Habibi is what happens when you spill solvent on the psychedelic garage / surf music / girl groups section of your record collection.
IN THIS EPISODE
Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, Arto Lindsay, Bad Books, Bananagun, Bobby Conn, Born Ruffians, Bran Van 3000, Caribou, Devo, Disq, First Aid Kit, Future Of The Left, Gangstagrass, Gil Scott-Heron, Makaya Mccraven, Habibi, Jake Bugg, Juliana Hatfield, Kakkmaddafakka, Kellies, King Curtis, Madness, Malcolm McLaren, Parquet Courts, Portland Cello Project, The Sensualists, Sleigh Bells, Stop Calling Me Frank, The Sugar Oaks, Ty Segall, Unrest
Double Date With Death are loud and Canadian, and they don’t care if you don’t understand their French howling. They have a double date to get to.
IN THIS EPISODE
Ben Kweller, The Cat Empire, Clifffs, Daft Punk, Devo, Dilika, Double Date with Death, The Dukes Of Stratosphear, Dur-Dur Band, The Fiery Furnaces, Galactic, Guided By Voices, Heartless Bastards, Home, Jen Cloher, John Vanderslice, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Kinky, Nevada Bachelors, Of Montreal, Pixies, Ratatat, The Rebel Set, Sleepyhead, Socalled, Sparks, Stewart Copeland, This Mortal Coil, White Denim
For more information and a full playlist with notes, visit
“Quirky,” “infectious” and “fun” – adjectives used rarely, if ever, to describe the sweat-soaked, hard-core collectives dripping and spewing from stages on the traveling national Vans Warped Tour. But, that’s the exact unique distinction earned by The Fantastic Plastics when the retro-style, pop duo broke out on the iconic cavalcade in 2017 – while promoting their acclaimed Invasion EP. This month, the Illinois-based, synth-driven darlings return with their long-awaited full-length follow-up, Malfunction.
Recorded in the Plastic’s futuristic home CoCo Beat studio, Malfunction represents a tag team production effort between official members, songwriter / guitarist / vocalist Tyson Plastic and songwriter / keyboardist / vocalist / fashion designer Miranda Plastic, along with semi-official, non-touring member, Dylan Plastic (aka Chicken Burger Disco). Adding authentic big league cred, the record was mixed and mastered by Josh Hager (Devo, The Rentals).
Described by the Plastics themselves as oozing “spastic analog synths, frantic guitar hooks, and paranoid vocals,” Malfunction is guaranteed to wake the B-52s-loving, Gary Numan-craving spirit animal that sleeps within all good, God-fearing folks.
Prior to the record dropping officially this month, the Plastics already had released eye-catching videos for three toe-tapping tracks – the Buggles-flavored “Disintegration,” the hooky, riff-laden “Telephone” and the Coleco-charged “Perfect Strangers.”
The initial three singles certainly succeed in scratching one’s synth itch sufficiently. However, it’s the seductive allure of “Code Red Cola” that sizzles best, as Miranda confesses confidently to having, “Sugar on my mind. Sugar on my tongue. Dripping from my lips. I know you want some.” Wow, now that’s some straight up, old school sizzle-factor, for sure. If done just right, I’d wager a bet that a video for this one truly could launch these two kids into the next dimension.
Artistically, the Plastics are sneaky little devils. While the lyrics and brief acoustic guitar intro to “Bad Day” suggest a less than gleeful stylistic “left turn” for the band, at the :27 mark, you start to get the impression that they might be pulling one over on us. And then, at :40, it becomes crystal clear (as we become drenched in angelic “Ooo la la las”), that the tune ain’t no “downer” at all. It’s actually a freaking pop masterpiece – arguably the Plastics’ most “fantastic” tune to date.
In sum, by preaching from a pulpit in pop’s past, The Fantastic Plastics succeed (once again) with Malfunction, in creating a fun, fresh-sounding record that reaches far into the future.
That is the question Ralph Carney asked Chris Butler that spawned this collection of bizarre tributes to holidays that almost no one celebrates. Carney and Butler have been friends and collaborators since the mid ’70s. They played together in Tin Huey and the Waitresses. Over the years, Carney has played reeds with everyone from Tom Waits to Medeski, Martin and Woods to Les Claypool to his nephews Patrick Carney’s band The Black Keys. Butler was the songwriter for the Waitresses and an in-demand producer and session musician. Both men have been prolific solo artists. This batch of silly songs is the last project Carney worked on before his death in 2017.
The tunes on Songs for Unsung Holidays are as weird as the days they commemorate. “Introduce A Girl to Engineering Day” (February 23rd) has narration about career opportunity in engineering punctuated by a Devo does the Chipmunks chorus. It’s unrepentantly goofy and probably my favorite song on the album.
“Bubble Wrap Day” (March 18th) has it’s charms too. I can’t resist a song that liberally uses kazoos and proclaims the superiority of bubble wrap to peanuts and newspaper for packing fragile things. Foods are well represented with “Tapioca Day” (July 15th), “Lobster Day” (June 15th). “Salami Appreciation Day” (September 7th) and “Cheese Ball Day” (April 17th). I guess “Buffet Day” (January 2nd) celebrates all of the above.
A couple of tunes seem to take their holiday to task. “Bath Safety Day” (June 3rd) turns out to be a ode to taking showers. “Bald and Free Day” (October 14th) is more about berating those who insist on wearing rugs on their heads.
In the days of free-form FM radio when DJ’s could pick their own playlist, I could see these tunes popping up through the year. I know I would be pulling out this disc pretty regularly if I were still doing a radio show. I like serious music, but as some Irish philosopher once said, there still time for dumb entertainment. Put on your “Gorilla Suit” (January 31st) and have a walk around.
“Are you ready to get hot and shwetty?” Resembling a cross between Albert Einstein, Jimi Hendrix and Hikaru Sulu, The Fantastic Plastics’ animated frontman / guitarist, Tyson Plastic, stepped up to the mic and posed the question casually, as if Georgia fans melting in the 90-plus-degree swelter had any choice in the matter. And although the trip from yesterday’s show in Nashville to today’s show in Atlanta had made for a long, late-night excursion, the synth-driven power-pop duo was more than ready to live up to their end of this shwetty bargain. Welcome to the 2017 Vans Warped Tour, show #9.
Considered by many to have been one of THE “must-see” acts on this past summer’s iconic, cross-country, multi-band outing, The Fantastic Plastics are seemingly taking their current skyrocketing situation in stride. “It’s all snowballing so fast,” Tyson commented to me humbly, during the Plastics’ meet-and-greet following Warped Tour show #12 in West Palm Beach.
Having relocated back to their original Illinois home base just prior to embarking on the Warped Tour, Tyson reflected on the time he and synth siren / fashion designer, Miranda Plastic, spent residing recently in the Big Apple. “We loved living in New York, but it was like being on another planet,” he confessed. “It was sorta like the experience of being outsiders. Culturally, we were definitely outsiders. We’re actually from an alternate reality where the optimistic future dreamt up by futurists in the 1960s actually came true. Cars still have fins where we are from. But they fly and run on good vibrations!”
For the quirky combo, being perceived as “cultural outsiders from another planet” ain’t a bad thing, and it’s certainly nothing new. In fact, it defines the very essence of the Plastics’ unique appeal. However, “quirky” is not an adjective often associated with bands on the hard core Warped Tour. But that’s exactly where Tyson and Miranda found themselves in 2017.
“We weren’t getting much sleep and it was really, really, hot and sweaty,” Miranda recalled of the summer adventure. “But it didn’t really get to us, because everything else was so great.” As Warped Tour newbies, she admits, “Being like kind of a ‘weird’ band, compared to the typical Warped Tour band, we really didn’t know what to expect and if people were going to accept us. But everyone was unbelievably friendly and got along and became actual friends. It was almost like an addiction, and we really miss it.”
Of the many band friendships established on the tour, Tyson pointed quickly to one particular Canadian connection. “Courage My Love are genuinely the nicest people you’ll ever meet,” he revealed during our post-Warped Tour tour Skype conversation. “Those two girls, Mercedes and Phoenix, are so sweet and so talented,” he continued. “They’re every bit as weird as we are – weird in a good way. And their songs are great.”
As for the Plastics’ musical influences, there are many, but not necessarily the ones fans might expect. “We get pegged with the Devo thing and the new wave thing a lot,” Tyson admitted. “But when I go back and I think about when it (our music) started, I thought it was sorta power-pop with some surf and synth on it,” he added. “We both just want to do something different and be something different,” Miranda confessed. “We have a lot of influences, but we try to make it like our own creative thing.”
While acknowledging shared stylistic DNA with such obvious retro artists as Gary Numan, The B-52’s and Devo, Tyson also points to a few other, rather unlikely suspects. “We have two really big Led Zeppelin influences in our music,” he offered proudly. “In ‘Troublemaker’ there is a bridge part that is a riff I sorta deconstructed from their ‘Heartbreaker’ riff, and I flipped it all around and kinda put it in a funnier key.” He added, “To some degree, Miranda’s Theremin playing is inspired by Jimmy Page.” Tyson also owns up to having borrowed a David Lee Roth sample in the aforementioned, “Troublemaker.” Commenting on his past disdain for Van Halen-style / arena rock, he revealed, “I hated that stuff when I was younger. But now as an adult, I have a total appreciation for 1984.
Straying from any standard-type creative blueprint, the Plastics’ high-energy ear worms are never first demoed and then tested live. According to Tyson, “Our records are created entirely in the studio.” Yet despite laboring endlessly in the control room with the group’s mysterious third member, Dylan Plastic, Tyson and Miranda agree that they’re never satisfied completely with the final product. “There’s always something we want to change,” says Miranda. Tyson concurs. “‘TV Head’ and ‘Thought Patrol’ are the only two songs that we’ve been entirely happy with.”
The early “proto-Plastics” version of the group first developed as a side project between Tyson and Dylan back in 2008, while Miranda served as costume designer. “The live ‘thing’ was never his ‘thing,’ Tyson says of Dylan, adding that his ever-elusive creative partner will always be “an equal member” of the project.
The Fantastic Plastics live in Chicago (2017)
As for the Fantastic Plastics’ impressive current music catalog, it consists of two irresistible EPs, Outsiders (2014) and Invasion (2016). Sandwiched between the two tasty slices of futuristic-flavored fun is their acclaimed 2015 full-length record, Devolver, as well as a fistful of catchy singles, including their remake of The Flaming Lips’ 1993 radio hit, “She Don’t Use Jelly.”
Having just wrapped up a Midwest fall club tour, Tyson announced recently that additional concert dates will be posting soon on the Plastics’ various social media sites. Tyson added that he also expects to be back in the studio with Miranda and Dylan, very soon, with a new record dropping sometime in 2018.
But during a hectic year of near-constant touring, was there anything new that The Fantastic Plastics learned while invading the U.S. scene? Apparently so, Tyson recalled. “A nice fella named the Trash Wizard once told me while on Warped Tour, ‘You can’t undo drugs.'” Lessons learned, indeed!
with War on Women, Creeper, Municipal Waste, Bad Cop Bad Cop, Valient Thorr, Microwave, The Fantastic Plastics, and more…
Tinker Field; Orlando, FL • June 30, 2017
by Jen Cray
Everywhere I turned, bodies lay in varying degrees of undress. Pale faces and collapsed frames, stewing in puddles of sweat, with abandoned bits of pizza and Gatorade scattered about, forgotten… Everywhere, bodies.
And I was about to become one of them.
Even more so than in years past, the Vans Warped Tour had kicked my fragile, dehydrated ass, and it was only 4pm. With the Florida heat clocking in with RealFeel temps upwards of 115 degrees, the shaded confines of Camping World Stadium had become a cool oasis from the scorching fields of play. Sweat, hydrate, repeat. A day of purge and replenishment… and then the storms came.
yoga in the rain
So, yeah, it was a typical Florida summer’s day, but it was also the Warped Tour. So, despite the elements, the bands played and despite the discomfort, the fans raged with them.
Bad Cop Bad Cop
As has become typical for my personal Warped Tour experience, it was the small stages that housed the bands most interesting to my tastes. Valient Thorr brought their dirty interplanetary punk into the daylight and proved even more fierce in bright sunshine. Municipal Waste slayed with a pre-storm set of thrash metal replete with stage rattling furor and provocative political imagery (note their pretty banners). Bad Cop Bad Cop carried the torch for Fat Wreck Chords-style punk, delivering one of the most ear pleasing sets of the day — imagine NOFX doused in feminism instead of testosterone. All of this goodness was what the Hard Rock Stage had to offer.
War On Women
Next door, on SkullCandy was where War on Women planted their flag in the Warped Tour 2017 beast as “the reason to attend the show.” Songs about abortion, songs about rape, songs about gender equality — this punk political powerhouse pulled no punches, bulldozing through a cathartic set that found the balance between anger and unifying peace. “At Warped Tour, you get Feminism and free slushies,” as frontwoman Shawna Potter gushed. Further endearing themselves to Orlando, the band brought Tierney Tough (of The Pauses) up onstage for a song.
The Fantastic Plastics
The White Noise
Other notables include Creeper, who are keeping the goth flavored emo of yesteryear alive and well. They’re on the small Full Sail stage this summer, but these guys could be main stagers next year, easily. Also ready to outgrow the small stage, The Fantastic Plastics. The pair’s Devo-esque stylings, and crayola colored look, was a delightful distraction from the white noise of the typical Warped sounds (with no disrespect meant to The White Noise, whose set I rather enjoyed).
Too Close To Touch
Per usual, exhaustion eventually set in and my day of Warped was brought to a forced close. There were still a ton of bands on my hope-to-see agenda for the day (I’m looking at you, Barb Wire Dolls, Anti Flag, and Save Ferris), but when you start seeing spots in front of your eyes and the world is no longer in focus, it’s time to go home.
We have nearly run out of musical mix-up styles; yet this rather interesting album finds a new one and bills itself as “Teutonic Psychedelia” or “Kraut Grunge.” True enough; all these roots are lying under this sometimes rhythmic, sometimes dissonant eleven song collection. I started with the track named “Kingdom Cum,” it leads with its distorted guitars and a rhythm built on a vaguely Catholic liturgical meter. Lyrics invite us to “turn on the Acid Queen;” if that’s good old Tina Turner I think she can handle that herself. Industrial sounds fill the back drop of “Charlie Charlie;” this might be a Devo track if the boys were on anti-depressants and had traded their sense of humor for Germanic irony. And in “Voltures” we find a simple chord progression punctuated with flights of electronic noise. There’s a real sense of space in this music; even with cheap airline ear buds I feel like I’m in a large and ominous sonic space.
By the time we track “Godwasinme” that space has shrunk and the paranoia level has risen; something significant is about to happens but will be the unleashing of those snarling vocals? Or an invading spacecraft with those flashing red hoops of light? Perhaps our own paranoia attack us. This record is intense and engaging, just don’t do any semi-illegal chemicals until you’ve heard it at least once.
I just did 30 minutes of yoga while listening to Ausmuteants and while I can’t say for certain, I’m willing to go out on a limb here and proclaim that I just may be the first person to ever do that. Ausmuteants are NOT yoga music. Their feral synth punk chaos is about as soothing as Sepultura yet my stretches were deeper then ever, my balance was impeccable, and my crow pose was picture perfect. So what’s the deal? Have these Austrailian noisemakers gone full circle and found meditative peace buried within spat out vocals, and unrefined instrument banging?
Yoga instructors everywhere, take note: Add “Felix Tried to Kill Himself,” “1982” and “We’re Cops” to your class playlists. “Looney Bin” may serve as a nice cool down song.
This is atonal weird ass punk that will appeal to fans of the less Top 40 side of Devo, or old Crypt Records bands (Lyres come to mind). If a synthesizer had an orgy with a cat in heat and a garbage can, it may sound like Order of Operation. And if that doesn’t sound like the recipe for a great yoga session, I don’t know what does!
Devo’s 2012 Something for Everybody tour was living proof that the band still had it; experiencing them performing a high-energy set showed that time had not dulled the band’s subversion, chops, or tightness.
But what to do for an encore?
Devo decided to go back to their earliest recordings, to when they were a group of like-minded weirdos gathered in a basement with guitars, drums, and synthesizers and created odes to sexual frustration, consumerism, inside jokes, and the roots of their theory of de-evolution.
Dusting off songs they hadn’t played in years, Hardcore Devo is a snapshot of the band’s early days, of the experimental weirdness that seemed to explode fully formed on 1978’s Q: Are We Not Men A:We are Devo. The DVD also stands as a tribute to guitarist Bob Casale, who died months before the tour.
Opening with a reading of the day’s headlines (Nixon resigns!), the band remains seated on a basement set, looking like a group of affable uncles. While the mixing of the recordings are synth-heavy, the versions here lean heavily on Gerald Casale’s guitar. Here, “Auto Modown” sounds like twisted classic rock, and “Beehive” sounds like a blues deconstruction.
Soon, however, the band stands up, dons their blue janitorial uniforms and explains how they constructed their cover of “Satisfaction.” The rest of the set has Devo playing rarities like “Be Stiff” and “Social Fools” along with versions of “Jocko Homo,” “Uncontrollable Urge,” and “Gut Feeling.” The synchronized robot dance comes out. Booji Boy comes out in a stroller. All is right with the world.
The days of Pure Energy aren’t quite over for this dance club fave from the late ’80s. INSOC set a standard for dance music with Star Trek audio samples; the disembodied Spockness of “Pure Energy” still brings back fond memories of those days. The band reformed in 2006 and hasn’t had an album out in seven years, but their latest project _hello world is still as exciting as their original releases.
They still love those samples, and on “Where were you” they come from some 1950’s weepie of a film, but once we pass that little quirk the music is still urgent, beat heavy and dancy. There’s even lyrics that are worth hearing, “Where were you when I was crying?” isn’t something a guy would pop out, but here it makes perfect sense. “Get Back” is a powerful EDM track with throbbing bass and some minor drops and then “Dancing With Strangers” keeps on a similar beat track but dives into much darker lyrics, there’s tribal feeling on this track and it feels more “Australian bush” than “Club 54.” They do include a cover, INSOC gets Devo’s Gerald Casale to drop by for a sped up cover of “Beautiful World”. Overall, I like this collection, its close enough to the original to keep you dancing, but there are enough new ideas here to excite. Dance on, boys, dance on!