Concert Review – Melt-Banana – 11.24.09 at Middle East (with Captain Cutthroat / Exusamwa)

Melt-Banana are a notoriously weird Japanese band fronted by a  female vocalist named Yasuko. She sounds much like a mad cartoon character on the band’s records – spitting or barking out words in a high-pitched tone. Band’s music contains elements of punk, electronic music, grunge and noise (although they sound nothing like Atari Teenage Riot) and, perhaps, their closest musical relatives are Boredoms.

Currently (as of November 2009) the band is going through their US tour. On Tuesday, November 24th they played at the Middle East club in Boston, MA. A couple of words about preceding bands/openers:

Exusamwa – A band that includes former members of Fat Day (whose work, unfortunately, I’m not familiar with). Part Lightning Bolt / part Sun City Girls, they started off with a gentle synth/guitar intro, but then launched into a massive noise attack a couple of seconds later. The band’s lead singer was running around the room, carrying megaphone and shouting out garbled nonsense.

Most of the band’s “songs” were about 5-10 seconds long (almost as if to piss off people who were trying to dance/swing/headbang to the music). To me, the synth/acoustic parts didn’t work out so well, but otherwise they were good.

Captain Cutthroat – During the onstage banter (which sometimes went on for a very long time) CC’s lead singer mentioned that their new record was produced by the same guy who worked with Mr. Bungle, Melvins and Neurosis. The band themselves came across as a pale copy of Mr. Bungle/Melvins – very competent, but unfortunately lacking any personality.

And finally…Melt-Banana!

The band started out a set by playing in a nearly complete darkness, as they launched into one long tune that mixed noise, electronic effects/squiggles and screamed vocals into one aural cocktail. Eventually, the lights returned and the band continued on in the same vein – later part of the set included punk-y numbers (some of which sounded like covers, although if they played any, they were completely unrecognizable).

The band created a mass of sound where noise, vocals and drums sounded incredibly inviting, despite being loud and…well..hard on hearing. This approach would sometimes lead to songs turning into a blur, but it was also fun to drown in it, so to speak.

All in all, Melt-Banana were a definite highlight of the evening, followed by Exusamwa and, to a lesser extent, Captain Cutthroat (who seemed a bit out of place on such a bill).

 

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