Monday, May 23, 2011


Part one of our attempt to penetrate the nearly-impenetrable culture of North Korea explored the "pop" songs of the World's Strangest Country. Today, we're getting all high-culture and whatnot, with one of the "Five Great Revolutionary Operas," "The Flower Girl."

The plot concerns a poor girl's attempt to deal with her evil landlord. Ghosts are, apparently, also involved. Supposedly written by North Korea's founder Kim Il-Jong, it was one of a series of operas "...intended to promote the communist ideology, by incorporating themes such as the
class struggle against the bourgeois." Attention: cabaret singers! How catchy toe-tappers like "Covering 280 km Road after Leaving the Home Village" have not entered the standard showtune songbook, I do not know.

Mansudae Art Troupe: "The Flower Girl"

I guess I was expecting this to be more folkloric, like Chinese opera with it's clanging percussion and shrill vocals. It actually sounds pretty Broadway, all melodramatic string orchestrations and emotional music-theater vocals. Not nearly as relentlessly peppy as the pop songs. Goes down smooth, as good propaganda should.

Recently, She Walks Softly posted some amazing photos, and a link to a documentary shot surreptitiously in North Korea. Truly, some must-see viewing.

Thanks again to

Friday, May 20, 2011

R.I.P.: Randy 'Macho Man' Savage

Pro wrestling legend Randy 'Macho Man' Savage just died in an auto accident, it was announced today. Which makes now as good a time as any to post his rap album from 2003.

Yes, you read that right. This ridiculous album makes no sense on any number of levels, but one particularly curious thing about it is that fact that it came out so long after the peak of Savage's (and wrestling's) '80s popularity, and the heyday of '80s novelty rap. By the '90s, hip-hop was mostly overrun by gangstas, and the dubious prospect of an entire album by a rapping wrestler seemed even more ludicrous by 2003. At least this album isn't quite as bad as the one Dee Dee Ramone made - one of the the world's great rock 'n' rollers was, as Dee Dee King, the world's worst rapper, making Vanilla Ice sound like Ice Cube.

Needless to say, Savage's gruff, mush-mouthed vocals are no treat, and his lyrics are laughably lame - imagine, a 50-something white guy rapping about chillin' in the club with his crew and gettin' with the ladies, when he isn't dissing Hulk Hogan (ha!) and boasting about his wrestling prowess. He even has a dead-homie song. The music tries to be relevant with hard-rock guitars trying to pump up the tracks like an athlete's body on steroids. R'n'b chicks crooning absurd lovey-dovey lyrics attempt to up the sexy romance (?!) quotient, and actual known figures from the hip-hop world like DJ Kool show up to collect a paycheck and perhaps inject some "street" credibility into the mess. Just when I start to ask myself, "Why the hell am I listening to this abortion?," Savage drops another rhyme so mind-bogglingly dumb that I find myself compelled to keep listening. Be a man, I tell myself. R U ready? Feel the madness!!!!

Randy Macho Man Savage -
Be A Man
1. Intro
2. I'm Back
3. R U Ready
4. Hit the Floor
5. Let's Get It On
6. Remember Me
7. Tear It Up
8. Macho Thang
9. Be a Man
10. Get Back
11. Feel the Madness
12. What's That All About
13. Gonna Be Trouble
14. Perfect Friend

Thursday, May 19, 2011


The more North Korea tries to hide from the world, the more the world becomes fascinated.

I'd never really thought about music from the DPRK because the country is so closed off to outsiders that I figured nothing could get in or out. Well, awesome new super-pals over at the Kitschstortion blog have recently sent us a treasure-trove of music that lets us peek over the fence into the Strangest Country in The World.

How strange is it? Dig this: all North Korean kitchens have radios permanently tuned to official government channels, and you can't turn them off. So saying these songs in today's album are the DPRK's greatest hits isn't really saying a whole lot - after all, you don't have much choice. But nonetheless, this first collection is what's rockin' the streets of Pongyang, which is pretty much the only city visitors are allowed to see (heavily escorted, of course.)

Musically, it's very upbeat, slickly-produced pop, ranging from pretty ballads to near-disco beats. Synthesizers
predominate, with wailing lead electric guitars sometimes thrown in. Lyrically, of course, it's all communist propaganda designed to reinforce your love of country and Dear Leader.

Korean Songs 1 - Both Paektu and Halla Belong to My Motherland

1. Glad to See You
2. Spring of Home Village
3. Song of Bean Paste [nice Asian synth melody; and that title really says it all, doesn't it?]
4. Song of Kimchikkaktugi [musically, could be '70s tv soundtrack music]
5. Song of the Half Moon [suggests a dreamy '50s ballad or Disney song]
6. Our Nation Is Best
7. Reunification Rainbow [check that poppin' disco bass]
8. Song of Mt. Pukak [polka party!]
9. Reunification Tondollari [some traditional-sounding percussion here; absurd backup vox]
10. Ojak Bridge of Reunification [again, this could almost be a disco soundtrack to some sleazy '70s movie, until the militaristic vocals kick in]
11. We Are One [oh man, love that trad. percussion/"Star Wars" sound effects duel at 1:52]
12. See You Again
13. Reunification of the Country by Our Nation Itself [Rousing! Makes me wanna march around the room!]
14. Both Paektu and Halla Belong to My Motherland

The Guardian ran an amazing series called "Pongyang Goes Pop" that follows a music journalist's investigation into the North Korean scene.

More to come! Thanks Kitschstortion!

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Stooges Go Polka!

Well, not polka, but this group from Chicago does play instrumental versions of Stooges classics on trombone and tuba (and drums). No guitars, tho it does sound rather dirty 'n' distorted at times. It also sounds really, really good.

The Ridiculous Trio Plays The Stooges

01.No Fun
02.Down On The Street
03.I Want to Be Your Dog
05.She Creatures Of The Hollywood Hills
06.Scene Of The Crime / Death Trip
07.Not Right
08.We Will Fall

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


"Dolores Fuller, the onetime actress-girlfriend of cross-dressing schlock movie director Ed Wood who co-starred with Wood in his low-budget 1950s cult classic "Glen or Glenda," has died. She was 88.

Fuller, whose show business career included writing the lyrics to a dozen Elvis Presley movie songs, died Monday at her home in Las Vegas after a long illness," sez the LA Times.

Co-author of some of The King's greatest tunes, like "Rock-A-Hula Baby," and "Do The Clam," memorably covered by The Cramps. Too bad she didn't stay with Wood, at least professionally. What a power couple they would have been - his movies, her songs...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Vermont's Jake Lions Band have very nicely offered up to us an excellent free album of lots of short (except for one 8 minute track), silly bits of electro-Dada. The non-instrumentals sport absurd lyrics sometimes sung in Chipmunk/cartoon-ish vocals. Like Zoogz Rift or Big Poo Generator, Lions and Co. mix smart, complex music with goofiness, thereby keeping pretentiousness at bay.

Check out lots m
ore of his stuff HERE.

Jake Lions Band -
I Am Not And You Can Too

Friday, May 06, 2011

Joy DIVAsion

I should hate this album, I really should. I bet a lot of people would if they heard it - it takes Joy Division instrumentals and mixes them with pop female vocals, and that's just plain sacrilege in some quarters. But, damn it, it pretty much works a treat. The final track with Diana Ross sounds out-of-key to my ears, but otherwise Ian Curtis' psychodrama supplanted by whiny pop tarts makes a surprising amount of sense, at least on a musical level. And, actually, some of these idiotic songs gain unexpected emotional heft as well, propelled by the passionate punk-derived instrumental tracks.

Sometimes the whole ridiculous-ness of it all makes it downright funny. And, you must admit, "funny" is not a word usually associated with Joy Division. Got to give The Netherland's mashup master Oki (who we previously featured HERE) credit for such audacity. Kill your idols!

Oki - Divas of Joy

oki - Love Will Crush Us Apart (Joy Division vs Paramore) - video by Instamatic from Tim Baker on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

VINYL-PALOOZA #11: Ya No Hay Beatles! A Mexican '60s Garage Rock Fiesta

Closing out this month-long trip thru record-land, I present one final goodie - a various-artists 1960s mucho loco trip thru my Mexican garage-rock discoveries. I found some of these in the little mom 'n' pop store-front Latino music discotecas (music shops) that dot the working class neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Some of these records were still in the shrink-wrap, apparently bouncing around unwanted since the '60s. I bought most of these in the '90s, so I doubt there are too many left by now, but one never knows, does one? The usual sources (thrift shops, record stores) provided the rest.
These albums aren't always solid gold - there are boring ballads, or songs sung in English that make these groups sound like just another bar band. But the right combination of teenage hormones, unusual Latin influences, covers and originals can result in wild, fun, Nuggets-worthy trash-sterpieces.

So here's an hour's worth of garage, rockabilly, crazy screaming vocals, cool surf instros, and (this being a MusicForManiacs comp, after all) a few weird novelties. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Ya No Hay Beatles!

Los Locos Del Ritmo - Hey Joe
Hermanos Carrion - Todo A Su Tiempo (Turn Turn Turn)
Los Apson - Ya No Hay Beatles [I think the title of this original tune translates to something like "We Ain't No Beatles"]
Los Aragon - Tema do Los Monkees
Los Teen Tops - La Plaga (Good Golly Miss Molly)
Los Rockin Devils - Hey Lupe (Hang On Sloopy) [I have a great cassette by these guys/gal, but I can't be bothered with pulling out my boom box; in any case, Amazon has some highly-recommended CDs by 'em]
Los Rebeldos del Rock - Oh Mi Nina
Los Rebeldos del Rock - La Hiedra Venenosa (Poison Ivy)
Los Locos Del Ritmo - Si Ti Tengo A Ti
Los Apson - Viaje Submarino (20,000 Leagues)
Los Belmonts - Amarrado (Glad All Over)
Hermanos Carrion - Memphis
Los Locos Del Ritmo - El Fantasma
Los Locos Del Ritmo - Chica Alborotada
Los Apson - Twist Hawaiano
Los Hooligans - Despeinada
Los Hitters - Hanky Panky
Los Locos Del Ritmo - Pan con Mantequilla (Bread and Butter) [Oh, how the retarded vox on this make me laff!]
Los Crazy Boys - Corina Corina
Los Locos Del Ritmo - El Mongol
Los Apson - Senor Apache (Mister Custer)
Hermanos Carrion - Suzy-Q [throws in a bit of "Land of 1000 Dance" as well]
Los Aragon - Paren esa Musica [don't quit listening before you get to this absolutely hysterical number; "stop the music!!"]

Monday, May 02, 2011

VINYL-PALOOZA #10: Harmonic Synthesizer

We're stretching our all-vinyl month by a few days to accommodate this demo album of a 1974 synth (the only one made by electric piano manufacturer RMI) that featured digital capabilities. Wow, this one was years ahead of its time. I'd never heard of it, and I thought I knew my electronic esoterica, but apparently it was not successful, tho Jean-Michel Jarre used one. Sounds good, tho. I especially like the percussion effects on some tracks. "Non-pipe Organ" could be Keith Emerson at a cocktail lounge. And "Funky Wah" does indeed live up to it's name.

Of the three persons listed, only Mike Mandel seems to have had much of a career, playing jazz fusion with the likes of Larry Coryell in the '70s and early '80s.

Clark Ferguson/Mike Mandel/Carlo Curley RMI Harmonic Synthesizer And Keyboard Computer
Thanks to Jake Lion, a cat whose own music we'll be featuring here soon, for the rip and link.