What Is Weird?March 16, 2013
I’m not sure why or how I just discovered this but apparently there’s a website dedicated to weird music called Weirdest Band in the World.
I don’t know. It’s not exactly my cup of tea. It sort of illustrates why I don’t like saying I like ‘weird’ music or use the word when attempting to explain to people what kind of music I’m into. Maybe it’s like the Groucho Marx saying where I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have someone like me in it – to paraphrase haphazardly. It just seems to me that if ‘weirdness’ is the sole criteria to file music, the results can be a mixed bag and – as this site shows – not really that interesting in the end.
We have here a group from Toronto called Barbara – a pair of dudes (I think) in fashionably kooky hipster clothes and grotesque masks vogueing and miming to some pretty ordinary electronic dance music. It’s a somewhat unsettling to see but the music would be virtually unexceptionally ordinary on CD/mp3/etc.
There’s another band called Anklepants with someone wearing a mask that looks like it’s from the Star Wars franchise, some puppets, etc. More mask bands, funny clothes, an emphasis on performance art, which is all fine.
I’m not dissing the above groups or even this great site, which is well-written, curated. I’m glad it exists and I applaud their efforts. I’m just saying that it seems to me that bands that are consciously trying to be ‘weird’ don’t seem super interesting to me. They remind me of the otherwise normal kids who wore funny polka-dot sports coats or funny hats all through their junior year in an attempt to appear iconoclastic.
It’s also tough out there for musicians and groups. The sensitive hipster indie rock band thing only has so much of an audience. Post-millenial punk rock is tooth-paste commercial music. It seems like it’s like Let’s Make A Deal, with bands looking and acting as ‘kooky’ as possible in order to get the attention of Monty Hall. It’s hard for bands to get an audience to fling their hard-earned shekels their way these days.
I think authentic ‘weird’ musicians just make music that is by default ‘weird’ because they were following some innate impulse or inspiration. While some people speculate on people like Harry Partch’s motivations and his ego, he was really driven to make music his own way. The Residents made really weird music out of their intrinsic, collective imagination and to some extent, their external non-image sort of eclipsed their art in the end. They were visually and sonically ‘weird’ in the manner of these bands, but their music could always stand up on its own (although people debate that this stopped happening at various points, depending on various tastes).
I just don’t hear to much genuinely inspired ‘weirdness’ nowadays. Maybe it’s just me. The weird signal to weird noise ration is out of whack, or something.
Or I’m just a cranky, contrarian weirdo doofus.