Thursday, July 09, 2015

Concert Review: Melt-Banana

Seeing Melt-Banana perform is like nothing else.

Though they have played with four members in the past, there are only two now: Yasuko Onuki performing vocals with Ichirou Agata on guitar. There are pre-recorded sounds and effects to fill the music out, which Yako controls via a remote.

That sounds practical, but the way she wields the brightly colored remote - thrusting it down, then up in a victory stance, or out at the audience - makes it seem an even more integral part of the show. It is Yako's conductor's baton, or weapon, or at least a prop.

I did have my camera at the show, and took many of my usual poorly-focused shots of the other bands, but between my lack of skill, the lighting for the Melt-Banana set (pretty dark with bright flashes), and the frenetic speed at which the band moved, there was no chance of anything ever coming out.

Many people classify Melt-Banana as noise rock, but their songs do not ignore musical elements the way many noise rock bands do. The tempo and ferocity with which they attack the songs feels punk, but the bright lights and high pitch feels more pop. Pop punk is a thing, but what that term is used for is not what they are doing. On Facebook they simply call themselves a rock band based in Tokyo, and I think that's the most sensible approach.

Probably none of that makes it easy to know if you will like the music, because there is no easy basis for comparison. They do have a large catalog though, so it should be pretty easy to figure out.

I can recommend two starting points. Fetch from 2013 is their most recent new material, and from what I have seen was well-received by long-term fans as feeling both new and right, a balance that is difficult for many bands to achieve.

In addition, the album I purchased, Return of 13 Hedgehogs (Mxbx Singles 2000-2009), gives a wide variety of songs covering a decade, and was recommended by Yako herself. "Tintarella Di Luna" was my favorite track from there, bringing in some almost surf rock sounds and covering a lot more ground than you could expect in the 2:04 minutes it takes.

The other recommendation that I will make is that even if you are not sure about the music, but you still have a chance to see a show, the experience might be worth it anyway. There really is no one else like them.

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