Friday, June 5, 2009

A mind-warping duo: Barnes & Barnes

So I’m never sure exactly who’s going to be posting videos on YouTube, but am interested to find celebrities whose work I’ve enjoyed deciding to join the legions of cam-whores… oops, I mean performers with webcams, and provide us with little updates on their creative processes. In the case of one musical performer, I was surprised to see him post on YT because he and his musical partner decimated my gray matter for a time in the early ’80s and thereafter, and I’ve often wondered where he went. The gent in question is Robert Haimer, better known as half of Barnes and Barnes, the musical duo that also included the very active TV/music renaissance dude Billy Mumy (the original Seth Green!). In his musical guise as “Artie Barnes” (Mumy was “Art Barnes” — hey this was the era of “Bob I” and “Bob II” from Devo), Haimer has put up some very, totally, extremely silly, goofy-ass videos, and then some other items that are far more serious in tone.

For those who don’t know who Barnes and Barnes were, they were considered novelty artists because of the enormous popularity of one absurdist anthem they recorded, which is below. I first heard it on the great Dr. Demento show, and first saw this mind-roastingly weird video on Saturday Night Live, way, wayyyy back when it was actually funny and adventurous, five lifetimes ago. Of course I speak of “Fish Heads,” costarring Big Love’s Bill Paxton and Dr. Demento himself:

The thing about Barnes and Barnes, though, was that their music was perfectly synched up with the “new wave” period in Seventies/Eighties music — they had an “electronic” sound (albeit an elemental, cheap-sounding one), sang lyrics that were alternately absurdist and creepy, and generally played around with the listener’s head, rather than just making him/her laugh. To illustrate the creepier aspects of their music, here’s their lovely ditty “Cemetery Girls,” which has sound clips from Mumy’s unforgettable turn as “Anthony” on The Twilight Zone (“you’re a bad man!”). This stuff messed with my head when I was an adolescent.

Bill Paxton stars in the duo’s ode to true romance, “Love Tap”

In addition to the ridiculous and catchy “Soak It Up” and “Party in my Pants” (which I first heard when B&B performed it on an SNL replacement special that had — no kidding — Rosemary Clooney singing in said trousers!), there is of course the Miguel Ferrer-starrer “Pizza Face” (also ridiculous and catchy):

And one last vintage Barnes and Barnes vid, the wonderfully strange and sexy, yet oddly off-putting, “A-ha”:

Now “Artie” is on YouTube right here, and has uploaded some very silly (did I say goofy) vids, as well some pure webcam biz, dispensing his philosophy of life. From the evidence in Mr. Haimer’s vids, I’d have to say that Mumy brought the musical hooks and the lyrical ability to the act, while Haimer brought the wild exuberance and memorably surrealist onslaught into B&B LPs.

Here we see the two gents, now a little older, but none the less weird, singing a ditty at the piano and making gay references (something they were wont to do on their albums — I cannot easily forget “Homophobic Dream #22” from Sicks):

Haimer’s most interesting upload is this clip, with him reflecting on what life in the normal world is like for a guy with a weird sense of humor:

The Barnes boys offered some Xmas greetings on the Artie Barnes account, and a new tune that reflects on Haimer’s own experiences, “Momma’s still here”:

That song is an affectionate view of a relative dying that combines the Barnes’ catchy musical ability with a lyric that is pleasant-sounding yet oddly haunting. Along those lines, Haimer has been putting up on YT video images of a lady in a hospital bed who I assume is his mother. The clips are jarring, since the lady doesn’t seem to want to be photographed. The captioning is affectionate and while it doesn’t seem like he is mocking the lady, these shards of a “passage” that doesn’t appear to be all that pleasant is as in-your-face as some of the most unforgettable B&B tunes. However... (as Professor Corey would say), the boys actually wrote their best paean to the Big Sleep a number of years ago, and closed out their first album with it. It’s a very strange, and yet oddly calm and sweet view of kicking off, entitled “When You Die:


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