Review Summary: One of the most unique bands Japan had to offer in the 1990's.3 of 3 thought this review was well written
Without a doubt, one of the most unique bands to emerge from the 1990's Japanese underground would have to be Super Junky Monkey. Formed in 1991, the group soon recorded their first album, "Cabbage", in 1993. The record was merely a live album, but it was enough to create a humongous buzz for the young band, and they were soon signed to Sony in 1994, releasing their first full length album, "Screw Up", in October of that year. In it, the young group explore various avant-garde grounds, and cleverly lace it all together with a frantic funk-stoner-grunge feel, which would later become their trademark sound.
The album opens up with the screwy "Shukuchoku no Chourou", which should be enough to steer away any non-experimental listener, as it consists of bizarre sound clips, frontwoman Mutsumi doing gurgly growled chants, as well as attempting some sort of demonic min-yo vocals (Japanese folk dating back to the 1800s) in the background. Within the minute-long track, the group burn any mainstream bridges, and dive headfirst into the album's opening track, "Zakuro no Hone", which consists of cult-ish instrumentation, equipped with a quick, pummeling drum lick, distorted guitars and vocals that border the lines of sheer insanity and straightforward frustration and angst from Mutsumi. A disturbed introduction track, and works for introducing the first full length track of the album, "Kioku no Netsuzou". This track centers around a mysterious bass line, and then kicks off into an apocalyptic sound, full of hostile guitar riffs, bouncing drums and growled vocals from the crazed frontwoman, Mutsumi. The track cleverly blends in bareboned punk elements and heavy stoner-doom influences, to create a well done hostile sound, with a few avant-garde kicks every once in a while. A fantastically insane track that works as a great introduction as to what Super Junky Monkey is all about
: chaotic, warped avant-garde based wailings of a disturbed, young Japanese woman. The next track, "Buckin' the Bolts", lightens the mood a bit, but still keeps the grungy element of the band alive and well. The track, essentially, is a nicely warped version of early Red Hot Chili Peppers, with funk rock bass popping, while keeping the avant-garde aura of SJM glowing brightly. One of the best tracks on the album, due to its sheer energized style, and its delightful experimental song execution. "Baka Bakka" is one of the most approachable tracks on the album, and has a nice, moving bass line-centered rhythm, equipped with frantic the chant-like rapping of Mutsumi. An entertaining track, and one that keeps the album evolving before the listener.
"Ukatosen" takes back the approachable styling of "Baka Bakka", and replaces it with a gloomy, hostile background, bubbling with rage and insanity. The track follows an unorthodox song breakdown, and can be thought of as a literal example of Mutsumi having a musical nervous breakdown. The nice, bleeding guitar style, and penetrating bass lines are a nice touch to the already psychotic track. "Popo Bar" is one of the album's few epicas, ending up to be about 7-and-a-half minutes in length. The style of the track is grim in tone, and follows a pattern of doom-stoner metal. A track that shines in progression, and is as enticing as it is... well, dark. "Where're the Good Times" is a rather upbeat track, while maintaining the screwy, dark elements executed in the previous tracks. The result ends up being a beautiful mess that collectively battles its light and dark side, and ends up being an ambitiously entertaining track. "Decide" is a frantic, punk track that shows Mutsumi bellowing alongside the anarchic sound of the track. One of the weaker tracks on the album, but the track still ends up being entertaining, due to the sheer energy of the group. "Get Out" revisits the mainstream potential of "Baka Bakka", with a funk-grunge styled track, which shows what happens when SJM attempts more conventional Japanese rock, but the song still ends up in a bizarre universe, with the rest of the tracks on "Screw Up". "We're the Mother" joins "Buckin' the Bolts" for being one of the best tracks on the album, as it starts off with a progressively bleak introduction, before blasting off, and digging deeper into unorthodox, avant-garde styled territory. The sheer energy and musical talent in this one track is what most upcoming avant-garde bands strive for, and even though it follows a disturbingly experimental pattern, the track still ends up being a catchy, memorable one, perhaps even being one of the best tracks in Japanese avant-garde music history. The album then closes up with the final track, "Shower", a fan favorite among various SJM fans, and for good reason. In it, the group explore bleak, grungy grounds, with Mutsumi wailing along the dreary style of the track. The track ends up being as great of one as "We're the Mother", as the ramblings of Mutsumi and her band have never sounded so right. A fantastically done track, and a wonderful album closer.
In short, "Screw Up", arguably, is one of the most talented Japanese avant-garde albums in the 1990's. While other Japanese avant-garde acts were concentrating on being as noisy and bizarre as they could (Boredoms, The Gerogerigegege and Violent Onsen Geisha, to name a few of that time period), Super Junky Monkey were one of the first in the Japanese 1990's music scene to create a highly complex and diverse sound, rich of influence from the likes of avant-garde legends Mr. Bungle. Needless to say, the album is a great treasure in the Japanese avant-garde scene, and is as entertaining as it is complex. A highly recommended album to fans of experimental music, and even to stoner metal kids, or to the grunge relivers... this album has enough stylings to make just about every rock fan happy.