't find any biographical info on him, and the liner notes only mention he performs in Southern California.

Original compositions are rare on these records (covers of "Proud Mary," "You've Lost That Lovin Feeling" and "The Lady Is A Tramp" are featured on this album) but here's a Hudson original:

Mike Hudson "I'll Take Las Vegas"

Thursday, May 12, 2005


The Afghan girl-group The Burka Band we covered here last week got me thinking about other weird bits of rock-xotica (like that word? I should copyright it) like the Cambodia Rocks series. Vol 3 is now out, documenting, well, Cambodian rock, primarily from the '60s & early '70s before the Commies took over. Although they did some Western pop covers, most Cambodian rock songs were originals, or Cambodian tunes reworked with Western instruments and a rockin' beat. One of my favorite radio shows here in Los Angeles, "The Molotov Cocktail Hour," played this utterly berserk Booker T & MGs cover that stopped me dead in my tracks:

Lelu Thaert "Dance Soul"

Inspired by these collections, a group of LA musicians formed Dengue Fever with an authentic Cambodian female singer who could be that country's entry to the Miss World pageant. They have one album out, new one coming soon, and they've been touring thru California (supporting Jonathan Richman!) so y'all have to come out here and see this:

"Lost In Laos" video

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Thriftshop XL has taken those familiar Microsoft Windows sounds and cleverly recycled them into two delightful minutes. Vocals from Opus III's "It's A Fine Day" have been chopped up to fit the theme. If Bill Gates were smart, he'd buy the rights for this and use it in advertising. But he'd probably just take it.

"Window XL (remix)"

Why, look, a video!

"Windows XL (remix)" - Video

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


If MTV wanted to get real with it's mash-up show, it might grow some cajones, drop the LinkinPark/Jay-Z jive, and show Cartel Communique videos.

Cartel Communique, in collaboration with sonic prankster Osymyso, have been making outrageous satirical video collages for over 3 years, and now they finally have a website. Pop music, pop culture, the British royal family and politicians are the favorite targets of their clever found-sound/video editing/mixing skills and devilish humor. Watch & listen:

"Rockafeller Reg" - A new twist on Fatboy Slim's "Right about now the funk soul brother" song

"Bushwacked" - What the President meant to say was...

"Fly Me To New York" - You will gasp in astonishment at what they've made Frank Sinatra do. A milestone in tasteless humor.

Ah, wouldn't it be nice to turn on your tv and see stuff like this instead of more inane sitcoms, cheezy movies, or idiots yelling at each on the Fox "News" network? "And the Emmy for best tv commercial cut-up goes to..."

UPDATE 2/07: New Site

Monday, May 09, 2005


Why is it that only heavy metal gets to worship satan and roll around in all that is dark and evil? Why isn't there any death-polka, or black-country? Long-haired adolescent boys in band t-shirts who don't do too well in school aren't getting a very varied musical diet - until now.
The Casualties of Jazz are a Los Angeles-based trio sporting one of those Jimmy Smith-type funky Hammond organ sounds. The title of their album "Kind Of Black" is a play on Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" mixed with the black of Sabbath. Yep, Ozzy and pals find their classics reinterpeted as funky jazz instrumentals. These cats are slick as a blood-spill, as tight as a sealed casket, having performed with the likes of Isaac Hayes, Jane's Addiction, Alanis Morisette, J Lo, Roger Daltrey, Christina Aguilera, etc.

Listen to their takes on Sabbath classics like "Ironman," "War Pigs," and "Sweat Leaf" here.

And why not? After all, Church of Satan founder Anton LeVay played organ...

Saturday, May 07, 2005


I'm the proud owner of the 12" single Mr T cut at the height of his "A-Team" popularity in 1984, "Treat Your Mother Right," which credits Ice-T with "vocal production" several years before his solo debut. Mr T actually made a full-length video called "Be Somebody...Or Be Somebody's Fool" to accompany his album of the same name. Here's a site that has a clip, in all it's scary '80s glory:

"Treat Your Mother Right"

Thursday, May 05, 2005


"I've always been a loner, slow at making friends," sings Alex Jones (in an almost impenetrable Russian accent), but he doesn't let that get him down. Jones sings utterly honest songs about his everyday life, his adopted home of Australia, and, more than anything else, love. Comparisons to the late, great Wesley Willis are not unfair - though not as obsessive-compulsive as Willis' ouvre, Jones's songs do roughly all sound the same, his tone-deaf singing accompanied by rinky-dink Casio rhythms. Unlike Willis, however, Jones doesn't appear to have any severe mental problems, though he certainly has a shaky grasp of the English language. He couldn't look less rock'n'roll - the conservatively-dressed bespectacled middle-aged Jones looks like an insurance salesmen. And, for all I know, he very well may be.

I first discovered Jones last February trawling the internet for a Mardi Gras song, and boy, did I find one. I had never heard anything quite like "Mardi Gras," which was actually a heartfelt plea for gay tolerance: "Gays are successful in keeping profile, Attracting young people by their lifestyle." More recently I went back and listened to a lot more of his sweet and sincere songs. "Judge me carefully...I have love I can't express," he sings in "Counryman" (I think there's supposed to be a "T" in there, but hey, that's how he spells it.) You can't top this one though - apparently he tried his hand at meditation and this is the jaw-dropping result:

"Mantra" - Listed next to each song on his site is the song's genre, "country," "reggae," etc. Next to this one it just says "unknown."


Wednesday, May 04, 2005


May 5 is Cinco de Mayo, America's celebration of Mexican culture, and so we observe this holiday the way we celebrate every occasion - with some music in bad taste. (Ay ay ay!)

"Pancho Sanchez," a parody of "The Ballad of Davy Crockett," was a hit song in the '50's for Lalo Guerrera, the Godfather of Chicano Music who died just a couple of months ago at age 89. Though popular with both white and latino audiences, the song's stereotypical depiction of Mexicans was so offensive to some folks that Lalo wouldn't play it live (much to my disappointment - I saw him live a couple of years ago). He more than made up for it, though, with his vast contribution to music and his involvment with the legendary activist Cesar Chavez.

But did he really do a parody of "O Sole Mio" called "There's No Tortillas"?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


As many of you are no doubt aware, Hasil Adkins passed away recently at age 67. Although he received plenty of attention and cult stardom thanks to cats like The Cramps covering his songs, he was, in many ways, the quintessential "outsider" musician. An authentic hillbilly, "Haze" toiled for decades in obscurity in his isolated West Virginia home, recording crude one-man-band rockabilly hollers like these would-be dance crazes:
"Let's Slop Tonight" and the classic "The Hunch"
He will be forever remembered for his many fine songs about chopping off girl's heads and hanging them on the wall: "No More Hot Dogs."

Monday, May 02, 2005


Actually, they're Afghanistan's only girl-group, but still... The Burka Band are one of the first pop groups to emerge in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Performing on Western instruments (electric guitar, drum kit) and singing in English, these 3 ladies not only wear the traditional head-to-toe burkas, they sing about 'em on their debut 7" from the German label ata tak. Not quite a Muslim Shaggs, the result is charmingly amateurish rock-xotica:

"Burka Blue" Although they say their mom wears blue jeans now.

"Burka Blue (remix)" is quite nice too.

Haven't heard another of their songs called "No Burkas!," but that sounds like some authentic rock'n'roll rebellion. And who knew there was such a thing anymore?