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Meet the Wipeouters: DEVO’s surf-rock alter egos created for a children’s show

Mark Mothersbaugh has quite the musical repertoire outside of being the co-founder, keyboardist and lead singer of one of America’s most inventive and beloved new wave groups - the almighty DEVO. In 1989, Mothersbaugh founded the production company, Mutato Muzika, which has also served as the band’s headquarters since its inception. Glancing at the company portfolio, Mutato Muzika (“mutato” being portmanteau for “mutant potato”) has produced music for hundreds of commercials, movies and TV shows, with credits for Wes Anderson films, Nickelodeon’s Rugrats, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, The LEGO Movie, and the soundtrack for the computer game, Sims 2 and much more, too much to mention.

In addition to the above, Mutato Muzika has also spawned The Wipeouters, the surf-rock DEVO offshoot with a rather vague existence. In the late 90s, Mark Mothersbaugh was approached by Klasky Csupo, Inc. the animation company behind Rugrats, to create the theme for their new extreme-sports themed cartoon series, Rocket Power which followed a group of SoCal kids who surf, skateboard, snowboard, rollerblade, BMX bike, play street hockey, and any other adrenaline-fueled sport you can think of. While their airborne stunts may sound intense, the adolescent complications they faced seemed to be the most challenging: math homework, getting grounded, bullies, confronting one’s fears and insecurities, and so forth. Mothersbaugh assembled his team at Mutato Muzika to record the theme to Rocket Power, which premiered on Nickelodeon in August of 1999.

At this point on the Devolution timeline, the band was, for the most part, pretty inactive. After poor record sales for 1990’s Smooth Noodle Maps and the dissolution of Enigma Records, DEVO itself pretty much disbanded in 1991. Over the years came a few one-offs, including their “Head Like a Hole” cover, the soundtrack to their CD-ROM adventure game “Adventures of the Smart Patrol,” and a few reunion shows beginning at Sundance, then the Lollapalooza tour, and onward. DEVO’s absence in the 90s, allowed Mothersbaugh to cultivate the success of Mutato Muzika as a commercial music production company powerhouse,  establishing itself outside of the DEVO context.
Mutato Muzika located in West Hollywood, CA
Mutato Muzika’s lair located in West Hollywood, CA

And then came the Wipeouters. The mysterious group of surf revival Mutatos featured Mark Mothersbaugh (keyboards/vocals), Bob “1” Mothersbaugh (guitar), Bob “2” Casale (guitar), and Josh “not from DEVO” Mancell (drums). At the recommendation of Gabor Csupo, co-creator of the Rocket Power series, the Wipeouters released a full-length record called P’Twaaang!!! in 2001. Inspired by the works of the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, Dick Dale, the Trashmen, and the Ventures, P’Twaaang!!! features 48 minutes of hard-driving tubular guitar riffs, with wacky synths on top to give it that classic DEVOtional flair. Even if you had never listened to DEVO before, the music sounds much like the same band who brought us 1979’s cover of the spy-surf classic “Secret Agent Man.” In addition to the recognizable cast of spuds noted above, the record also features notable guest appearances from Jerry Casale), Jim Mothersbaugh, Robert Casale Sr. (father of the Casale brothers), and other members of the Mutato Muzika family.

More after the jump…

Posted by Bennett Kogon | Leave a comment
‘Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown’: Future ‘Simpsons’ director turns ‘Peanuts’ into a bloodbath

In the mid-1980s, Jim Reardon was at the highly regarded Character Animation program at the California Institute of the Arts, and one of his student projects was a remarkable mashup of the Charlie Brown universe and the Sam Peckinpah universe—all of it undertaken with what must have been a deep affection for both worlds. The four-minute film’s title is “Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown,” an obvious reference to Peckinpah’s 1974 movie Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

The short is presented as the commercial for a “heartwarming holiday special” featuring the Peanuts gang. So the Great Pumpkin places a bounty on Charlie Brown’s head, which causes an immediate death spiral into ultraviolence. All of the familiar characters (Lucy, Schroeder, Linus, etc.) attempt to assassinate Charlie Brown, until finally the hero is forced to take matters into his own hands, grabbing a machine gun and mowing them all down.

The second half of the short is truly a bloodbath, and definitely Reardon has Peckinpah’s masterpiece The Wild Bunch on the brain most of all. Peckinpah was known not just for violence but most of all for lush slow-motion sequences focusing on the carnage, and “Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown” certainly has several of those. The moment when Lucy nips Charlie Brown in the shoulder is a direct callback to a sequence from The Wild Bunch involving William Holden’s character Pike Bishop.

Reardon’s short, which is in black-and-white, is a little crude by professional standards, but for a student project it’s incredibly effective and engaging. “Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown” is dense, somewhat akin to MAD Magazine, with references covering everything from Popeye and Travis Bickle to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Godzilla. The closing zinger, spoken in Arnie’s trademark accent, is “Happiness is a warm uzi,” a remarkably canny mix of the strip’s treacly motto “Happiness is a warm puppy” and John Lennon’s memorable ditty “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” 

“Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown” also owes a debt to the old Warner Bros. cartoons, particularly in the bomb Lucy creates to dispose of her football-kicking buddy.

Based on the strength of this short—one imagines—Reardon was quickly hired by John Kricfalusi (later of Ren and Stimpy fame) as a writer on Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures. Later on he would be a supervising director for seasons 9 through 15 of The Simpsons  and co-wrote the script for WALL-E.

Watch it after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
You can now own your very own plush Tribble from ‘Star Trek’
09:12 am


Star Trek

This is one of those dumb things that I’ve always wanted to own: A Tribble! Why not? “The Trouble with Tribbles”—with a plotline about a rapidly reproducing alien creature causing headaches for the crew of the Starship Enterprise—is the 44th episode from Star Trek which was first broadcast in the United States on December 29, 1967. Apparently over 500 Tribbles were made for this memorable episode. Seems like there would’ve needed a lot more of them, doesn’t it?

As an ode to the fuzzy creature, Quantum Mechanix has recreated the Tribble in plush form. Now you can’t possibly get just one as you’d need to surround yourself with quite a few for the full Tribble effect.

Each one comes in a special container that features Tribble Tips and is designed to keep it tidy and safe in the presence of Klingons

The Tribble is $17.99 + free shipping here.

I also found a Tribble that makes sounds of cooing and agitation! It comes in a light brown and sells for $29.99 here.


via Boing Boing

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The worst/best cover version of Serge Gainsbourg’s infamous ‘Je t’aime…’ that you’ll ever hear
03:47 pm


Serge Gainsbourg
Jane Birkin

Serge Gainsbourg’s infamous duet with Jane Birkin, “Je t’aime… moi non plus” (“I love you… me neither”) released in the “annee erotique” of 1969, had originally been recorded in late 1967 with Brigitte Bardot who the song was written for, a penance/apology from Gainsbourg for a disastrous first date. Bardot’s estranged husband, German photographer Gunther Sachs, got wind of the steamy song via reporters eager to drum up another scandal surrounding the sex kitten. The number’s orgasmic female moaning was said to be “audio vérité” (apparently at least half true, as Gainsbourg is alleged to have fingered the actress in the vocal booth) and Sachs demanded the release be pulled. The famously private Bardot begged her notoriously sardonic lover to withhold the song, prompting him to tell her “For the first time in my life, I write a love song and it’s taken badly.” Their original version would not be released until 1986.

Gainsbourg asked Marianne Faithfull, Valérie Lagrange and Mireille Darc (the model/actress perhaps best known for her role in Jean-Luc Godard’s Week End) to record the duet with him, but they all turned him down, until, as fate would have it, he was to meet his greatest muse, English model/actress Jane Birkin on the set of the film Slogan. Birkin quickly agreed, seething with jealousy over the idea of someone else singing this sexy chant d’amore with him. When “Je t’aime…” was finally released, the song was banned from radio play in Spain, Sweden, Brazil, the UK, Italy, and Portugal. Even in France, the song was forbidden to be played before the hour of 11 pm. Most US radio stations didn’t touch it, but still the song went on to sell over four million copies.

“Je t’aime…” has been covered—a lot. There are moog versions, parodies and recordings of the song by the likes of Nick Cave and Anita Lane (who also recorded it with Barry Adamson), Psychic TV, Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer, Pet Shop Boys with artist Sam Taylor-Johnson, Einstürzende Neubauten, and by Placebo’s Brian Molko with Italian actress Asia Argento (who reversed the gender roles). And that’s a very partial listing. I think it’s also safe to assume that at this very minute and indeed during every future minute before time comes to an end, that there are at least two drunken fools in love singing “Je t’aime…” in a karaoke bar somewhere on the planet.

Serge Gainsbourg et Jane Birkin performing “Je t’aime…” at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

But probably the weirdest cover of “Je t’aime…” ever performed is by an enigmatic little old man by the name of Zvonimir Levačić or “Ševa” as he was known to viewers of Noćna mora (“Nightmare Stage”), the defiantly strange long-running live late-night telecast on Croatian television, which as far as I can tell was something analogous to an Eastern European version of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Ševa was one of the show’s most popular performers and according to his bio (unless Google translate was way off, which it think it might be in this case) was a bit of a war hero who was considered to be an intellectual and philosopher. Still he seems a bit more Richard Dunn than Slavoj Žižek to me.

Watch it after the jump, and no, this is NOT a recent Happy Mondays reunion…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Steven Spielberg predicts the psycho-delic future of today in 1971’s ‘Los Angeles: A.D. 2017’!

I had heard about this impossible-to-see episode of The Name of the Game—a cutting edge television show that ran for seventy-six 90-minute episodes from 1968 to 1971 on NBC—but until recently, I’d never seen it. The Name of the Game had the biggest budget of any show of its time and a very interesting concept. First of all each episode was, in effect, it’s own semi-standalone 90-minute movie. The series was one of the first of what was then known as a “wheel series.” A wheel series was mostly known as a time slot on TV that two or three different shows shared, alternating each week. With The Name of the Game‘s high concept though, this wheel was alternating between three different stars who were featured in their own episodes/movies. And what a high concept it was!

From Wikipedia:

The series was based on the 1966 television movie Fame Is the Name of the Game, which was directed by Stuart Rosenberg and stars Tony Franciosa. The Name of the Game rotated among three characters working at Howard Publications, a large magazine publishing company. Jeffrey “Jeff” Dillon (Franciosa), a crusading reporter with People magazine (before there was a real-life People magazine); Glenn Howard (Gene Barry, taking over for George Macready, who had originated the role in the earlier film), the sophisticated, well-connected publisher; and Daniel “Dan” Farrell (Robert Stack), the editor of Crime magazine. Serving as a common connection was then-newcomer Susan Saint James as Peggy Maxwell, the editorial assistant for each.

Which brings us to one of the last episodes of the series, LA 2017 aka Los Angeles: AD 2017. This episode was the first long form directing assignment for 24-year-old Steven Spielberg. Written by well-known offbeat author Phillip Wylie (who wrote Gene Barry’s wild episode Love-In At Ground Zero in the first season). Wylie’s work is known to have inspired the characters of Superman, Doc Savage and even Flash Gordon (from his story that was later made into the film When Worlds Collide). In this episode, Glenn Howard is hunted down in a lethally polluted, frightening and sometimes hilarious Los Angeles of the future, where the fascist government is ruled by psychiatrists and the populace has been driven to live in underground bunkers to survive the pollution. Sounds about right, right? This was the sixteenth episode of the third season, and the cast included Barry Sullivan, Edmond O’Brien, and (in a brief cameo) Spielberg’s friend Joan Crawford.
It starts out with a car crash while character Howard (Gene Barry) is seen driving through the mountains recording a memo to the President to do with an important pollution scandal story that will appear in his magazine, and ends up being a dream, which allowed the science-fiction plot to fit into the modern-day setting of the show, though in the final moments he is still contemplating what happened while driving back in his car (cue close-up shot of his tail pipes chugging out 1971 style car exhaust fumes). In the end, we see a stiff bird hanging in a tree… a close encounter of the (dead) bird kind indeed!
Watching this 1971 pop culture prophecy in the actual Los Angeles of 2017 is a total mindblower. Some of it is insanely far-fetched and yet there are a few humdingers that really freak you out and make you think, the most well known being my favorite scene where we are taken into a truly “underground” club with a demented octogenarian acid rock band totally freaking out (or at least trying to):

More after the jump…

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
‘Another Green World’: The Brian Eno documentary
12:11 pm


Brian Eno

In 2010 the BBC show Arena did an hour-long program about Brian Eno. They called the show “Another Green World” but it does not focus on Eno’s third album at all, it’s just a nice title.

In the typical Arena style, the show is almost more of a loose essay than a straightforward documentary. Time is spent with the composer, then there’s footage of Eno playing with Roxy Music, then a clip of Eno on stage with Richard Dawkins, none of it sequenced with any rhyme or reason. It can be a very effective method of getting an impression across. Eno is so charming and interesting that it’s no trouble hanging out with him for a bit

Some wonderful moments…. Eno admits to an unseen interviewer that yes, he did get more women than Bryan Ferry but he can’t say how much that bothered him. (It almost certainly did.) Eno enthusing about Donna Summer’s “State of Independence,” produced by Giorgio Moroder, praising its unlikely mix of Kraftwerk-y rhythms and gospel. He also admires the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” most saliently because it was so obviously composed in the studio, which was Eno’s signature method as well. He actually plays a faltering rendition of it on an acoustic guitar, which is just odd.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Happy happy joy joy!’: Hyper-realistic Ren & Stimpy masks
10:23 am

Pop Culture

Ren & Stimpy

Andrew Freeman of Immortal Masks made these insanely detailed Ren & Stimpy masks! The only word I can think of for these is “grotesque.” I simply cannot get over how real they look. They’d give me nightmares if I owned them.

The masks made their debut at the fabled Monsterpalooza convention last weekend. Bravo.



via Nerdcore

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Save PBS! After all, it ran Andy Kaufman’s brilliant, demented ‘talk show’ in 1983
12:28 pm


Andy Kaufman

Holy moly! In 1983, just a year before his death of lung cancer—an event some people dispute ever happened—Andy Kaufman was given the bountiful gift of an hour of PBS programming time in the form of a segment of the music series Soundstage.

It’s a revelation.

Kaufman used his hour to create a mind-boggling critique of talk shows and the entertainment complex writ large. The show is presented out of phase: we see the inexplicable final, hysterical moments of the program, perhaps holding out the promise that we’ll find out what the fuck was going on at the very end. Kaufman sings an inane farewell song and credits roll—then the program starts up again.

One of the first things Kaufman does is ask the home viewer to go get a piece of cellophane from the kitchen—and then sits on the lip of the audience bleachers and waits 30 seconds in ballsy silence while that task is accomplished. (Just in case there are any stragglers, he then briefly jacks the volume and shouts at the home viewers to hurry up.)

Andy Kaufman with Tony Clifton marionette
You don’t need me to tell you all the gags in advance, but boy, they are beautiful. What’s sometimes forgotten about Kaufman is that for all of his daring experimentation, he was almost always very funny. Nobody had better mastery over the mirth that could be extracted from an awkward turn of phrase or an uncomfortable pause.

In Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman, Bill Zehme writes:

They gave him an installment of the PBS concert series Soundstage, for which he was invited to fill an hour as he saw fit and, since this was public television and no serious money was involved, he saw fit to contrive the most elliptical and surreal refraction of existential realities that he had ever attempted. He spent the better part of June working at the WTTW production facilities in Chicago, where the series was produced and where he plotted strategem as he went along, with George and Lynne Margulies and Elayne Boosler as his sounding board. He would begin the show at the end and start again near the middle and utilize ideas learned as a child from watching Winky-Dink and You, wherein viewers were instructed to put cellophane on the television screen and draw on it to help him out of jams. He would have himself arrested and thrown into television court (all with cartoon backdrop) and defend whatever broadcast transgressions he had so far commited on the program. He would have an interviewing desk that was now seven feet high (calling no attention to this) from which he would imperiously interview Elayne, wherein they (candidly, no, really) traversed what had gone wrong with their relationship—“Sometimes I would wake in the morning,” he told her, “and I’d think I’d like to tell you that we’re gonna break up. I’d say, Well, I gotta tell her tonight—we’re gonna break up!” The Clifton puppet would meanwhile stalk the desktop and serve as sidekick.

If you have any yen at all for the outer reaches of experimental comedy, this is a must-see.

Oh—since it’s Kaufman we’re talking about here, don’t take anything for granted. Make sure you watch the program to the very end.

via Obscure Media

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Captain Beefheart conducts the Magic Band’s feet and fingers on TV, 1971
06:25 am


Captain Beefheart

Live on ‘Detroit Tubeworks,’ 1971
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band’s appearance on Detroit Tubeworks is justly famed. On January 15, 1971, Don Van Vliet’s 30th birthday, the group cooked and ate Trout Mask Replica‘s “When Big Joan Sets Up” and two cuts from side one of Lick My Decals Off, Baby, “Woe-Is-Uh-Me-Bop” and “Bellerin’ Plain.” There is a Library of Congress in my mind, and this tape reel is the only item on its windswept shelves.

The group also played an untitled, unreleased, improvised number for 120 digits. Under what sounds like the whine of an air conditioner—though it could just as easily be a swarm of bees at a Ligeti concert, a first lesson on the musical saw or a plain old case of sticky-shed syndrome—a dozen feet and a dozen hands follow Beefheart’s direction. His mouth moves, so maybe he was vocalizing in the studio. What’s the difference? You can’t hear it.

The YouTube comments point to a 2012 interview in which John “Drumbo” French says Van Vliet’s main concern was keeping the Magic Band from talking to the press:

There’s a film of The Magic Band that I think is from ’71 where you’re playing three or four songs in a TV studio, and then the band is filmed silently twirling your feet underneath a table…

(chuckles) Yeah.

Do you remember this?

Don’s idea.

He appears to be conducting you as you’re twirling your feet, and I was just curious, was that the idea that you were, like, playing the parts of one of your songs with your feet supposedly in time with each other, or…

No, actually, I really think that those kind of, sort of Dadaistic moments that Don created, were because he would do anything to keep us from being interviewed. He didn’t want the band to be interviewed. And I think mainly the reason was because he had created such an alien environment to work in that it would have become evident right away that there were a lot of problems in the band, that something wasn’t quite right. So he would invent these things to do as a diversion. I had no idea what that was supposed to mean one way or the other, but we all took off our shoes and they filmed our feet under the table. That’s all I remember about it. I think that was done in 1971 on a tour in January. If I recall, it was either outside of Detroit or outside of… let’s see… yeah, it was outside of Detroit, and we did it at night en route to the hotel.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
AI ‘on acid’ fucks with classic Bob Ross footage; everybody wins

For many of us, Bob Ross’ PBS show The Joy of Painting was an endlessly enjoyable random staple of the TV programming of our youth. Did anyone under the age of 57 ever actually seek out Bob Ross on TV? No, for me anyway, it was always encountered accidentally, this odd hippie with a paintbrush that was unlike everything else on the idiot box. As Patton Oswalt once observed, Ross was a Quaalude version of his predecessor and mentor on PBS, the more intense German émigré William Alexander.

A man named Alexander Reben has created the ultimate psychedelic Bob Ross artifact. It’s called Deeply Artificial Trees. According to Reben, “This artwork represents what it would be like for an AI to watch Bob Ross on LSD.”

There’s more, but I didn’t continue reading. I had all the information I needed.

via The Daily Dot

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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