Melt-Banana, Neptune, and Doomriders, Middle East Downstairs, June 11, 2007
There’s really no point in reviewing a show like this. And I’m perfectly content with admitting that right now, what I’m doing does not matter. For more than a decade, Tokyo’s Melt-Banana have been the world’s proverbial purveyors of abstract noise rock, piling on all the droning guitars, chaotic blastbeats, and laser-gun effects you could ever want. At the band’s sold-out headlining gig at the Middle East Downstairs (on tour supporting their eighth full-length, Bambi’s Dilemma), all the razor-edged pieces were in place: Yasuko Onuki sang with a primal feline screech. Guitarist Ichirou Agata performed while wearing a surgical mask. The crowd up front was frantic, frenzied, dripping with sweat and PBR. And, as if the space-age riffs and extended techniques weren’t enough, there were effects pedals. Lots and lots of effects pedals. Twenty or so, all lined up. They took on a life of their own, summoning up the deepest cavernous forces of ear-piercing chaos. It was epic, man. Epic.
MELT BANANA: The world's proverbial
purveyers of abstract noise rock.
And here I am, trying find an “angle” when I see the dirt under my fingernails and hear that persistent ring in my ears, and realize that it doesn’t matter what I say. You either like Melt-Banana style of music or you don’t. And to call it avant-garde would be missing the point. It’s beyond criticism, like a John Waters movie or half the stuff on adultswim. The band was even asked to compose a theme song for adultswim’s Perfect Hair Forever. It’s called “Hair-Cat (Cause theWolf Is a Cat!),” as Yosuko was kind enough to inform the audience during their performance. She also led the band in a mid-set interlude of short songs (some clocking in at about ten seconds), which was spasmodic and, I’ll be honest, pretty impressive. Most of the songs were frenetic, distorted, with random tempo changes and a steady tone of fuzzed-out bass, but everything was spot-on, tight and acrobatic, delivered with rapid-fire intensity.
Equally impressive were the show’s openers. Neptune hails from Boston and takes a distinctly more ambient approach to Melt-Banana’s style of noise. The scrap-metal instruments and home-made sound boxes were a nice touch, and the trio played everything like a four-year-old with Mom’s pots and pans. It was Stomp on speed. Doomriders, fronted by longtime Converge bassist Nate Newton played classic metalcore (more skateboards than eyeliner) and brought to mind warm-and-fuzzy feelings of Motorhead and Integrity, with early Metallica-styled solos. It was decidedly no-frills: no gimmicks, no girl jeans, no dragons, no cop-out irony. Just good, solid, heavy rock-n-roll. What’s best is that the most straight-ahead rock band on the bill didn’t seem out of place once Melt-Banana took the stage. The headliner kept the smallest slivers of melody just under the surface of their noisy blasts of hyperactive thrash, but they were there somewhere, and with a band this perfectly bizarre, it’s a pleasure to know it really couldn’t be any other way.
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