Japanese have nothing on these guys
December 19, 2005 10:32 PM   Subscribe

Tonight's WTF is brought to you by Taiwan. There must be a escalating Weird Race with Japan brewing, this is the first salvo. A shiny object will be awarded to the first reasonable explanation. {qt} {NSFW}
posted by MiltonRandKalman (29 comments total)

Is it really so weird? Jackass Taiwan basically.
posted by panoptican at 10:38 PM on December 19, 2005

This is Green Leaves taken to the extreme.
posted by i8ny3x at 10:38 PM on December 19, 2005

posted by 2sheets at 10:39 PM on December 19, 2005

Yeah, that's about what I expected.
posted by Balisong at 10:57 PM on December 19, 2005

posted by delmoi at 10:58 PM on December 19, 2005

Dupe I say!
posted by delmoi at 11:01 PM on December 19, 2005

Perhaps a dupe, but I like Milton's writeup better. It got me to click - the first one didn't.
posted by Ryvar at 11:17 PM on December 19, 2005

Here's what appears to be an English-language newspaper profile reprinted on the band's blog.

Exorcising the Pope and other wanton acts

The absurdist, destructive tendencies of LTK, and why that makes them Taiwan's greatest band ever

THIS APRIL at Spring Scream, a strange effigy was brought on stage by Loh Tsui Kweh Commune (濁水溪公社) as part of their set. The life-sized doll, which seemed to be made homemade, of stuffed, stitched canvas and old clothes, was tied or duct-taped to a chair with fireworks taped all over it, almost like a hostage and a suicide bomber had been merged into one. And there was no question that by the end of the show, this figure would be totally destroyed, exploded, torn limb from limb, FUBAR, there was no doubt. It's just because LTK shows, especially big ones, always end like that - in a binge of symbolic violence, a mobbed stage, lots of random destruction. The thing I couldn't figure out this time was: who was the effigy supposed to represent anyway?

Hsiao-ko (小柯), LTK's lead singer of 16 years and founding member, told me earlier this week, when I was interviewing him about the band's new album: "That figure? That was the Pope!"


"At that time, the Pope" - Pope John Paul II - "was really sick. So we wanted to help him get rid of his bad luck and recover. That's what the fireworks were for. You know, in Taiwan, we explode fireworks to get rid of evil spirits."

So, in one sense, it was a simple Taoist exorcism ritual. On numerous festival days (the Yenshui Fireworks Festival being the most famous), Taiwanese parade god-figures on palanquins through the streets and pelt them with fireworks, the idea being the explosions will drive off ghosts, evil spirits, plagues, and misfortune in general. And here it was being applied to, yeah, the Pope.

But after the Pope effigy (I'm so glad I finally found out what it was) had been racked by exploding firecrackers, and bottlerockets, and hive rockets - which not so incidentally got much of the crowd ducking for cover - the figure was still in fairly good shape. There was a groove going the whole while, a spare, driving combo of drums and bass with the odd guitar riff coming in on top. LTK pandemonium, you see, always happens to music; they pound out something like a march, with Hsiao-ko screaming slogans, orders, curses, and platitudes over the top of it like some kind of Hitler in Rayban sunglasses (or on some occasions, even in drag), because for LTK, violence is a kind of vehicle, the destruction is going somewhere. And if LTK shows are known for anything, it's that.

"Sometimes we prepare what we're going to destroy. Sometimes we don't prepare anything and the crowd just gets excited," said Hsiao-ko. But whatever the case, "We always have a theme, it's just that not everybody understands what it is."

No shit. And at the same time, I have to hand it to them. The absurdist logic, often pushed to destruction for its own pointless sake, is one of the things that has made LTK truly great, and also made them one of the enduring legends among Taiwanese rock bands. Few if any other local groups have lasted as long - 16 years - and on top if it kept going in underground venues like pubs and festivals without losing the radical intensity and focus of their early years.


"In 1989, when [the band] started," he recalled, "we were attending student movements and playing at them too. Martial law had just ended and a new order had not established itself yet."

This student activism would eventually become known as the Social Movements, a wave which swept the early 1990s with protests demanding direct presidential elections, ridding the national legislature of ancient, China-born politicians kept in place by the KMT system, and numerous other political and social reforms.

"We were always thinking up things to do at the protests," said Hsiao-ko. "We'd always prepare skits and props."

If LTK parodies had their first outlets in activist movements, their inspiration came from something much more traditional. In the 1980s, before Hsiao-ko entered college, he remembers that the western music he listened to was "mostly keyboard pop," bands like the Smiths, Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, and New Order. The Clash, he said, was the only band he listened to that was even vaguely punk (a surprising admission, considering that LTK's music is almost universally described as punk or post-punk). He cites none of those bands as a major influence. Instead, as "our biggest direct influence," he named a TV variety show called San Li Wang Hu Jiang (三立五虎將). As is still the case with variety shows, the program consisted of hosts interspersing joke routines with music and karaoke, and this is where LTK found its template for comedic musical performance - a template they would go on to pervert and radicalize in the extreme.

The logic of LTK performance art was not always as strange as putting a Pope effigy through a Taoist cleansing ritual. At times in fact it's been much more direct, usually, at least until a few years ago, tending to be very political (as did their music. To wit, they have a long history of advocating Taiwanese independence, a stance that's literally apparent in their 2001-released song, "Taiwan Independence March" 台灣獨立軍進行曲). One early Spring Scream performance had some band members in aborignal outfits of woven straw raping a rich, old, touristy Han lady. The metaphoric device was a fire extinguisher, and at the climax, of course, they sprayed all over the stage.

The yellow-white, fire expunging dust - "it blanketed everything," recalled the concert's organizer Jimi Moe. "All the equipment, monitors, and everything. I was shitting bricks. So that pretty much ended that set. But the sound guys, they loved it. They thought it was the funniest thing they'd ever seen."

Abrupt, chaotic endings to live shows became the LTK norm. I've seen them finale with acts as direct and simple as destroying a wooden chair, not relenting until every piece was ripped free, and even then Hsiao-ko kept pounding nails and dents into the legs.

At another Spring Scream, Moe remembered, "the audience was throwing so many water bottles and so much water up on the stage, the sound crew was scared for their safety. They thought they'd be electrocuted, so they temporarily cut the power." Another year, "they lit a pile of guitars on stage." And for it all, Moe says, "I love those guys. At Spring Scream, they'll always have a prime slot to play."

posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:17 PM on December 19, 2005

...plus The Japanese game to end all Japanese games.. Apparently
posted by bunglin jones at 11:21 PM on December 19, 2005

Reasonable explanation? Of that? Hmmmm..., Didja grok the part with the guy holding a bong, then his buddy gives him the good stuff and he explodes? Just may be beyond the normal definition of "reasonable"? Do I get the shiny object? C'mon, PLEEEEEZ!!!
posted by FredsinPa at 11:47 PM on December 19, 2005

Anyone know the name of the song? Very catchy.
posted by Yiggs at 12:02 AM on December 20, 2005

Great bit of motion graphic design as well. i have so much to learn...
posted by lemonfridge at 2:40 AM on December 20, 2005

I agree, WTF. The "Double Monkey Production" logo only has one monkey.
posted by Plutor at 2:46 AM on December 20, 2005

There must be a escalating Weird Race with Japan brewing

Um, am I being over-sensitive, or is that a rather iffy turn of phrase?
posted by jack_mo at 4:24 AM on December 20, 2005

bunglin jones that link is truely insane
posted by 13twelve at 5:31 AM on December 20, 2005

I was about to say that that video was no weirder than most current American videos, what with all the "wacky" imagery and "zany" digital effects ... but then that guy got cornholed with a sawfish blade, and everything changed.

I'm gonna have the synth-horn part from that song stuck in my head all day.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:01 AM on December 20, 2005

I was about to say that that video was no weirder than most current American videos, what with all the "wacky" imagery and "zany" digital effects ... but then that guy got cornholed with a sawfish blade, and everything changed.

Oh I dunno, I'm pretty sure I've seen stuff like that or weirder on US stuff.
posted by Zinger at 6:24 AM on December 20, 2005

Since nobody in either thread got around to explaining much...

The main ... thrust... of the song and video is satirizing Taiwan's supposedly 'Buddhist' culture - which often takes the form of greedy fortune telling (you will die within the month if you don't divest yourself of all your wordly belongings - to me). The montage with the anal rape, the pointer, and the gimp all outline different facets of this.

Getting into a little more detail, the anal rape scene pokes fun at the 'ji tong' flagellant priests who go into trances and hit themselves until they're bloody. These guys often set themselves up as local holy men, claiming celibacy but trading sexual favours for supposed magical services.

The bong sequence satirizes the huge array of 'traditional' medicines in Taiwan, many of which contain all sorts of dangerous and illegal drugs. Exploding isn't a typical consequence, but death is pretty common. The 'magic milk' sequence comes from another common type of 'medicine'.

Much of the rest is satirizing chinese medicine (such as the internal organ diagrams and actupuncture points), Taiwanese consumerism, and Taiwanese Buddhism (the picture at the beginning is a satire of Bosch style Buddhist paintings that display the torments of Hell). The graphic style of the 'newspaperish' stuff comes from the Chinese Farmer's Almanac.
posted by datadawg at 6:25 AM on December 20, 2005

These pieces, and others like them, can be found on WFMU's Beware of the Blog.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:26 AM on December 20, 2005

Thanks, datadawg. Your explanation is very interesting and useful.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:28 AM on December 20, 2005

I think we can all agree that if Madame Chiang hadn't been long dead, this would've definitely killed her.

Then cornholed her with a sawfish blade, given her a footpowder bong hit, and milked her withered teat.

All that said, it's nice to see that Taiwan pop has progressed from sounding like bad '50s Bill Haley-on-cough-syrup pastiche in the eighties to bad '80s Farfisa-farting pastiche in the oughties.
posted by the sobsister at 6:28 AM on December 20, 2005

Um, am I being over-sensitive, or is that a rather iffy turn of phrase?

posted by kosem at 7:36 AM on December 20, 2005

Ji tong (danggi), almanacs, medicine and most of the rest of that stuff aren't really Buddhist. That all fits under the large umbrella of "Chinese folk religion".
posted by jiawen at 8:01 AM on December 20, 2005

Obviously reflective of mainstream Taiwan culture. Those wacky foriegners sure are different.
posted by stbalbach at 8:33 AM on December 20, 2005

I was expecting something truly bizarre, because a lot of Asian pop culture surely does seem bizarre at times -- but I didn't find this any weirder than any Western music video.
posted by Robot Johnny at 8:54 AM on December 20, 2005

This is why Baby Jesus invented teh intarweb -- so I can see weirdshit I would otherwise miss.

Thank you.
posted by neek at 9:52 AM on December 20, 2005

but I didn't find this any weirder than any Western music video

Really? Did you watch the whole thing? 'Cuz, like, this is pretty weird.
posted by kosem at 10:08 AM on December 20, 2005

Tie. One shiny object for datadawg and one shiny object for Artifice_Eternity.
Oh and a token shiny object for FredsinPa

What I find striking is the quality of the motion graphics and production value put in to this video. Those Slim Goodbody nut grab shots cost money.

I have no idea what 'turn of phrase' means.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:13 PM on December 20, 2005

does anyone have any clue how you'd go about buying their latest CD? i've looked all over the bands blogger site and, well, given the fact that my chinese is a little rusty i can't find their merch link.
posted by photoslob at 7:13 PM on December 20, 2005

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