Music is one of the most expressive forms of art known to man. With a blank canvas, the more ambitious musicians throughout the years have sought to create something completely unique. Whether it is presentation, sound, or both – the realms of possibility know no bounds when it comes to more extreme forms of musical expression.
And that’s where this list comes into play. It includes those bands who reach outside of the traditional music-making process to apply their own artistic interpretations. What’s most interesting is that many of these outside-of-the-box artists actually broke new ground in music, influencing popular musicians like Jack White, The Sex Pistols, Deftones to name but a few, and in some cases spawned entire genres.
These ten acts dwell somewhere between cuckoo land and bizarro world, but in doing so, expanded the sound spectrum in ways never thought of before. Shield your eyes and ears if you’re easily freaked out – these are the 10 Most Bizarre Bands Of All Time.
Kicking off our wacky list is the Mike Patton-fronted supergroup Fantômas. While Patton has been a part of various bizarre musical endeavors, Fantômas are arguably the most erratic.
Featuring members of Melvins, Slayer and Mr. Bungle, the bizarre outfit have released four studio albums to date, with each one being like nothing else you’ve ever heard before. Not content with a sound that’s a completely bunkers mash-up of heavy metal, lounge and avant-garde, the band also use very different concepts for each LP. From brief noise blasts for a comic book-themed record, to one horrifying 74-minute long track that made up their whole Delìrivm Còrdia album – the group certainly like to second guess the listener at every turn.
Reforming for a tour in 2014 after a six-year hiatus, it seems we haven’t heard the last of this eccentric four-piece.
9. Throbbing Gristle
The word ‘experimental’ was pretty much made for British noise sculptors Throbbing Gristle. Forming in 1975, the group created sounds, song structures, and rhythms in a way that simply boggles the senses.
Through the band’s abrasive and confrontational style, the industrial genre was pretty much born. The extreme four-piece are a perfect example of a band who rejected the traditional songwriting methods in order to create their own musical vision. And with it came a whole host of industrial artists, who took the group’s unconventional approach to music creation and applied it to their own compositions.
Following the passing of member Peter Christopherson, things have mostly been quiet on the Throbbing Gristle end. However, regardless of whether they decide to create more music or not, their legacy is already cemented as one of the most unforgiving acts to ever take to the stage.
As far as presentation goes, they don’t come much more risque than the all-female gothic group Rockbitch. Taking elements from both the gothic metal and shock rock genres, the band became notorious for their very graphic live performances.
From performing sex acts on stage to taking part in pagan rituals – their live displays were some of the most controversial in all of music. Perhaps the most shocking recurrence at their shows was the infamous “Golden Condom.” The band would chuck a condom into the crowd, and whoever caught it got to go backstage afterwards to engage in sexual relations with the group.
Very rarely does a band get forced to disband, but in the rare case of Rockbitch, that’s exactly what happened. The British authorities clamped down on the explicit group due to protests regarding their outrageous antics. In 2002, Rockbitch split up for good.
Another shock rock band who easily enter the realms of bizarre are the monster-obsessed GWAR. Thirteen albums deep and this crazy amalgamation of musicians are still dumbfounding music lovers worldwide.
The band merge hardcore punk and thrash metal, whilst weaving in a fictional narrative based around classic sci-fi tropes and political satire. Throw in some wacky live performances that see fake semen, urine and fecal matter sprayed over the crowd, as well as their already peculiar stage attire, and you’ve got a band that go all-out in their attempt to bewilder audiences.
Sadly, the group lost founding member Dave Brockie in 2014, which is something that they are still reeling from. However, in 2016 they announced that the follow-up to 2013’s Battle Maximus was being worked on, so there’s still plenty of gas left in this bizarre tank.
6. Einstürzende Neubauten
Playing out of Berlin, Germany, few acts can match industrial noise outfit Einstürzende Neubauten when it comes to music’s extremities. With their DIY ethos, the band’s utilization of custom-made instruments is what sets them apart from the rest of the pack.
These music revolutionaries used everything they could get their hands on to create a sound that’s as improvisationally impressive as it is utterly terrifying. The cold clanking of their handmade tools was certainly a precursor to the industrial movement, with drills, saws, plates, tins and a whole assortment of other unconventional objects used.
They were just as eccentric when it came to their approach as well, with stories abounding about the group’s live performances which witnessed them set fire to their equipment, as well as the recording process for their records, many of which were apparently performed under bridges and beside motorways. So yeah… pretty weird, but also hugely influential.
5. Zolar X
‘70s glam rock band Zolar X are actually quite reserved musically compared to some of the others on this list, but it’s everything outside of the music that warrants their inclusion here.
How about dressing up in crazy space outfits and creating their own alien language? Yes, that’s bizarre enough. Clad in shiny attire, this California-based outfit are often cited as being the first glam rock band to emerge from L.A. and presumably the first to create their own language. This spaced-out lot had a decent run until their split in 1980, before they came back to earth in 2005 to play their first gig in 24 years.
Some bands give off a certain persona, others live in that persona. Zolar X certainly subscribed to the latter, with a sound, image, and mythology that were brought to life through the group’s believable approach. However, it’s still pretty darn bizarre no matter how you dress it up.
4. Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention
Breaking the mold was something that came natural to music virtuoso Frank Zappa. His work is largely indebted to the free jazz style, while also incorporating elements of avant-garde and experimental music.
But it was his bizarre approach to musical composition that really secures his place on the list, as well as his dry wit when it came to lyrical content. From Freak Out! to We’re Only in It for the Money – Zappa poked fun at the music industry with his peculiar sense of humor and unconventional songwriting techniques.
Sadly, Zappa passed away in 1993. However, his presence can still be felt today thanks to his influence on many major bands. Zappa’s true artistic merit will stand the test of time for those who can appreciate his unique style.
When it comes to quirky, experimental funk rock outfit Primus usually come up in the conversation. And with good reason too. Through the use of over-the-top stage antics, absolutely bewildering music videos, and unconventional musical compositions – Primus ticks all the bizarre boxes.
Forming in 1984, the band has made a career out of turning music upside down to create something totally new and fresh. Despite coming from a heavy metal background, Primus have incorporated disparate music styles such as experimental, funk, rock, progressive and outsider music throughout their storied history.
Eight album releases later and this genre-defying act are still baffling listeners to this day. And with a ninth LP slated to drop later this year, 2017 could be Primus’ year to truly take the throne of music’s most bizarre group.
2. Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band
Undoubtedly one of music’s greatest enigmas, Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart existed on a different planet altogether compared to his counterparts. Taking the road less traveled on, the psych rock master refused to succumb to the traditional way of making music.
Starting out as an R&B group in the ‘60s, Captain Beefheart and his merry band were touted as the next Rolling Stones. Well that didn’t sit so well with the good captain, so he did everything in his power to be the complete antithesis of that. His discography teeters between small slivers of normal music, but mostly, a complete disregard for the status quo. The outsider music genre was practically created for Beefheart’s impossible to pin down sound. Complex, eccentric, humorous, ambitious, contradictory – all words that perfectly sum up this misunderstood genius.
Beefheart retired from music in 1982, opting instead to focus all of his efforts into abstract art. And really, abstract is the only way to describe his eccentricity. He passed away in 2010, but his stellar discography will live on in the annals of history.
1. The Residents
You want bonkers? Then look no further than our number 1 pick for most bizarre band of all time – the absolutely dumbfounding outfit The Residents. Their approach is so different, that it’s tough to even categorize them as music sometimes.
Forget even discussing The Residents as if they’re a normal band – it’s futile. No, they’re something incomparable to the rest of music thanks to their otherworldly stage shows, outrageous avant-garde compositions, and one-of-a-kind multimedia projects. They are more of an organization than a band, they deconstruct music rather than construct it, and they deal with the surreal rather than the real. So basically, they turn the standard musical framework in on itself to create an unholy amalgamation of sounds, rhythms, and tones which somehow fits into their abstract concepts.
It takes a lot to leave music lovers speechless these days, whether it be shock rock, outsider music, or another bizarre concoction. However, in the rare case of The Residents, their outlandish ethos is so far out of the realms of normality, that it’s impossible not to be miffed by them. A truly bizarre band if ever there was one.