Part 3 by Angela Sawyer
"Weirdo was a record shop that I started in my bedroom in 2006. It moved into a storefront for a while in Cambridge Mass., and closed after I got tired of never ever sleeping. While it was around, I wrote reviews of every new title that I sold, and by the end there were more than eighteen thousand reviews. There's only so many times you can call a guitar tone 'crunchy’ or say something disparaging about a singer's hair. So I repeated things, a lot. When compiling this best of, I looked for records that stuck with me, and also for reviews where I thought the writing stood out."
Here we present Weirdo selections from letter G to I.
German Oak s/t LP
Imagine being a German hippie for a moment. Your dad was likely a Nazi, or dead, or both. You grew up listening, not to Elvis & the Beatles, but horrid schlager. Decimated buildings and soldier's ghosts are everywhere. What kind of music do you make? Cold, nasty, gloomy guitar jams recorded inside an old, echoey army bunker. At the time of its release, shops simply rejected the album outright, and it wasn't discovered until the '80's (when coincidentally, it would've sounded a lot like the nihilistic punk wank of the German Shepherds). A great one.
German Shepherds Music for Sick Queers LP + 7 inch
San Fran industrial electronics gets no better. Cold sounds about the cold war. Black turtleneck-wearing art school kids, but they're way more interested in how much they hate you. Mark Hutchinson & Steve Scheatzle were originally from Ohio & met through Hutchinson's involvement in gay theater productions sponsored by a mental health facility (hence the title of their album). Each fella had a reel to reel machine, a Korg MS 20 & a love for the overly negative, but using pops instead of drum bashes left them out of the cool hardcore scene. The pair recorded separately & then combined their results for song assembly & live shows, sometimes pre-recording backing tracks on cassette.
Gerogerigegege All You Need Is An Audio Shock LP
Is it powernoise? Is it anti-powernoise? Who cares once you've spewed all your milk out your nose anyhow? Juntaro Yamauchi is not kidding when he says art is over. And to prove it he's going to combine masturbating onstage, recordings of easy listening or '60's records, orgasm sounds, gorilla grunts, sirens, ignored drum machines, and some feedback that's gritty enough to have been shat out yesterday. Awesome, totally unpredictable porn-friendly Japanese craziness. Bring on the ultra shit.
Glenn Gould Goldberg Variations LP
Gould is the rare traditional classical musician whose records could really be called psychedelic, trippy, whatever, mostly because he's so obsessed with clarity in counterpoint that his Bach performances peel forth in multiply distinct melodic lines. Pretty much the audio equivalent of an MC Escher drawing/Vermeer self portrait, etc. Classical performers are quite the dry hoofs as a rule, but Gould was a pill-popping hypochondriac with temperature sensitivity & mysterious muscle problems brought on by sedentary hermeticism. His aesthetic outlook was (though nobody knows just how he picked it up) developed off the finer implications of Edmund Husserl's phenomenology, and then applied to Petula Clark, Ferrante & Teicher, & Walter Carlos records. Gould enjoyed watching TV while listening to multiple records at once, preferably while also talking on the phone at 3:30 AM. Mostly ate saltine crackers & eggs, was unable to drive a car properly, definitely had a penchant for always choosing the word that contained the most syllables, and also improvised fugues & made up imaginary music critics with full-blown biographies & speech irregularities in his spare time. Blessed with perfect pitch & the ability to keep several tempos at once, this is the record that instantly & very rightly made him famous. Not because the Goldbergs are so particularly astounding (though they're great), but because it was a new way to listen to counterpoint-based music in general. Recorded in the whirlwind weeks after Gould's 1st concert in the US, where he was signed by Columbia on the spot. I should warn you in all honesty that this LP was available used in most record stores for about 6 bucks [2016 update, it' s now down to 4], but I couldn't resist pulling in a brand spanking new one around when the opportunity arose.
Godz Contact High CD
Classic lesson in underwear-on-your-head ineptitude & legendary for forcing boneheads along the lines of Greil Marcus out of the room fast. Band members were all employees of an NYC Sam Goody's who saw the Fugs play and got their freak on accordingly. The unhinged wailing on "White Cat Heat" alone will make a man outta you if you were ever meant to be one. And how many East Village idiots cover Hank Williams?
Groundhogs Split CD
Best Ghogs album, and a total monster of acid-damaged heavy rock propogated by the sick & furry guitar of Tony McPhee. Sweeter than Indica hash riffage that never once slips into mere blues-grog. Doesn't matter how many times in a row I play it, I get goosebumps every single time they swing into the falsetto chorus of "Cherry Red." Four bonus cuts from a live boogie in '72.
Gruppo d'Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza s/t LP
More proof that the resurrected Jesus decided he'd just had enough of the friggin' spotlight and ran away to hide out as an Italian trumpeter. Ennio Morricone's avant improv group with Franco Evangelisti pre-figures and outclasses nearly every experimental band you can think of. Laserlike focus, fidelity that's rich with astounding detail, textures as wild and gorgeous as frightened deer in uncut grass. They can whip through free jazz sections, beat AMM at their own stonefacedness, or just get freaky like a bunch of hippies let loose on noisemakers. This one's a tough one to find in their catalog, and it's heavy with restrained pauses, bizarre plopping sound effects, and horns talking crazy to each other.
Guru Guru UFO LP
Mani Neumeier heads the most acid-damaged band in krautrock, and that's saying quite a lot. Many of their earliest shows were booked by the Socialist German Student Union, so they often played this quite un-angry & delirious long-form bubber in jails & at demonstrations. I've seen a few different people work themselves into a tizzy over whether this record is better than their 2nd Hinten. The straight shit is that while this one is fuzzier, the 2nd is stupider. Luckily, you just can get 'em both and avoid any issues.
Les Goths Reve de Silence LP
Never-released album by a power trio from Normandy, France whose extravagant Hendrix-worship knows no bounds. Phased drums, superclose vocals, crunchy riffage, a solo that sounds like it uses two wah pedals at once- a Randy Holden namecheck is indeed well applied here. The two brothers in the band were impoverished factory workers, so their dad built most of their equipment out of phone & radio parts. They'd never seen a concert until 1967, when they went to the big city to see the Animals & got blown away by Jimi- plus there was a riot in the parking lot afterwards. Before long, they were getting beat up by sailors for wearing their hair long & their jeans wide. 30 odd years later, drummer Bruno still talks about how ready for revolution the 'infernal machine of ye-ye' makes him.
Wally Gonzalez On the Road CD
Ah yes, may the little gleam on Wally's aviator shades never go dark. Snaking & deadly heavy boogie record with bewildering cheap synth touches. Filipino guitarist extraordinaire was the source of much badassery in the Juan Dela Cruz Band, but this is his finest moment. Perfect amounts of refried fuzz, weird anthemic processing on vocals, & great shots of Wally wearing his favorite Elvis T-shirt or riding his tricked out yellow motorcycle in the notes. By the time you get to the sped up guitar-as-harpsichord ballad, you'll be shocked to note that Wally's day job in Manila was as an accountant for a shipping company.
Bruce Haack The Electric Lucifer CD
An all-time favorite of mine, finally getting the reish treatment on CD . Homemade synth inventor and hippie philosopher Bruce's brilliant blooping opera about giving a break to the devil. Bruce was from rural Canada & got his start in NYC providing accompaniment to Esther Nelson's Montessori-style dance classes for kids. There's a bonus interview here (the CBC guy has an absolutely flaming Canadian accent), as well as an alternate version of one track. But the real story here, beyond peyote, Mr. Rogers, or the Dermatron known to Haackologists, is the record: an explosion of Moog melodies, vocoder voiceovers, and nearly medieval plodding. Perfectly endearing & for listeners of any age. Master tapes & 24 page booklet with great photos.
D.R. Hooker The Truth LP
New Haven, CT nutbomb Donald Hooker, who rumor has it went dressed like Jesus at all times, was a guitarist, singer & songwriter who got a gaggle of local yokels to accompany him on dobro, bass, synth, organ, piano, horns & drums. A perennial hit among the private press set that moves from rollicking hard psych with weather sfx, hippie crooning with fun hotel band backing. There's also a few pop-psych near-ballads tinged with minor keys & jazzy percussion that makes for a low-rent Zombies vibe, and Hooker's edgy-but-quiet singing smacks of Lou Reed. Fuzz cranks up to bomber level for the tougher songs, and it wraps up with a big pro-Jesus pro-drug blowout complete with backmasking.
Hair Police Certainty of Swarms CD
Less psychedelic than their previous couple of releases & closer to the grueling tension of early titles. The opener here is the most homicidally beastly & hard-edged HP track since "Blow Out Your Blood." And when they decide to collectively stop & hold for their patented brand of loom & doom, it's oh so deliberately cruel. Mike Connelly takes his own pinched vocal style to ever more severe extremes of distorted squeak & mottled whisper. Beatty plays sirens and crumbling mountains. Tremaine's drums rage like coked-out hardcore kids tearing up a chain link fence. Distorted crunches of white noise cut in & sometimes completely wipe out the band.
Hairy Chapter Eyes LP
FRIED boogie prog that's totally heavy & whompin'. Full of overzealous guitar & vocal bombast. There were two maniac German guys named Harry in the band too. Their slightly bloozier 1st. It was successful enough that an exploito label reissued the exact same album under the name 'Electric Sound for Dancing' with no credit to the band at all. The manager still swears to this day he had nothing to do with it.
Hans Grusel Happy as Pitch CD
Sick, dizzy cracklebox noise mixed with disposable pump-organs and analog goo. Band had been making a smallish splash along the left coast, until this CD came along & slapped awake everybody with ears. Among my '06 top ten. Real folks behind it are Liz Albee & Graham Connah. They're both jazzbos who've been knocking around the SF scene for a while, she on trumpet & he on keys. Their decision to join forces & pretend to be (1) a single person, & (2) a German expat in his '50's who's obsessed with cuckoo clocks, was apparently an extremely good one. Because now they've found out that you can deep fry a Moog & still leave it chipper enough to serve with cookies & milk. Get in the game now while there's still room left inside their gingerbread heads.
Hawkwind Doremi Fasol Latido CD
Throughout the '70's & '80's, Hawkwind's best album was always thought to be Space Ritual, mostly just because it was live & a double. This one rocks harder & heavier though. It's the first Hawkwind record with Lemmy's thunderous & elephantine bass playing, which instantly bulldozes over Nik Turner's synth goofs to bring you stoopid monolithic chug. The brain-numbing wonders there derived are so powerful as to've caused writers ever since to trot out idiotic words like 'fuselage' or 'heroic.' Acoustic versions of 'Space Is Deep' & Lemmy's 'The Watcher' only serve to give you a contemplative breather before getting back to the fuzzed out lurch. There's 4 bonus tracks too.
High Speed and the Afflicted Man Get Stoned Ezy LP
Hendrix jizz that's laughably, brilliantly dumb. Crude, crude, crude, crud... and did I mention it's kinda crude? Toilet recording style mid-range-only distorted guitar is explored as rock and psych by the one-n-only Steve Hall. Litmus tests for worthy people come & go- there was a time you could use the Dead, or Black Flag, or whatever. But if you want a band that will never be used to sell shoes or enjoyed by a real estate agent, try this one. Was a small-run LP bootleg buncha years back, and bonged heads have bonked themselves over its falling-down-drunk charm ever since. Expanded double CD about 5 years ago dug up some earlier, snottier recordings by Hall too, and I still can't believe the guy was together enough to make more than one record, or even own more than one shirt. Really people, this is what love sounds like.
Honeycombs Have I The Right CD
Female drummer Honey Lantree went from being a hairdresser's assistant to a Joe Meek superstar almost overnight. She met BBC songwriters Howard and Blaikley (they went on to write all the awesome hits for Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick & Tich) after a show at a crappy pub in London, and Meek got the whole band to stomp in time on his stairwell in order to add to his wildly compressed drum sound. Within 7 weeks, the band hit the charts & their bright & snappy little treblefests became hugely famous in Sweden. Perfectly British & invariably happy square snazz.
Horrific Child L' etrange Monsieur Whinster LP
Jean Pierre Massiera's stinkiest, grodiest record, which stands out even amidst his catalog of grotesqueries. High art prog & dark, kinky sounds were all the rage in France at this time (for most bands it went alongside some Zappa-worship), but Massiera's MiniMoog theatrics are fragmented to the Nth druggy degree- like a death seen in the shards of a mirror during some Argento movie. The hoarse whispers & growls are Massiera's own voice, eroded by a godzillion bottles of wine. A solo LP underneath it all, which calls upon a whole cast of studio musicians, backup singers, arrangers, & equipment toys that his Antibes studio had been building up for the previous few years. Samples of African records, surreal 19th century poetry (specifically 'Les Chants de Maldoror'- also an inspiration to Current 93), & macabre sprays of organs & orchestras.
Lee Hazlewood Trouble Is a Lonesome Town 2-LP
However old you are, you are never as old as Lee Hazlewood. The world's premiere jaded personality & brilliant baritone songwriter, who could scope psychedelia, W.C. Fields jokes, flamenco, morbid Nashville laments, lazy barhound jazz, huge hollywood string flourishes, surf guitar, & much more with the mere flick of his cigarette ash. This one, along with "NSVIP," is one of his cornerstone albums & totally ripe for reish. Ninja throwing stars disguised as songs like "We All Make the Flowers Grow" are waiting to be perennially stuck in your gray matter. Crazy to think this came out the same year as, oh say, "Be My Baby." And now there's an entire extra record's world of unreleased songs, songs he sang on that were credited to somebody else, etc.
Pierre Henry Haut Voltage/Coexistence LP
Utterly diseased blathering voices, piano insides, schwanging textures of percussion remolded until it seems the heavens are banging against one another. Pierre Henry towers above the rest of the musique concrete & electro acoustic world with such ease, you have to be careful not to take him for granted. "Haut Voltage" was the first of many collaborations with Maurice Bejart, the choreographer who brought Henry's music to a live stage. The ballet here (or at least a section of it) actually plotted a girl getting gang raped & strangled. "Coexistence" uses electronics at a time when musique concrete was lauding itself as having more capabilities than pure electronic music, by virtue of it's confronting more complex sounds: instruments and everyday noises, rather than a bunch of static bleeps. As always, Henry is such a master you could give him an old piece of string and he'd make astounding textures out of it. He handily shows Stockhausen & Boulez what for.
Atsuhiro Ito Experimental Music of Japan Vol 6: RGB CD
So glad to see this one come around again. Ito is a Japanese kid in a rapper hat who occasionally plays in Otomo Yoshihide's big band. Instead of an instrument, he plays a long fluorescent light bulb (calls it the Optron). To make them, he stuffs various fluorescent lamps with microphones & upon waving one around like a light saber, he changes the voltage & thus the sound & light simultaneously. Just about the furriest electronic noise out there, and it automatically comes with its own strobe show. This particular record is focused on the flickering that happens when you cross the pusles of lamps that are red with ones that are blue, blue with green & so on. His 1st of 2 solo albums, originally an edition of 100.
Iguanas s/t LP
Iggy Pop's high school band (from which his nickname hails) reveals that he once ran for student body president, wrote poems that got printed in the school paper, & also played drums on an 8-foot-high riser that dwarfed his band's amp stack. Crude & simple sax honkers played in Pendleton shirts or tweed jackets that made the little girls wail at the teen hops. Recorded (badly) by the guitarist's dad in a home studio that he used to make acetates to play behind local figure skating routines in Ann Arbor, MI.
Ilaiyaraaja Fire Star 2-LP
King of Kollywood Ilaiyaraaja's '80's soundtracks strike an intoxicating balance between sleazy synths & nimble, birdlike melodies. Scores to Tamil Nadu action flicks where nearly everyone wore headbands & lots of choreographers were keen to knock off Michael Jackson. Ilaiyaraaja responds with swipes of Dvorak, or a play of choppy rhythms & electronic drums that might evoke carnatic classical music one minute, boomboxes & legwarmers the next. A couple of songs are performed in English, and one features Lata Mangeshkar singing in Tamil (which she doesn't speak).
Illustration Apres Ski LP
Quebecois soundtrack to a movie of the 'maple syrup porn' genre (wish I'd made THAT up). Sounds run from Brigitte Bardot pop teases to large ensemble funk. There's a bit of wacka-wacka guitar, some slow horn riffs a la Blood Sweat Tears, and even a few minutes of electronic whizbangery. Original album was credited to the guy who did some of the pop arrangements (one Jacques Crevier), but Illustration was unknown as the band on the B side until last year. The film was condemned by a Quebec court for obscenity upon release, which quickly made it a local hit. Reisued by the folks at the primo blog Vente de Garage.
Imperial Dogs Live in Long Beach DVD
Swastikas draped over their amps, leather pants sliding terrifyingly lower and lower from all the sweat, the unsigned, unrecorded, unmanaged, unkempt & uninhibited Dogs pound their way through a heavy set at an unfeeling gymnasium in CA. A missing link between Stooges/MC5 & Kim Fowley/L.A. Punk, they show off both the sonic power of relentless practicing and the wincing loserdom that was punk rock's social strata in the mid-'70's. B&W camcorder footage that doesn't move an inch for 64 minutes, & overblown VHS sound quality.
Improved Sund Limited Hoppe Hoppe Reiter LP + 7 inch
Nuremberg band that started out being called the Blizzards, but not the Blizzards of "I'm Your Guy" fame. Here's their best record, a soundtrack to a German soft-porn sequel movie. A few tracks bristle with fuzz, while others ape Francis Lai here, cop crime chases there, or just goof around with fun bubbly pop. Lyrics are completely ludicrous, as they are English by non-native speakers, but also have to follow the convolutions of a very tangled plot. Songs to convince cute lesbians to go straight, narrate the effect of constant orgy attendance on marital relations, or tout the lives of sex slaves in 1780's Polynesia, etc.. Huge personal favorite, and also one of the best record covers anywhere anytime. Now with a couple of bonus tracks too.
Inner Dialogue s/t CD
Amazingly retarded late '60's East Coast harmony lite-psych. Basically an attempt to be a hip/intellectual version of the Lennon Sisters, but where other such bands (e.g. the Free Design) at least kept the sunshiney vibes, this record is a total quaalude-chomping downer. Two girls who sang, plus an Italian guy with the presence of a serial killer who plays the 'dulcitron' & piano. They didn't have any original songs to break into the big time with, so they hired a jingle writer for Pepsi to whip up lyrics for them. The lyricist turned out to be really obsessed with Freudian psychology and Zen, and so you get songs littered with tense 11th chords, qwavering vibrato vocals, & dated psychobabble in equal measure. Lots of pitch shifting & then shifting back (which is, I'm pretty sure, how they invented that dulcitron). Standout cut has got to be the accidentally rape-themed "The Touch."
Reiko Ike You Baby LP
The drop dead beautiful Pam Grier of Tokyo, whose entry into pinky violence movies caused a scandal because she was supposedly only 16 years old (actually, the hubub was publicity stunt & she was 18). The bad press made her enough of a star that she could switch to delinquent schoolgirl flicks, where instead of having sex onscreen, she led gangs, weilded shotguns & ran around in leather jackets with no shirt underneath. Unforgettable album that takes a left turn at Serge Gainsbourg's "Je T'aime Moi Non Plus" and never looks back. Zippy lounge & nightclub vamps, with a lot of dusky jazz-flute & vibes, behind endless orgasm sighs, whip cracks, scintillating whimpers, funny little grunts. Perhaps best of all is the somewhat badly-recorded mewling that runs throughout. Only thing that could make me like this better is if it had been reished on Schimpfluch instead.
Teiji Ito Music for Maya 2-CD
Maya was a Ukranian immigrant who'd gone to college as a socialist & already had a husband, a 16MM camera & an interest in Haitian dance, she'd picked up working as a secretary for choregrapher Katherine Dunham. But in '52, she met 17 year old Teiji Ito outside a dime store & immediately picked him up too. He became her houseboy & eventually married her, until her sudden death from an amphetamine-related brain hemmorage 9-years later. Ito's scores feature homey recordings of him playing on a wide variety of ethnic instruments, never more than 2 or 3 at once. They have a very 50's sense of space & really recall Moondog more than anything else- and they make for a perfectly smokey, fluttering accompaniment to Deren's graciously still films.
See Angela's other entries of Weirdo assortments, including letters A to C and letters D to F and letters J to L and letters M to O and letters P to R and the letter S and letters T to V and letter W to Z and compilations part 1 and compilations part 2
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