Review Summary: Unapologetically arty/hooky/poppy noise rock from Brooklyn twosome.
A Japanther is not a something you would see at a zoo. Nor is it a something you could meet in Tokyo at any regular interval (though it does tour extensively, so I’m sure you might catch it once in a while.) However, if one was to search through a couple VFW’s, Brooklyn Basements or New York Punk clubs, there’s more than an odd chance you’ll see it.
And the sight of the Japanther must be a glorious one to behold; flailing, screaming and bashing out rhythms and melodies like an many armed beast (when in reality the count of upper appendages on stage probably wouldn’t add up to a hair over 4.) If you were to catch Japanther midway through the year 2005, or perhaps even earlier, you would have seen the band at a good time, for this was the year in which the released their Master of Pigeons record. Compressed to the point of distortion, the sound on Pigeons isn’t something that’ll make you stand up and say “Wow! That is some good sound!” but you might find yourself surprised by the mightiness of the band’s hooks. Japanther leave their drum ‘n bass contemporaries far in the dust here, at least when it comes to pure pop value. On Divorce, (guess what this song is about! I dare you!) Panther is furious. The one-two beats, the brutal fuzz bass and the dour lyrical matter all point to angry, sad or disturbed, but if you were not an English-speaking member of society you probably wouldn’t find any of these emotions within the song. The dinky (and I use this word in the best sense I can) keyboard line the song’s chorus introduces reflects the band’s catchy, indie pop underbelly for the listener’s pleasure.
And if this “belly” is merely reflected on that track, then it’s on I 10 where we have the satisfaction of hearing it explored to its full potential. This time keyboard is a constant throughout the song, along with a deceptively simple drum part and a relatively obscured bass line. The vocals aren’t entirely in tune, but that just makes them all the more fun to sing along to. The same goes for the majority of the album’s first half, as well as second half-savior Change Your Life. Unfortunately, aside from that particular track the album’s second half proves too abstract for its own good. Ideas, samples and progressions that would normally make for top-shelf material are left in a disorganized heap of half-baked or disappointingly undeveloped sounds. Still, I have no problem braving this tangled mass of noisy experimentations, misplaced Brit-pop endeavors and obscure samples if only for Change Your Life. The song’s clattering drums and power-pop Casio riff will be more than a sufficient guiding light.
Even later on in the disc, the band completely ditches its guise as a noise rock group and goes straight for the fruity indie pop-flavored throat. It’s not the most satisfying ending for a record that starts out so perfectly propelled, that’s for sure, but don’t be surprised if you find your toe tapping or something.