Thursday, September 3, 2009

More Melt-Banana News and... Covers...

According to their MySpace blog, Melt-Banana's US tour kicks off in Visalia, California on October 29th. That's just in time for Halloween. They haven't updated the blog or their website with a full list of tour dates, but if you're reading this in the States, they'll probably be playing someplace nearby this fall, including some dates as Melt-Banana Lite. You really owe it to yourself to see Melt-Banana live.

Speaking of live, they've got a few Tokyo shows going on in September before the international touring starts all over again (they just never let up!). I looked in to getting a ticket for their September 22nd show at Shinjuku Loft but couldn't figure it out. They're playing as Melt-Banana Lite on September 27th at Shin-Okubo's Earthdom live house; I saw the full unit there in September 2007 and it was an incredible show with a sold out house and full-on pit action. I'd truly love to be at that show to see what the heck Melt-Banana Lite consists of (the band plays coy about it in their e-mailings), but you have to visit Earthdom in person to pick up your tickets and that's a far piece for me to go and expensive!

Also it's on a work night for me. Better luck next time, I suppose.

They also promise a Melt-Banana Lite live album for later this year, so my curiosity will be answered eventually. Look for their split singles-- one 7" with Young Widows from the Temporary Residence label and the other a 7"/3" CD from Init Records which will be available on their US tour. I picked up the 7" with Young Widows at Shibuya O-Nest, plus a split CD single with Fat Day. The CD's plastic sleeve features incredibly cute cartoon astronauts announcing, "We are Devo," which is appropriate because this is the CD where Melt-Banana covers Devo's "Uncontrollable Urge."

Melt-Banana frequently covers unexpected tunes in their sets. Since their own sound is so idiosyncratic, doing covers gives them a chance to display their musicianship in more accessible ways while showcasing influences or just having fun. Past favorites have included Blondie's "Heart of Glass," The Who's "My Generation" (I'd love to hear Rika's lead bass on that one) and even Der Bingle's "White Christmas." "Uncontrollable Urge" is unique among Melt-Banana cover versions in that it's a relatively straight ahead rendition of the song. This is in contrast to their noise deconstruction of Queen's "We Will Rock You" and their anarchic take on the Beach Boys' "Surfin' USA."

I'm especially fond of the Beach Boys number because of Yako's playful vocal delivery; she approaches the song mischievously, first singing the overly familiar melody in a sloppy, out-of-tune voice, then the chorus in a childlike whisper before launching into a more Yako-esque high speed delivery. At one point she sings the chorus in a drawn-out, contemptuous way. Along with his sonic squeals and riffing, Agata dares to play a real guitar solo and just rocks it. My only disappointment is how Rika's bass seems buried in the mix except for one tantalizingly brief break in the action. That qualm aside, this is how you handle nostalgic covers.

"We Will Rock You" uses an obvious drum machine to make an ironic comment on the mechanical quasi-fascistic nature of the original's beat and substitutes Agata's blistering noise attack for the traditional and tasty Brian May guitar solo.

"Uncontrollable Urge" is recognizable from the start as Yako shouts, "YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAHYEAHYEAHYEAHYEAH!" The Melt-Banana treatment consists mainly of Agata's appending his noise-guitar flourishes to the song's sped-up Led Zeppelin riff (which he also nails). Melt-Banana matches Devo's detached sci-fi roboticism with high energy. You want to buy this little CD if you spot it on the merchandise table after the show.


Omen said...

You seem to be pretty big on MxBx hehe. It's notable how many Japanese bands, either taking varying aspects of the genres to different altitudes or directions or doing something completely innovative, actually get to me atmospherically in such a way. Any other bands 'like' MxBx you like? The punk/hardcore and thrash scene in Japan has delivered to us some of the best stuff out there. Real Reggae, Nice View, Crow Dragon Tea, Vivisick, Envy, Damage Digital, you name it. Any stuff like that you listen to as well?


Joel Bryan said...

Thanks for the comment! Yeah, I love MxBx. I doubt I could name any band you don't already know but I also dig me some Boredoms/Voredoms and Yoshimi P-We's side project OOIOO. Anything she's associated with interests me, actually.

I also like to listen to Bleach O3, Super Junky Monkey and a few bands closer to the mainstream like Electric Eel Shock, Go!Go!7188, 5678s, Spookey and a few others.

I think I'm going to be looking into some of the bands you named, so thanks also for the info!