Release Date: Oct 1, 2013
Record label: Revolver USA
Genre(s): Avant-Garde, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Noise-Rock, Noise
Candy Gun is the pitch. A gentle tone and some breaking waves wash over a heavy bass riff and six-string electricity. A belled snare kicks in and wisps of circuitry fly everywhere. Frets are wildly manipulated, percussion wonderfully assaultive. Yako’s chirping vocal seems glorious against this ….
Melt-Banana’s music is extremely difficult to classify for a few pretty good reason. Firstly, they do not really sound like anyone else, and no other band really sounds like them. Secondly, they have continuously reinvented themselves throughout their career, showing their fans different aspects of their sound while always sounding unmistakably like themselves.Thirdly, and perhaps most critically, once the listener has been catapulted into the feral, manic, lunacy that is any given Melt-Banana track, attempts at reflexive, lucid genre categorization starts feeling unimportant pretty darn quickly.
Review Summary: Eat your heart out Gretchen WienersI need to clear the air here before we get things started: noise rock isn’t exactly my forte. It’s not something silly holding me back, like the grating dissonance offends my musical sensibilities, or my pansy ears can’t handle the feedback – it’s more like I’m just not exactly attuned to it; I haven’t done enough listening. Sure my inexperience with almost every iteration of post-punk inspired genres may suggest that I’m underqualified to rave about batshit Japanese two-piece Melt-Banana, but don’t overanalyze; that should speak only to the almost overwhelming accessibility of the band’s new album Fetch.
Melt Banana's first album since embarking on a six-year hiatus, 2013's Fetch, is a monstrously frenetic, high-energy blast of anthemic bubble-punk and passionate noise-rock. Barring their 2009 Melt Banana Lite Live: Ver.0.0 side project album, Fetch is the group’s first collection of new material since 2007’s Bambi's Dilemma. Even with the hiatus, it took the band longer than expected to finish Fetch.
Melt-Banana makes some of the least aggressive aggressive music ever. Their thrashy pronk is fast and heavy, quoting equally from metal and hardcore and freeform noise, but it all sounds like a cartoon. With their speed and chirpy vocals you’ll wonder if streams can play at the wrong RPM, and their short, intense explosions of frenetic activity are cloaked in a synthetic aesthetic that makes everything sound like the work of robot chipmunks.
Since they started back in 1993, Melt-Banana have remained like an eye of a hurricane that’s 10 times crazier than the hurricane itself. One of the core bands to emerge from the same roiling soup that birthed art-damaged titans such as the Flying Luttenbachers and the Locust, the female-fronted Japanese group added a few twists to the genetic makeup of 90s noise rock. Japan’s own rich noise tradition was little more than a touchstone for Melt-Banana, and the group’s cryptic otherness elevated it above its peers.
Melt-Banana has always occupied a curious space within whichever musical universe their work has been contextualized. I’ve come across punks who’ve found Melt-Banana too strange for their tastes, while even the “grindcore” association for Fetch — their first album of new material since 2007 — makes little sense, outside of speed and brevity, for their eclectic, bizarre fortitude. In this sense, Melt-Banana are perhaps one of the few acts whose familiar yet otherworldly reconfiguration of traditional punk and metal norms give them the status of true iconoclasts.
More evidence that rock and EDM are not contrary forms, Melt-Banana’s Fetch fuses pop melodies, punk-metal guitars and hyper-kinetic synthbeats. In sensibility, the album is not a huge shift for the Tokyo duo, which was originally a quartet. But it’s the group’s most electronic effort, with air-raid-siren synths and overdriven percussion that Atari Teenage Riot might well envy.
Melt-Banana Fetch (A-Zap Records) Shonen Knife assaulting Animal Collective? Double-decade Tokyo trio Melt-Banana still stymies conventional codification as it approaches a dozen discs, but within this tribal drum chase of helium vocals, grindcore guitars, and songbombs, Fetch brings back raw mosh. Japanese bees ("The Hive") could've titled this stinging circle pit ("Lie Lied Lies"), Yasuko Onuki leading the frenzy with her Minnie-Mouse-on-nitrous cry, but the Jesus Lizard-like back-to-back of "Lefty Dog (Run, Caper, Run)" and "Infection Defective" raises neck hairs with the vertiginous, Duane Denison-esque guitar strangulation of Ichirou Agata. In the sluicing merry-go-round of "Schemes of the Tails," the band channels Stereolab straight-jacketed in the lunatic asylum.