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Sometimes it's hard to tell the line between insanity and brilliance. And that applies to bands, too.| Photo: Mihail Trebugov (Unsplash)
Sometimes it's hard to tell the line between insanity and brilliance. And that applies to bands, too. | Photo: Mihail Trebugov (Unsplash)
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TOP 5 Weirdest Bands

Do you also find yourself reading the news and thinking that the world has gone mad? Where is the line between insanity and what we consider normal? History taught us that what people used to regard as pure madness can be later glorified as a sign of genius and progress. All gifted artists often face misunderstanding, rejection or ridicule. Some, however, manage to push the boundaries further, to places where few dare to go.

There's probably nothing weird about being "weird", which is caused by the simple fact that you're a musician and you have a band. There's no shortage of weirdness and eccentricity in the world of popular music, but some have pushed it to a greater extreme. Some bands shock audiences with their chaotic creativity, genius, perversity, provocative image, outrageous lyrics or wild shows. However, our shortlist presents bands which have crossed all the unwritten boundaries of weirdness we are willing to tolerate. They are just too much to handle even for quite adventurous listeners.

I should state that bands like Primus, Captain Beefheart, GWAR, Patton's Mr. Bungle, Marilyn Manson, and Zappa's Mothers of Invention are all tremendously weird acts that bring beautiful chaos to the music world, but their popularity and overall notoriety among fans eliminate them from our list beforehand – I would like to introduce you to true underground madmen and genius freaks.

1. The Residents

Only one band can top the list of the weirdest bands of all time. Formed in the era of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, The Residents were (and are) weirder than all of their peers both musically and conceptually. The Residents were always anonymous. No one knew who was behind the band's music – until 2017 when Hardy Fox was identified as the co-founder and main songwriter.

A group of conceptual artists who believe that anonymity gives them creative freedom and encourages people to listen to their music without focusing on their image. The music and visuals are an ode to surrealism. Everything is strange, nothing makes sense – and yet you feel that there is a well-thought-out concept behind it in the style of the progressive 70s.

Masterpieces such as "Eskimo", "Animal Lover", "God In Three Persons" and "Freak Show" cover a wide range of genres and feature both electronics and homemade instruments (inspired by composers such as Harry Partch). The Residents have ripped apart famous songs with crude DIY cover versions ("Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones, "Man's World" by James Brown, and "Flying" by the Beatles), made some of the world's first music videos, created online video projects and programmed games on CD-ROM (note to younger readers: CD-ROM was a round data carrier used in the 90s that could hold a maximum of 900 MB of data or almost 100 minutes of music)...

The Residents are more than just musicians. They are obsessed with telling stories in virtually every medium they focus on, they are real, uncompromising, avant-garde and multimedia artists. Many of their fans know the early days of this band, especially the Mole Show Tour in the 80s. However, few of them realise that The Residents have released much more bizarre and experimental material since then.

If you really like weirdness and are willing to venture into an extensive catalogue of work, try immersing yourself in the music of The Residents. If you're looking for a place to start, the documentary Theory Of Obscurity offers a comprehensive study of the band's history and sheds light on their most interesting projects. And if you still have doubts about the band's weirdness, just check out Not Available. This insane synth opera with the weirdest vocals you've ever heard is one of the crown jewels of the weirdo kingdom and features some amazing stream-of-consciousness surreal lyrics.

2. Boredoms

Do you know what japanoise is? The noise music scene in Japan whose most famous representatives are Boredoms, who were formed in 1986 in Osaka. The Boredoms started with a style similar to the Butthole Surfers (another great oddity with a compellingly offensive name). They embraced surreal stoner humour, fused it with fuzzy and angry noise-punk, and added a chaotically furious stage show with violent elements.

The first Boredoms albums are pretty goofy creations, where weird dance sections (lead singer Yamantaka Eye is also a DJ) turn into hardcore punk grooves in a matter of seconds. Their records are short, sharp, and insane, and their sound relies heavily on the vocal acrobatics of Eye, who grunts, screams, screeches, yells, gurgles, and most importantly, screams like he's being tortured. Really impressive!

Over time, the band grew and so did their sound. The Boredoms became more interested in psychedelia. Their later albums drew from ambient, new age and tribal music styles, creating longer songs that were largely made up of percussive textures and electronic effects. These are some of their most imaginative recordings, and while they are more "melodic" than their early work, they remain strange and unusual.

This style culminated in their now-legendary Boadrum performances, where the band performed carefully composed songs with up to 99 drummers at once. The Boredoms have to be heard to be believed – a band that went from being the roughest avant-punk to the most blissful psychedelic experiment. Check out their show at the legendary Lollapalooza festival, for example.

3. Naked City

"It's like watching a TV with seven hundred channels and constantly switching between them," explains a representative of Earache Records, who in 1991 presented a generation of death metal fans with the era-defining Grindcrusher compilation and thus introduced them to New York jazz experiment by avant-garde saxophonist John Zorn. Even though Naked City were known for their extreme "hardcore miniatures," their classic tracks emanate a celestial beauty, while 1992's album Leng Tch'e is a half-hour of twisted, abrasive sludge.

The band consists of saxophonist and arranger Zorn, bassist Fred Frith, drummer Joey Baron, guitar genius Bill Frisell, keyboardist Wayne Horvitz, and (at various times) vocalists Yamasuka Eye (Boredoms) and Mike Patton (Faith No More/Mr. Bungle). Naked City was Zorn's tribute to thrash metal and grindcore, inspired by the extreme speeds and sounds of those genres while creating something new. He combined the blast beats and distorted guitars of these styles with every other genre you could name. Each song jumped from style to style and most of them were incredibly short.

Music critic Scott May describes Naked City's songs as "jump-cutting micro-collages of hardcore, country, sleazy jazz, covers of John Barry and Ornette Coleman, brief abstract tussles – a whole city crammed into two or three-minute bursts" – the quick-change technique was inspired by cartoon composer Carl Stalling. The effect was deliberately reminiscent of repetitive switching of radio stations, with one genre after another.

Naked City worked primarily in New York City from 1988 to 1993 until John Zorn disbanded it. For him, the original idea of a "composition workshop," which aimed to test the limits of composition (and improvisation) in a traditional rock band setting, eventually ran out of steam. Naked City's music is organised chaos – perfectly composed music that looks like it's going to fall apart at any moment, but ultimately doesn't, keeping the listener attentive at all times.

4. Faust

Germany has produced many experimental bands, but Faust is undoubtedly the strangest and most thoroughly unclassifiable of them all. This is the band that basically invented industrial noise. Their music was focused on dissonance, improvisation and experimental electronic practices. As central players in the West German krautrock movement of the 1970s, they influenced later ambient and industrial culture.

Faust is a band that changed dynamics not only between albums but also between songs. Their strange psychedelic rock songs mixed with musique-concréte, noisy static music clashed with subtle percussive elements. It's hard to classify their sound because they don't really have a specific sound. Faust are famous for using whatever was handy as instruments – pieces of scrap metal, cement mixers, the floor, broken glass, tape recorders, just whatever is around you that makes a sound.

5. Anal C***

Our fifth element stands out from the above-mentioned bands, which despite all their weirdness are all about artistic expression and searching for new directions. As you might tell by their name, Anal Cunt, also known as AxCx or A.C. focus on something else – a serious expression of negativity and everything associated with it. The American grindcore band was formed in 1988 in Newton, Massachusetts and during its existence underwent a number of line-up changes and never had a bassist. Anal Cunt broke up in 2011 after founder and frontman Seth Putnam died of a heart attack.

The band's early material contained no pre-written lyrics or music. The band developed a completely improvised style that consisted of extremely loud, fast and aggressive noise. Over time, the band gradually changed their style and slowly began to incorporate more riffs and pre-written lyrics into their songs. It was only then that Anal Cunt earned a reputation as a group of deliberately outrageous and offensive freaks. It's not surprising, since their lyrical themes include misogyny, homophobia, Nazism, anti-Semitism, racism, politics, criticism of popular culture, and mocking people in disadvantaged social positions.

Critic Steve Huey called their album Morbid Florist "barely listenable". Lead singer Seth Putnam also admitted that they sent the album to magazines which they knew would hate it, in order to get the worst reviews. Well, an interesting approach to music criticism, but in the case of Anal Cunt it's pretty obvious they couldn't have expected anything other than what they sowed. It's fascinating that they even made it through this hellish journey they set for themselves from 1988 to 2011.

Of course, apart from the above-mentioned five bands of chaos, madness and avant-garde non-conformism (apart from Anal C***, they are in their own category of hell) are definitely worth mentioning acts like Butthole Surfers, Ruins, Secret Chiefs 3, Ween, Sun City Girls, Rockbitch, Cardiacs, Renaldo And The Loaf and Praxis... Go to YouTube and treat yourself to a "Freaky Friday" with a playlist that will send you to another dimension.

Tagy TOP 5 Mike Patton faust The Residents boredoms naked city Anal Cunt

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Marek Bero
Bass Gym 101 books, touring & session bass player, football tactics aficionado.