Review Summary: How fast is 'fast'?
I love it when groups find the kind of succinct, straightforward names for their albums that, aptly or not, fit
so perfectly that you cannot imagine them being called anything else. Think Melt-Banana’s Fetch
, Hop Along’s Get Disowned
and the Dillinger Escape Plan’s Calculating Infinity
: all of these titles chime so neatly with a sense of cognition that extends with huge consistency and satisfaction by their musical substance. NoNoNo’s Live Fast
is another one of these auspiciously named albums that enjoy an appropriate and holistic relationship between their nomenclature and sonic quality - and by ‘appropriate’, I mean that this is a fast ’n’ furious hardcore EP played at lightspeed, sung in unintelligible Japanese, and starting and ending within the runtime of your average Tool song; this album is every inch the reckless, uncompromising intensity and blink-and-you-missed-it concision required for the impression that you have indeed lived fast
for a short while (at the exact rate of one song-per-minute).
Operating as a three-piece, NoNoNo find a very healthy middle ground between kicking off the kind of chaotic energy that releases like this live and die by, while keeping their performances tight enough to pull off the whiplash changes of pace needed to keep records like this on their toes (not to mention their listeners). The accentuation and precision of the latter elements are greatly boosted by excellent production, which is altogether an improvement on their previous effort, Cutting Edge
; Live Fast
steps away from that release’s muddy, demo-ish quality into sharper tones and a clearer mix. That’s not to say the EP sounds polished
(boring!): vocalist/guitarist Hisane has a way of stirring the arrangement up into a battery-acid churn of overdrive and spamming out syllables like a honey badger on the losing end of a rough argument, all of which scans as an invigorating overload. However, the mix is balanced in a way that copes with this and renders the bass and drum tracks entirely distinct for any listeners minded to scrutinise the album beyond Hisane’s unapologetically focal placement. This allows for moments such as, for instance, the one-bar bass fill around twenty seconds into Hypocrites
and the shifts between bombastic snare blasts and short-lived grooves that run through the same track to land with the focus and intensity they deserve, while the guitarless Pissed off
sounds no less incensed than its more distorted counterparts. The lurching riffs of the fantastic No end in sight
, meanwhile, sound like a band in tune with the same brand of chaos, rather than the collective mess in which weaker production might have landed these tracks.
There’s only so much more that be added for an 8-minute hardcore EP: Live Fast
plays things intense and relentless and is as prepared to violate the listener’s adrenaline levels as it is to respect their attention span. Some might make noises over such a decisively frenetic band being female-fronted, but these would be misplaced reflections of the stale novelty retained by the involvement of women in heavier genres in the Anglosphere than anything else. Gender parity in this scene has long since been normalised in Japan (at least on a creative level) and it is somewhat telling that while we now remember our own riot grrrl movement first and foremost as an important part of 90s political history, it is ultimately a prevailing focus on musical content and quality that shapes our attitude towards the line of Shounen Knifes, Bleach03s, Midoris and (most recently) Otoboke Beavers that have, to a certain degree, ‘made it’ as internationally recognised champions of J-punk (or so I would argue). Putting that aside, NoNoNo are hardly likely to be the next cult hit to appear in that line; their flash in a pan songwriting and uncontroversial upholding of hardcore convention both seem destined for a comfortable spot in the underground, but this spot is well-earned and I look forward to hearing any future hell they have to raise.