21+ mosh pits have never been this fun. Sure your friend’s glasses just got smashed into basic elements. Sure the guy next you has a profusely bleeding cheek gash. Sure the guy next to him just got head butted in the nose, turning him instantaneously into bleeding guy #2. Large bearded dudes are picking people up at random, initiating semi-involuntary crowd surfing. Yet, you’ve never felt more safe in a sweaty mosh maelstrom in your life. After all, Melt Banana, Japan’s happiest noise punks, are on stage, hopping up and down like bunnies. It’s basically Chuck E. Cheese, but the animatronic figures have gone haywire.
Melt Banana released their first EP Hedgehog back in 1994 and have since sculpted their initial screwdriver noise into a discography of hyper attentive video game punk. Many musicians have cycled through the group, assisting singer Yako and guitarist Agata. Yako writes all the band’s lyrics and performs as a human scratch disc, spitting and screeching up high in hip-hop inspired bursts. Agata uses his guitar and his two pedal boards to generate enough effects to score a cartoon series. Coupled with his laptop and a trigger board connected to that, he’s basically Nintendo.
The band played a blazing hour and a half filled with tunes from their latest and most acclaimed two albums Cell Scape and Bambi’s Dilemma. Material from their later EPs may have been thrown in there too, as well as previously unreleased material. I was less attentive than I should have been what with all the elbows and mild concussions. Most importantly, they played all their recent album material, including favorites such as “Green Eyed Devil” and “Shield For Your Eyes, A Beast in the Well in Your Hand.” Half way through the set, Yako announced that the person in the cat suit walking around Chop Suey did in fact come from Japan.
A small but respectably substantial portion of Melt Banana’s musical material is under twenty seconds long. The band decided to play eight of these tunes in a row to get them out of the way, resulting in the shortest turnover interval for enthusiastic audience clapping and cheering I’ve ever heard. At the end of the night, they closed with a cover of “What a Wonderful World,” as if the crowd wasn’t happy enough. Melt Banana produce more eclectic energy than most live acts, be they punk or otherwise. It’s a bath of neon patchwork; varied rhythms, descriptions of animals from Yako, and tremolo terror stitched together with Ritalin child curiosity. Unfortunately for those of you who missed them, you’ll probably have to wait at least a year until you can experience this. Till then, be cold and miserable…or check out either of the openers, Retox and Dog Shredder.
I first saw Retox when they played at Seattle Sound Fest this summer with Jello Biafra & The Guantanamo School of Medicine. Their set hasn’t changed too much and there isn’t much reason for it to at the moment. Their debut, almost 13 minute long LP Ugly Animals came out in August and they’ve only been around a year or so. Vocalist Justin Pearson, founder of Three One G records in San Diego, and drummer Gabe Serbian have made big splashes before as integral members of the West Coast punk scene and as members of noise punk masterminds The Locust.
Since I wasn’t permitted to take video of Melt Banana, there are three more Retox videos below
Together with Thor Dickey on bass and ex-Festival of Dead Deer member Michael Crain on guitar, they churn out fast paced, abrasive hardcore insults better than anyone around. This time, Pearson was a tad more animated for whatever reason, spitting a bit more and making good use of the monitors as stepping stones. Usually known for keeping quiet and pissed off throughout sets, he broke that silence at the end to state his approval of the recent Occupy Wall Street protests.
Bellingham’s own Dog Shredder are another unique thrash animal in this zoo of noisy curiosities. They’re a three man stop-start hardcore ocean, born from the depths of bored jamming, huge amps, and a lot of practicing. With solid riffs and fantastic technique, Dog Shredder could easily take the prog punk rock crown for the Pacific NW…not that there are many people competing for it.