So, things have been a bit quiet here lately. But what better way to break the Ugly ‘n’ Weird drought than by taking part in this ‘shuffle the music tag’ thingamy?
Thanks to William at 1000 Mistakes for nominating me for this (hey, I finally got around to it). The guy just has great taste in music and posts all the time, so please follow him.
OK, so the best way to explain what this whole thing is about is to post the rules. They are as follows:
- Mention the creator of the tag and link to their blog: Life in a Blogshell.
- Thank the person that nominated you for this tag and link to their blog as well – thanks again, William at 1000 Mistakes.
- Shuffle your entire music library (no matter how old songs the songs are) and talk about the FIRST FIFTEEN songs that come up (anything like why they are there, if they signify something, any story, why you like them etc).
- Mention the songs as well as the artists.
- Tag seven people to do this tag and please let them know.
My approach to this might be a little different. You see, the only place I have a music library that’s easy to shuffle is on Spotify, and I tend to listen to whole albums at a time rather than individual songs. Also, my library is populated with stuff I’m not that familiar with because I use it to explore new music. After a few listens, it’s generally off the list and, if I really like it, added to my to-buy list. As a result, this is the first time I’ve heard most of the songs here, so consider each of my write-ups below a ‘hot take’.
In order to keep this on topic, I thought I’d analyse each song in the context of Ugly ‘n’ Weird, and explain whether the song fits the category. As luck would have it, many of the songs come from albums in Uncut magazine’s list of the “101 Weirdest Albums of All Time”, most of which I saved to my library for research purposes*. Ugly ‘n’ Weird is usually something that shows itself over the course of an album, so judging whether these artists and songs fit the site has been a bit tricky. Still, by writing about why or why not these songs would qualify their artists for the site, I hope to shed a bit of light on what it is that I’m doing here.
Now that my longwinded explanation is out of the way, here’s what shuffle up-chucked into my ears (Spotify links included):
#1. Lard – “70’s Rock Must Die” (1995): This was first in the list as it was the last thing I added before hitting shuffle. Lard is a side project between Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys and Al Jourgenson and Paul Barker of Ministry. I have all their albums but had never heard this single, which was the last thing they released way back in the mid-nineties. Lard sometimes edged towards Ugly ‘n’ Weird territory (their cover of Napoleon XIV’s “They’re Coming to Take Me Away” is a great example), but this is a straightforward parody of seventies rock clichés. It has a big, dumb AC/DC-like riff, obnoxious vocals, and plenty of cowbell. Still, it’s a great little single, and funny to boot. UGLY ‘N’ WEIRD? NO.
#2. Todd Rundgren – “When the Shit Hits the Fan/Sunset Blvd” (1973): We follow a seventies rock parody with some actual seventies rock. But Todd Rundgren is far from your typical seventies rocker, especially here. As it so happens the album this comes from, A Wizard, A True Star, is number one in Uncut’s list of the weirdest of all time. I’ve listened to the album once, and it’s a loony excursion into acid-fried, genre-defying excess, but far from the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard. Still, weirdness is not a competition, and this song is a strange mashup of doowop and sweaty rock ‘n’ roll with cosmic keys and a tricky arrangement. Rob Mitchum says in Uncut, ‘AWATS influenced the ADD-indie likes of Fiery Furnaces, Deerhoof and Of Montreal,’ although to me this song feels more like the ecstatic psych-pop of the latter than the more twisted weirdness of the former two. UGLY ‘N’ WEIRD? SURE.
#3. Joe Meek – “Love Dance of the Saroos” (1991): Another song from an album in Uncut’s list. Joe Meek was a sort of outsider producer from England who pioneered a lot of strange recording techniques to make experimental space-age pop music. This one wasn’t released until the nineties, but dates from the sixties when Meek was active as a songwriter and producer before killing his landlady and committing suicide in 1967. This instrumental song plonks and twangs away like a cowboy band stuck inside a tin-can in outer space. Trey Spruance has admitted that the Mr. Bungle piece “The Bends” from Disco Volante was inspired by this album. I haven’t heard the Joe Meek album in its entirity, but a quick sample of some tracks tells me that the rest of the music is as dinky and faux-cosmic as this, so old Joe will most likely get a look look in on the site one day. UGLY ‘N’ WEIRD? YEAH.
#4. Hampton Grease Band – “Hey Old Lady and Bert’s Song” (1971): Another one from the Uncut weird list. This is from the album Music to Eat, and while I’ve never heard the whole album before, I do recognise this song; it was covered by the underrated nineties blues-punk band Claw Hammer on their self-titled debut album from 1990 (sometimes titled F.U.B.A.R.). The Hampton Grease Band themselves were an acid-damaged southern rock group from Atlanta, Georgia, and this song has a great over-the-top vocal performance and some truly spastic playing. It’s like the missing link between Captain Beefheart and the likes of Pere Ubu, The Birthday Party and any number of post-punk Van-Vliet aficionados. UGLY ‘N’ WEIRD? YOU BETCHA!
#5. John Coltrane – “Ascension – Edition I/ Part 2” (1966): OK, this is just getting spooky. Yet another track from Uncut’s list. I would like to appreciate jazz more, but if I’m honest with myself I can’t really get into it. But Coltrane had a huge impact on ugly weirdos like The Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart. Ascension is truly groundbreaking, mind-fucking stuff. It takes you to some really unexpected places and I can see the barely controlled chaos of it all being a transcendent experience when in the right headspace. However, being instrumental and not exactly in the realm of popular music, it doesn’t quite fit the parameters I’ve set out for Ugly ‘n’ Weird. UGLY ‘N’ WEIRD? NO.
#6. Siouxsie and the Banshees – “Slowdive” (1982): Finally, we break the run of tracks from albums in Uncut magazine’s weird list. I love this era of the Banshees, Juju being one of my favourites of all time, and while I’ve only just started listening to A Kiss in the Dreamhouse I already feel it’s a worthy followup, if not quite achiving the perfection of that album. Anything with John McGough on guitar is always a pleasure to hear, although his playing is not too prominent on “Slowdive”. Instead, this song is dominated by abrasive violins in a Bernard Hermann mode, like the soundtrack to Psycho. I love it, but it’s pretty standard gothy post-punk (although the album has “Circle”, one of the weirdest songs I’ve heard from the band – it’s bloody barmy). UGLY ‘N’ WEIRD? NAH.
#7. Aphrodite’s Child – “The Beast” (1972): And we’re back to the Uncut list. I had actually never heard this before. Aphrodite’s Child was a Greek progressive-rock supergroup perhaps best known for what its members would go on to do afterwards: Vangelis provided the synth-tastic soundtrack to the original Bladerunner film and Demis Roussos became the sort of cheesy crooner my parents listened to, his albums populating every op-shop’s vinyl racks along with Kamahl and James Last. This is cool though, and while not super Ugly ‘n’ Weird it portends well for the overall weirdness of 666: an experimental concept album about The Book of Revelation. Also, it reminds me a bit of Dead Rider, a band who is sure to feature on the site one day. UGLY ‘N’ WEIRD? SURE.
#8. Probot – “Ice Cold Man (featuring Lee Dorrian)” (2004): Ah, doom metal: slow, heavy and redolent of bong smoke. Probot was Dave Grohl’s metal project from 2004, where he asked a host of metal vocalists to guest on an album of songs in tribute to their signature styles. Lee Dorrian was an early member of grindcore godfathers Napalm Death before taking a turn towards more classic doom sounds with Cathedral. This album is in my playlist to revisit, as I think I would have a greater appreciation for the rest of this album now that I’m more familiar with metal (I was more of a noisy punk fan when this came out). This is good fun though, full of slow crawling riffs and foggy atmosphere before picking up for some faster-paced chugging. UGLY ‘N’ WEIRD? NO.
#9. Judas Priest – “Heroes End” (1978): More classic metal sounds, this time authentic ones and not a throwback/tribute like Probot (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Judas Priest perhaps best defined what metal was about after Black Sabbath invented it, becoming less about lumbering heaviness per se and more about speed and precise, duelling twin guitars. I haven’t listened to this album yet, being more familiar with their next two, more radio-friendly outings: Killing Machine and British Steel. This is a little more involved than those albums songwriting-wise, with Rob Halford’s ridiculous operatic vocals and some silly ray-gun and drag-racer guitar flourishes. It’s kind of stupid and kind of great. UGLY ‘N’ WEIRD? NOT EVEN CLOSE.
#10. Various Frogs – “The Mating Call of the Dwarf Mexican Treefrog (Hyla Smithi)” (1958): Another Uncut entry, this time from a series of albums put out on the Smithsonian Folkways label. This is weird in concept, but it’s not really music. I don’t even mean that facetiously, like how some assholes say Yoko Ono or hip-hop isn’t music; I mean that it’s literally a guy introducing a frog call, followed by a field recording of a frog call. In a sense frog calls are music, but analysing music is in part about determining the intent of the artist, and I’m not about to start thinking about why frogs do what they do – besides, I’m sure these frog calls all sound pretty normal to the frogs. I imagine this would be great with the right drugs, but it doesn’t really fit the criteria for the site. Still pretty cool though. UGLY ‘N’ WEIRD? NO.
#11. The Minutemen – “Just Another Soldier” (1985): I love the Minutemen. This song comes from their final full-length album, 3-way Tie (For Last), one of the few of theirs I hadn’t heard. But I can’t really get into it for some reason. One of the more inventive bands in the west-coast U.S. punk scene of the early eighties, these guys mixed punk, funk and jazz to create some truly original music. But while they’re an arty band and have their bizarre moments – with influences including Beefheart, Funkadelic and The Pop Group – their own music was generally far too earthy and earnest to qualify them for Ugly ‘n’ Weird. Slower than their usual material, this song has a slinky, classic-rock type groove with Mike Watt’s bass leading the way. There are much better examples of why these guys were so great, but I’ll have to give the album another try. UGLY ‘N’ WEIRD? NO.
#12. Laibach – “Dekret (Decree)” (1985): Finally we have an artist who is definitely weird but is not on Uncut’s list. Slovenia’s Laibach satirise fascism with their militaristic, industrial sounds, and are known for radically transforming other people’s songs into faux-fascist anthems alongside their own original material (if you want to know where Rammstein stole all their ideas from, check this band out). This song is from their first, self-titled album, and it seems like they’ve yet to establish their own dstinctive style. An entirely instrumental track, the song lacks Milan Fras’ guttural vocals and feels like pretty straightforward industrial with booming drum machines and abrasive sampling. Those vocals crop up elsewhere on this album though, and the band is plenty strange overall, so this makes the cut. UGLY ‘N’ WEIRD? YES (JUST).
#13. The Damned – “Wait for the Blackout” (1980): A lot of the albums in my playlist are from bands I like but for whom I only know a few albums. The Damned are very much one of those bands, as I’ve only listened to their first three. This is the opening track of The Damned’s fourth, The Black Album, which I have yet to listen to all the way through. Following their 1979 masterpiece Machine Gun Etiquette, this double album is where they were evolving into their more goth phase. This particular track is a cracker of a singalong pop tune, albeit without an ounce of weirdness. I haven’t listened to this sort of straightfoward poppy punk for a while, and this track is a great reminder to fill those gaps in my knowledge. UGLY ‘N’ WEIRD? NO.
#14. Tumbleweed – “TV Genocide” (1995): The first Australian band on my list, which should make William happy. I grew up with Tumbleweed songs like “Daddy Longlegs” and “Sundial” playing on JJJ, but for some reason or other never listened to a full album of theirs. This song is the second track of their album Galactaphonic and is in their usual style, which sits somewhere between fuzzy grunge like Mudhoney and the stoner rock of Kyuss. It also sounds a bit like the Ramones on downers. Cool stuff. Not weird though. UGLY ‘N’ WEIRD? NO WAY, MAN.
#15. Chelsea Wolfe – “Gene Wilder” (2010): A tribute to the late, great Charlie & the Chocolate Factory actor by singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe. Wolfe’s music is dark and dramatic, with influences from classical, post-punk, black metal, doom metal and goth. I’ve listened to a fair bit of her stuff, but not this album, which is her first. And what do you know, this is yet another instrumental. It’s pretty and piano-led but with some strange, glitchy noises going on in the background. Cool track and a bit strange, but while I love what she does, mystery and highly aestheticised darkness are more Chelsea’s bag than weirdness. UGLY ‘N’ WEIRD? NO, NOT REALLY.
Now, I’m supposed to tag seven people to take part in this playlist shuffle posting prompt. I haven’t been the most outgoing blogger and didn’t know of seven other people on here until just recently. Some of you I’ve interacted with and some of you I’ve admired from afar. If your name is below and you want to do this thing, then great, but no pressure. This type of post won’t necessarily fit into what you’ve envisioned for your blogs, and that’s cool; just consider this a shout out to some of the blogs I enjoy.
- Aphoristic Reviews
- Down Under Flix
- The Sentinel
- Stallion Master
- Steve For The Deaf
- Video Explain
- Vinyl Connection
So that’s it: a fun exercise and a great excuse to write about some music that I like but isn’t weird enough for the site, as well as some newly discovered strangeness.
* I have about 400 albums in my library, so I guess the odds that these songs would show up are pretty good as the majority of the Uncut 101 is stuff that I’ve never heard before. And in a nice bit of synchronicity, it was William who first alerted me to this magazine feature. Thanks again, mate.