Friday, May 27, 2005

This Is An Ex-Parrot

A couple of months ago, I attempted to start an mp3 blog. After a couple of days, the publish function stopped working, the template went all funny, and in my rage I trashed the whole idea. It was probably for the best, as mp3 blogs are a dime a dozen, most of them are crap, and mine didn't really look like it was going to be much of an improvement on the average. Still, my desire to illegally post copyrighted material has not ebbed, so I am pleased to present my first, and possibly last, pointless mp3 post!

(Mp3s can be downloaded by left-clicking the link (or opening in a new window/tab), then clicking the "Kostenlos" button, then the "1hr Download Link". It is quite possible that this site will swear at you in German, and equally possible that you will swear back in whatever language you feel most comfortable with.)

Today I'm taking a look at novelty songs. Now, the history of popular music is riddled with novelty hits, from "Louie Louie" to the Beatle's "Her Majesty" to the collected works of Weird Al Yankovic. Some musicians - Frank Zappa being the obvious example - used their novelty-hit-making skills to finance more serious work, while for others the novelty song is both means and end. The novelty song takes many forms, and can stem as easily from a band's desire to record something light-hearted for a change (e.g. Anthrax's "I Am The Man") as from a band's desire to make shitload of dosh with an annoying, yet inexplicably popular, ditty (e.g. Weatus' much-maligned "Teenage Dirtbag").

What is more interesting, however, is when a band's entire raison d'etre is a novelty. For example, when a friend who lives in England told me of a death metal band fronted by a parrot, I was inclined to suspect he was pulling my leg. However, Hatebeak are very much a real band, and their lead singer Waldo is very much a real parrot. Some of Hatebeak's best work can be heard on "God of Empty Nest". It's fucking awful, but worth hearing. Sort of.

Slightly more appealing is MC Hawking, a rapper/producer purporting to be the wheelchair-bound scientist Stephen Hawking, complete with speech synthesiser. The joke gets tired fairly quickly, but "Fuck the Creationists" is a pretty cool tune, expressing an admirable sentiment to boot.

It's tough for new metal bands to find a gap in the market. Grind-core, jazz-core, math-metal, and now death-parrot - the sub-genres are many, but original ideas few. A burgeoning trend in the Scandinavian metal scene is so-called troll-metal, which takes the traditional fast-paced riffing of death and mixes it with horns and oompa rhythms to create something that sounds like a Satanic hoe-down in Middle Earth. Finland's Finntroll are one of the best-known exponents of this particular style, which is to say that they're not actually very well known at all. Their songs are a little bit folky, a little bit piratey, and a lot bit growly, and they all sound much the same so here's "Forsvinn Du Som Lyser" for your listening pleasure.

Finally, BS 2000 was a side-project of Beastie Boy Ad Rock and former Suicidal Tendencies member Amery Smith. Their first album was a limited edition vinyl release and is quite hard to find, but their second (or "sophomore", as music critics like to say) album is readily available, and not a bad buy if you're after some quirky keyboard-punk ditties. Several tracks achieve novelty status, but none more so than "Wait a Minute" which recounts that infamous day when Fabio, the World's Sexiest Man, was struck in the face by a bird while riding a rollercoaster. It takes a certain genius to use such an incident as the subject for a novelty song, and for that, BS 2000, I salute you.

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