Guitar Wolf: Planet of the Wolves

Guitar Wolf
Planet of the Wolves

JAPANESE IMPORTS TEND to traffic in novelty: "They're really cute housewives!" (Shonen Knife); "They yowl in broken English!" (Boredoms); "Their entire album is about food!" (Cibo Matto). Guitar Wolf ("They sound absolutely terrible--and great!") is no exception. Singer/guitarist Seiji, bassist Billy, and drummer Toru dress like extras from a Toho Studios remake of The Wild One, all Brylcreme and biker attitude. And, as Seiji gleefully mangles his lyrics such that cries of "rock & roll" sound like "lock & load," the band pulverizes the canon of American-made classic rock & roll from surf to rockabilly. Which shouldn't suggest that the Guitar Wolf shtick is some sort of junk-punk version of plastic dog shit (though the boys might consider that comparison a compliment). There's something to be said for novelty--and, not unlike Tiny Tim, Guitar Wolf oozes enough demented sincerity to make their high-concept shenanigans hold up through repeated listens.

For much of the band's fifth album, Planet of the Wolves, the damn-dirty trio sounds absolutely terrible--and great. The fuzzed-out, no-fi production values drop-kick us back to proto-punk garageland, as the players conjure up a repellent fervor on songs such as "Invader Ace," "Let's Get Hurt," and the album's transcendentally ugly centerpiece, "Wild Zero"--all of which roar like Godzilla. And fans of the ridiculously mistranslated subtitles that routinely turn up in Hong Kong action movies should enjoy puzzling over such howlers as "Kung Fu Ramone's Passion" and "All Through the Night Buttobase!!"

Unfortunately, the cleaner-sounding songs don't play to Guitar Wolf's twin strengths: volume and chaos. An unmuffled "Planet Heart" exposes some pedestrian riffs, and a cover of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" is shocking only in its reverence. But the album fittingly ends on a more appropriate cover, Link Wray's "Rumble," which cuts to the quick and sludgily evokes the gonzoid guitar-daddy with pipelined fury. Suffice to say that if you play this stuff loud enough, you will make worthy enemies. Enjoy.

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