Archive for July, 2006

POLYSICS OR DIE!!!!

Polysics are easily one of the most Zolo bands currently performing.

The Japanese band started making its exaggerated tribute to early Devo in the late 1990’s and is still going strong. While Devo is their strongest influence visually, they also owe a lot to the great Japanese Zolo bands like The Plastics, P-Model, Hikashu, Halmens, etc. Polysics even borrowed the P-Model square P-logo badges for their early costumes. Though they are sometimes too garage-rock in style for my tastes, their hyperactive jerky rhythms and zany spurting synthesizers are undeniably Zolo. Polysics’ overall style is a good example of Zonk (Zolo + Punk).

Below are a of couple videos and some links that you can follow to hear more. The first video is for the song XCT from Polysics’ ’00 CD NEU. The second video is for I My Me Mine from their most recent CD Now Is the Time!

Polysics Official Webpage

Polysics on Myspace

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July 31, 2006 at 1:46 pm 2 comments

Just When You Think You’ve Seen It All

I just found two videos for Zolo tunes I have loved for years. I never knew these videos existed, but thanks to the magic of YouTube I can share them with you. Both of these bands are covered sufficiently by Terry Sharkie on the Zolophile Homepage, so I won’t give an analysis of their relation to Zolo music here. Sadly, neither video is a visual example of the Zolo aesthetic. Still great though.
The first video is XTC’s Heatwave, the most Zolo track in their canon. Note the fake tans:

And here is the only Bill Nelson video I have heard of, Do You Dream In Color. Does anyone know if there was a video from Sound on Sound?

July 29, 2006 at 2:46 pm 2 comments

All that Glitters is the Cardiacs

Probably my greatest Zolo discovery whilst doing the Newave Zolocoaster was the Cardiacs. I am not sure who suggested the band to me, but it was over the phone during the radio show. I bought the two cheapest singles I could find, Susannah’s Still Alive and Is This The Life. The b-side of the latter single (I’m Eating in Bed) turned out to be a great Zolo track and the a-side of the former was a quirky Kinks cover with some zany touches. Their Zolo connection confirmed, I picked up Archive Cardiacs which was so good it sent me on a giggling fit. Piffol Four Times (with its Zappa-esque Xylo bits) and Rock Around the Clock were my faves.

The Cardiacs are a great example of the Prog + New Wave combination that gave birth to so many Zolo groups in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Archive Cardiacs is about half Punk and half Prog and it astonished me to think of this young band performing Prog tunes in clubs in 1977 when kids were burning their Yes albums.

The next material available in the Cardiacs chronology is The Seaside. It is brilliantly Zolo throughout. I’ll paste in the video for my favorite song from The Seaside, RES:

Another of my favorites comes from the collection of material called Songs for Ships and Irons. This super Zolo track is called Tarred and Feathered:

(I’ll have to just give you the link to this one, as I am not allowed to embed it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlfWoWHHRNA)

After The Seaside the Cardiacs Zolo output became a bit thinner. There are still zany moments here and there but they are typically couched in heavier (slightly) more serious Prog. Here is squiggly number from their late 80’s release On Land and In the Sea: The Duck and Roger the Horse.

The Cardiacs are still performing and releasing albums to this day. Their most recent output consists of live recordings from 2003 of some of the first Cardiacs songs. Cardiacs are surely the longest lived Zolo band still performing Zolo music. It has been about 30 years, now.

Cardiacs homepage.

Cardiacs on Wikipedia.

Cardiacs illustrated discography.

July 28, 2006 at 9:37 am 3 comments

My introduction to ZoLo music.

One day in 1995 or ’96 I tuned in to Portland’s college radio station KPSU to listen to the latest indie rock and ended up with something completely different. I am not sure what the song was, but I remember it sounding like circus music played at twice the normal tempo. My friends and I giggled at the song and at the cartoon voice that followed. The voice belonged to Terry Sharkie and we were listening to his radio show, the Zany Zolo Music Hour. Terry’s hyperactive, out-of-breath airbreak ended with an upward trill which sounded like a zipper and an ascending UFO. We answered with stunned laughter. I was amazed.

After my first experience with the Zany Zolo Music Hour, I only caught the show infrequently. Once I met my high school girlfriend I needed all my after-school time for making out. She and I formed a band that was more interested in Beat Happening and childrens music than anything else. By 1997 I had discovered synthesizers and became interested in New Wave music. My initial forays into the genre were the first two LPs by the B52’s and Drums and Wires by XTC (whose name I had heard on Terry’s radio show). I still wasn’t sure where to find ZoLo music (though Helicopter and Scissor Man on the XTC record referenced the style).

Then by a stroke of luck, I found Devo. Whilst pillaging the local Blockbuster video for weird titles, I came across The Men Who Make The Music–Devo’s video collection and promotional film from 1979. I had heard Whip It and loved its music video, but I did not expect finely honed plastic weirdness that the video collection revealed. The bold synthetic textures, mechanistic rhythms, and energetic, agressive oddness blew my mind. The Men Who Make the Music is Devo’s purest statement. I blame Devo for pushing me fully into Zolo.

Terry Sharkie was still on the radio in 1997 and I listened as often as I could (which was tough because the show was on while I was at work). By that time his show was called the Sforzando Cappricci Extravaganza and was slightly toned down from its initial explosive zaniness. One day I went to the KPSU studios to meet Terry. He was just finishing his show and was dressed in a casual form of Zolo attire with pointy flats, pegged jeans, and a loose colorful tee-shirt with the collar and sleeves cut out. His eyebrows were plucked into pointy spikes and this hair was sculpted, tall, and abstract.

I asked Terry for a discography to introduce me to Zolo. He wrote down a few things on a scrap of paper and we exchanged phone numbers. He also gave me his website address, which was hosted on the KPSU servers for years and now resides on my geocities account. His Zolophile Homepage was a complete manifesto and discography of the Zolo phenomenon.

After meeting with Terry I walked straight to the record store (Portland’s formerly excellent Django’s Records) and picked up Bill Nelson’s Red Noise Sound on Sound, Godley and Creme’s L, and Gentle Giant’s Interview. I had arrived.

Terry and I traded tapes, even after I moved to Austin to attend the university. Between his website and tapes I built a Zolo foundation and expanded from there. My main goal after moving to Austin was to get a radio show. I wan’t a student at UT yet, so I went to the community station KOOP. I volunteered as much as I could, but only did one show as a substitute.

As soon as I was accepted to UT, I applied to do a radio show at KVRX. In December of 1998 the Newave Zolocoaster was born. The show ran until the summer of 2000 and, after a hiatus in Spain, from the summer of 2001 until December of 2002. My personal goals for the show were to promote the Zolo concept and to give people the experience I got when first accidentally finding the Zany Zolo Music Hour. Both goals were met.

When I got back from Spain in the summer of 2001 I put together the first (self consciously) Zolo band, The Oblong Boys. With our name borrowed from a song by Renaldo & The Loaf and attire resembling X-Ray Spex on the cover of Germ Free Adolescents, Patrick Healy, Erich Ragsdale, Matt Lacomette took to the streets to force Zolo upon an unsuspecting public.

The Oblong Boys began performing in Austin clubs and at parties. We developed a solid repertoire and posterboard approximation of Klaus Nomi’s angular Zolo costume. We were Zolo to the hilt. The Oblong Boys released a CD before breaking up. It was called Pizzazarama Universe and is still available from Instincto Records. Personal differences (of course) broke up the band at the end of 2002.

After another Europen hiatus, I returned to Austin to focus on Zom Zoms–a project I started with former Oblong Boy Patrick Healy (aka Pat A. Physics). Originally intended as a studio-only project, the band was invited to play a show. We needed another musician to help us reproduce songs from our album Lumboba’s Tube–which came out at the same time as the Oblong Boys CD. We found Travis Beaver and performed as a three piece until the summer of 2005 when we added Seth Nemec.

I originally intended Zom Zoms to be a synthpunk band, but with Patrick and I involved we couldn’t help but make Zolo music. Zom Zoms are much punkier than the Oblong Boys were, though. Our style is pure Zolo, with custom made tops that fall somewhere between Split Enz and 1920’s Ballet Russe.

That brings us to the present. Now we have the Zoloscope blog where I will echo and expand on Terry’s Zolophile Homepage and further cement the Zolo concept in the 21st century.

July 27, 2006 at 9:50 am 7 comments


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