The Friday 5 Across the Lips will showcase a different theme every week, and highlight five songs within that theme. This week: Awesome sub-genres you never knew existed…
1. Kawaii Metal
Japan does weird much better than we do here in the United States. For such a disciplined, repressed culture, they have an uncanny ability to take their pop culture to the outer limits. Kawaii is an aspect of Japanese culture that celebrates the cute, cuddly, and adorable (Hello Kitty and Pikachu didn’t happen by accident). So only in Japan does it make sense to combine cutesy and death metal. The result is Babymetal, a band that features three teenage girls bouncing around the stage belting out pop lyrics to dark, grinding heavy metal, (such as the song above, “Gimme Chocolate,” which extols the yumminess of chocolate to pounding death metal riffs).
2. Crazy Cat Lady Jazz
Some believe there is a place between brilliant and bonkers, and it’s apparently Karen Mantler. Jazz musician and singer Mantler has built a whole career based on four albums completely dedicated to her cat Arnold, including 1988’s My Cat Arnold; 1990’s Karen Mantler and Her Cat Arnold Get the Flu; 1996’s Farewell (a tribute to Arnold’s death), and finally 1999’s Karen Mantler’s Pet Project. Despite the eccentricities filtered through her bizarre and pervasive sense of humor, Mantler has a keen sense of song structure, and a dark affinity for minor keys. Regardless, Mantler single-handedly created a meaningful, deeply personal subgenre of music for a misunderstood demographic.
3. Puppet Hip-Hop
Perhaps the most amazing of all hip hop. Back in the ’80s, the hip-hop genre was relatively new and everyone was jumping on the bandwagon, including puppets. Rapping is difficult enough when you have flesh and blood mouth, but puppets busting rhymes with their wooden lips are otherworldly. Biological science tells us flesh and muscles work best for rapping; however, these brilliant puppets must use soft, pliable wood such as pine or balsam. Regardless, it’s freaking awesome. Many times I’ve tried to mimic Eminem and ended up sounding like Mushmouth from Fat Albert. This makes Mr. Wood here from MC 900 Ft. Jesus all the more astounding.
Sometime in the late ’70s I heard a comedy bit about a new genre of music called Punk Country where a cheeky, twangy singer crooned “I wanna do your cow/Show me how/I wanna see her moo/So do you.” Punk was relatively new at the time, and the prospect of angry music from the working class sections of cities making its way to the sounds of rural America seemed hilariously absurd. Fast forward a few years when I discovered a psychobilly band calling themselves simply X who mashed up high-energy country music with deliciously ironic punk lyrics. It wasn’t long before I found other bands blasting cowpunk/psychobilly, such as Mojo Nixon, The Beat Farmers, and The Blasters. Punk was no longer confined to the industrial sections of major cities as angry, ironic working-class country kids now had a voice.
5. Math Rock
Math Rock is truly a sub-genre for those who just think too damned much. Most people believe Math Rock is something they watched on Saturday mornings back in the ’70s, but it’s actually an offshoot of progressive and hardcore music of the late ’80s. Eschewing the traditional 4/4 meter, Math Rockers usually aim for more asymmetric time signatures such as 7/8, 11/8, or 13/8. No, I’m not making that up. I actually researched it and typed what I found. Being as I’m not a musician, I have no idea what the hell any of that means, but I do know that Math Rock differs from most music in that it uses irregular rhythms, unusual guitar fragments, and exceptionally complex composition. So nerd-up if you can handle the C8H18 + O2 —>CO2 + H2O, bro.