Review Summary: Ultra-catchy, ultra-cool Noise-Rock from Brooklyn Bass and Drums duo.
There’s something unsettlingly simple about Japanther’s music. It’s mostly all drums, bass and samples/keyboards (recreated live using a tape deck), but as any fan of bands like Lightning Bolt or Hella knows, exceedingly complex music can be made with even the most minimalistic of set ups. But unlike aforementioned Providence Noise kings Lightning Bolt, Japanther’s music has more in common with the Ramones than it does Boredoms (thought it can be/is still classified as Noise-Rock). Their songs feature simple chord progressions, simple lyrics and simple vocal melodies, with original twists here and there, all recorded in a lo-fi DIY manner. Yet there is something about the songs on Skuffed Up my Huffy (and to a greater extent, Master of Pigeons) that is so addictive, so poignant and so good that it’s a little hard to describe.
The 4th sentence in that last paragraph isn’t meant to trivialize what Japanther do. Sure it’s simple, but if you are thinking that all it takes is a rudimentary knowledge of the bass guitar to write a song like River Phoenix
, you would be sadly mistaken. River Phoenix is a master Pop song, complete with pounding drums, an urgent tempo and a vocal part (sung in to a telephone, as per the Japanther tradition) so catchy that you’ll be able to sing the whole song by the second listen. And, in truth, nearly half of Skuffed is classic material. Fuk Tha Prince a Pul iz Dum
is like some perfect hybrid between the twee-ness of Beat Happening, the intensity of Lightning Bolt and the accessibility of Blink-182. The vocals and bass are both heavily distorted, but the gleam of Pop genius isn’t hard to uncover, not to mention the clear, heartfelt energy behind the band’s songs.
Summer of ’79
is more tame, but no less because of it. Its nostalgic lyrics are political and biting, standing in sharp contrast to the song’s sugary melodies. Mornings
follows Summer by describing a post-one night stand walk in the park, in which the protagonist declares “I’m never coming back” before desperate, pounding rhythms back him up as he shouts “Everyone is wasted as a means of getting through. And if you’re still ***ed up, that means I am too” in an outro that puts the rest of the song (though still great) to shame. Challenge
, which describes Brooklyn (the band’s home) as a place that may be a “living hell” to certain people, but can be changed into a better place, rounds out the album’s long list of standouts overtop a pulsing bass line.
The 5 described tracks make up about a 10 minute mix-tape of Pop/Noise/Indie/whatever goodness that can’t be topped by many. The rest of the album however, though mostly still good, doesn’t come close to its highlights. This is probably the biggest con of Skuffed Up My Huffy, which as a whole doesn’t quite live up to Master of Pigeons, Japanther’s best work. It isn’t that songs like Cable Babies
and $100 Cover
, it’s that they aren’t AS
good. Still, Skuffed is a great listen (a short one too, 13 tracks in less than a half hour) and I find myself listening to it quite a lot.