Posted by: Luke Levenson
Timmy Vulgar is obsessed with the senses. If he were sprayed by a skunk, he’d probably prefer a good sniff to a long shower. If he had a cold, he’d probably prefer a magnifying glass to a tissue.
And if he’s just performed a rock show, he’s probably covered in sweat, face paint, and the glory of having proved that avant-garde punk is alive and well.
On Friday, Oct. 30, at Third Man Records’ Devil’s Night, Vulgar’s rock trio Timmy’s Organism performed a debut set of songs off their newest album Heartless Heathen. And even though they shared the bill with two other freshly signed Third Man artists, it was clear from the first song that this band was going to leave a gross and uniquely charming impression on everyone in the room.
“I believe that whenever you play a show, you gotta’ put on a show,” said Vulgar after the show. “You gotta’ look good. You gotta’ go crazy. You gotta’ get wild.”
Bound by the limitations of performing without a label since 1998, Vulgar has recorded prolifically with other artists under several monikers — most notably Clone Defects (1998-2003), Human Eye (2004-present), and Timmy’s Organism (2008-present) — in the underground garage-punk scene of his hometown, Detroit.
But besides cultivating the adoration of every prog rock junkie in southern Michigan, Vulgar has always wanted to prove his ability as a visual artist — and it doesn’t go unrecognized. Metro Times dubbed him a “Detroit art-punker” in one article; Vulgar himself hosts an entire blog devoted to his surrealist drawings and album covers; in 2010, The Kresge Foundation awarded him $25,000 for his “creative vision” as an artist.
And there’s something to be said for someone who’s so impetuously able to translate his “vision” into a stage persona.
On Friday, he sported a skin-tight garb of such various color and style that it rivaled the many outlandish Halloween costumes in the audience. But that’s not unusual for the image-obsessed frontman: “What you saw in there is what we do all the time. When I was younger, I used to do…well, I did a lot of dumb stuff onstage, like breaking glass and microphones on my forehead. I had an octopus on my head one time. I threw fish at people. I had glitter, exploding paper machete eyeballs and stuff. You know, theatrics. I love that stuff. I think it helps the music.”
The music itself, with its high-octane overdrive guitar and its jarring, clever lyrics, complements the performance to evoke a feeling of surrealism in the listener. And, surprisingly, it’s not discomforting; it’s actually quite comforting to know that there’s a band out there willing to throw artistic formula in favor of the strangeness of the human body…and the occasional toilet joke.
For more information on Timmy’s Organism tour dates and their new album, please visit: http://thirdmanrecords.com/about/artists/timmys-organism