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Upcoming: The Growlers interpret the bizarre songs of Tonetta

February 17, 2011 |  2:56 pm

Some things defy easy explanation: crop circles; the enduring popularity of the "Big Momma's House" franchise; and why a grown man would tattoo an ice cream cone onto his cheek. Go ahead and file Tonetta in that category.

Tonetta is the stage name of a Toronto native named Tony Jeffrey, who has been recording a variety of sleazy and cheap lo-fi pop songs for the last 28 years. Roughly three years ago, he discovered the wonders of YouTube and realized the medium's potential to propel his singular brand of bizarre to semi-stardom. Since then, he's become a video celebrity of sorts, thanks to his outre guitar pop and outlandish videos. Song titles include "Lady Gaga," "Jewish Girls," "Hitler," "Jesus" and "Drugs Drugs Drugs."

Often appearing nearly nude, he's been repeatedly banned from YouTube for flouting their censorship rules. When he does clothe himself, costumes can include anything from white face, bikinis, fright wigs, dresses and leather -- lots of leather. His only analogue is the Oakland avant-weirdo Lil B, who has cultivated a fan base through prolificacy, shock tactics and sheer entertainment value. Both write songs about random celebrities and Jesus, and seem as though they'd be fun to invite to your party.

As for the songs themselves, the quality varies wildly. At their best, they boast the affable AM catchiness of early Ariel Pink crossed with the gruff carnival hucksterism of Tom Waits. Perhaps Tonetta isn't on either of their levels, but he boasts enough ability to make his popularity more than just rubber-necking.

Signed to local imprint Black Tent Press, the reclusive artist recently released his second LP, "777 Volume II." To pay homage to the work of this stay-at-home type, the label has enlisted members of Long Beach psych-rockers The Growlers to perform on Friday night at Eagle Rock's Show Cave. The record release party promises to be the "first public viewing of the art and video work of Tonetta." It promises to be the best kind of weird.

An exclusive Pop & Hiss MP3 of "Big Rig" is below.

-- Jeff Weiss

Download:
MP3: Tonetta-"Big Rig"

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