It’s been an anxious summer for me.
When ensnared in perpetual agitation, maybe some sanity-craving souls would turn to soft, soothing sounds. But I find nothing more aggravating when I’m on edge than music that taunts me with a reminder of what it’s like to relax. So instead I sought the opposite of relief in the most herky-jerk, breakneck tunes I could, hoping to overstimulate my way back to some semblance of calm.
I don’t know if it did my nerves any good, but I sure did stumble across a lot of great records.
Otoboke Beaver – Itekoma Hits (Damnably)
This 14-track collection gathers up this Kyoto quartet’s two EPs, a couple of re-recordings with the new drummer, adds six unreleased songs, and never stops detonating. Speedy little guitar bits—sometimes pinched and thin and darting, sometimes trilling with surfy acceleration, sometimes entangling themselves like extension cords in a kitchen drawer—spike these joyful tantrums, each too precise to be as spontaneous as they sound, none vaguing out into mere noise for more than a few bracing moments, not even when they close in on three whole minutes. Lead singer Accorinrin wraps herself venomously around the foreign syllables of “I hate you” to start the record, closes “Don’t Light My Fire” with a stage-whispered chant of “Go. To. Hell,” and gets her point across to an English-only dummy like me almost as well when she’s singing in Japanese, which she usually is. (Titles like “What do you mean you have talk to me at this late date?” and “After making love with me, you eat your wife's meal” do make me wish I could get more than just the gist though.) Her bandmates chime in regularly too, and for all the band’s post-hardcore bristle I also hear traces of the B-52s, Le Tigre—in fact, I hear something new each time I listen. Remember when sometimes it used to be fun to get mad, back before constant outrage numbed your wrath? Let these rants fan your exhausted frustration into righteous impatience. GO
100 Gecs – 1000 Gecs (Dog Show)
Rarely has a tuneful racket gone so far out of its way not to justify its arrant dipshittery. Dylan Brady and Laura Les electronically warp their voices as frenetically as PC Music but with no pretensions to disrupt gender binaries; they wield Sleigh Bells’ pounding pixelated sledgehammers with none of Alexis Knauss’ will to power. (In fact, their idea of a boast is “I can do anything I want, first try/You take like ten tries.”) Bass-drops so clumsy they make Skrillex sound like Philip Glass and tunes so looney they make Carl Stalling sound like Haydn add up to the perfect soundtrack for cackling neurotically at bad Twitter jokes at 3 a.m. or falling off your bike in front of a horde of snickering teens. When they’re not losing their money at the track or spending it before 7:45 a.m., they’re tossing it in the oven, but like lots of cartoon nihilists they’ve got bubblegum hearts. “My boy’s got his own ringtone” may just be self-consciously sweet naivete, but I bet they actually cherish the fantasy of domesticity that serves as their finale: “Dishes are piling up/But that's cool/'Cause at least we got food/Yeah, everything is pilin’ up/But that's cool, that's cool/'Cause at least I got you, I got you, I got you.” So sweet. So fucking dumb. I love it. GO
De Lorians – De Lorians (Rough Trade)
These Tokyo post-something-or-others are the best kind of Zappa fans—the kind who don’t write lyrics. (Not even in Japanese!) And so, without fearing that anything like Frank’s pee-pee-poo-poo gags and “incisive” “social” “commentary” will spoil the fun, you can strap yourself in and let their ADHD fusion whip you around the room like a deflating balloon. Themes don’t always repeat, rhythms are often in flux, but their style is quainter and tidier than some agog reviews insist, and the improvisations of leader Takefumi Ishida’s sax and Soya Nogami’s guitar are consistently melodic. And with eight songs (well, seven songs and a 30 second reprise of the lead cut) clocking in at over a half hour, they’re economical too. GO
Drinking Boys and Girls Choir – Keep Drinking (Damnably)
After falling for Otoboke Beaver, I waded hopefully into the catalog of Damnably Records, a London imprint (somehow affiliated with the legacy of John Peel) that apparently zeroes in on bands from East Asia and southern Ohio. And not to slight the Busan shoegazers in Say Sue Me and their two 2019 Korean Music Awards (I’ll try again later), but these South Korean pop-punks were the best of the bunch. The 57-second opening track adds two exclamation points to the FIDLAR-worthy album title; the closing track doubles the “!”s, adds five “e”s, hits the caps lock, and shaves off five seconds. In between is, well, pop-punk, which apparently speaks an international language of undermic’d vocals, repetitive riffs, and breakneck drums. But there are also solos, whistling, hints of vulnerability, protest lyrics (“Please let me go/This is just SKATEBOARD”), tunes that live up to titles like “Just Fucking Me” and “I’m a Fucking McDonald’s,” a burst of ecstasy called “Oh My California,” even a little skanking. And now, on to the Cincy bands. SLOW
Black Midi – Schlagenheim (Rough Trade)
These pleasantly technique-infatuated Brits neither plunge into the gonzo smirkery to which glib virtuosi are prone nor overcompensate with the dour austerity of some math-rockers. Plenty of small touches here tickle me, like the way the oddly timed riffs on “953” stop short to allow textured little squalls. Problem is, Geordie Greep insists on using his mouth to make all manner of dopey noises. The actual words are occasionally sharp, as when he’s quietly objecting to the homogeneity of modern construction or protesting Flint’s still-tainted water supply. But you know the nonsense you get when you Google translate an English sentence into another language, and then back into English? Imagine that, but with an accent. Or several. Funny how so many prog hopefuls get tripped up by a self-involved singer. What ever could be the reason? NO
Go Slow No is a semi-weekly survey of new and overlooked album releases. The rating system is pretty self-explanatory: GO means listen to this now, SLOW means check it out when you get a chance, and NO means run screaming from the room if you hear so much as a note of it.