Machida Machizo

kou-machida

Our regular readers know by now that Japan produces way more than its fair share of weird music — so much so that some of the weirdest stuff remains virtually unknown to Anglo audiences. That’s certainly the case with the recorded works of punk singer, poet, novelist and cat-lover Kō Machida. When our good friend the mysterious Interweb Megalink sends us something and is like, “I don’t even know what the hell this is” — which is how we got introduced to Machida’s 1986 masterpiece, Doterai Yatsura — we are way off the outer fringes of the Roman alphabet internet.

Machida, whose real name is also sometimes transliterated as Kou Machida, got his start in 1978 in a punk band called Inu, which is a Japanese word for “Dog.” They released one album before breaking up about three years later, a fun but not particularly weird set of herky-jerky, Clash-like rave-ups called Meshi Kuuna!, which translates to something like, “Don’t Eat!” There’s also apparently a second album released after they broke up called Ushiwakamaru Nametottara Dotsuitaru Zo, but I haven’t been able to track down any of the music.

In fact, most of Machida’s catalog remains offline, or at least unfindable unless you’re able to search for it using Japanese characters. But his first solo album, 1986’s Doterai Yatsura (sometimes called Wild and Crazy Guys, though I can’t tell whether that’s an English translation of the Japanese title, or just based on the fact that cassette versions of the album said “Wild and Crazy Guys” in English on the cover), is a cult classic that’s been uploaded to YouTube in various forms over the years. I hardly ever post full album streams on this site because I know you’re all busy people with short attention spans, but I have to share all 36 minutes of Doterai Yatsura because it’s amazing.

Great, right? You can still hear Machida’s roots in angsty post-punk but he’s also experimenting with tape loops and analog synths, and it sounds like he’s drawing from No Wave, industrial, early video game music and maybe the noise experiments of The Residents and Hanatarash, Yamataka Eye’s notorious pre-Boredoms noise-rock group. There are bagpipes and harmonicas and tribal percussion freakouts (Cromagnon might be another influence) and weird spoken-word passages and looped sex noises. It’s surprising and disorienting in the best possible way — maybe less so if you’re fluent in Japanese, although Machida is apparently known for playing with language in ways can be cryptic even to native speakers and often impossible to translate. (One song title on Doterai Yatsura, for example, is usually translated as “Primitive Hitman” but more literally means “A Man Who Killed a Parakeet That Hit a Conga Drum”.)

Doterai Yatsura is all the more remarkable because as far as I’ve been able to tell, Machida never really recorded anything else like it. This track from his next release, a 1987 EP called Hona, Donaisee Iune, still has highly eccentric vocals, but musically it’s downright accessible compared to his previous work:

And I’m pretty sure this is a track from a 1992 album called Harafuri, credited to Machizo Machida and Kitazamagumi, which I believe was the name of his band at the time:

More recently, Machida appears to have morphed into a sort of Bowie/Bryan Ferry art-rocker; at least that’s certainly the vibe he’s channeling in this clip:

But these days, Machida is more famous in Japan as a novelist. His 2004 novel Punk Samurai Slash Down, set in Edo-era Japan but sprinkled with anachronistic language and modern cultural references, was recently adapted into a feature film that I hope will be coming to our shores soon because it appears to feature monkey warriors and big dance numbers and samurai armies battling to the strains of “Anarchy in the U.K.” Speaking of films, Machida has also starred in a few himself — most famously, a 1995 film called Endless Waltz in which he played a free jazz saxophonist. So yeah, he’s a true Renaissance man. And did I mention that he also loves cats?

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Weird of the Day: Polysics, “Mega Over Drive”

Polysics

Reader Aaron calls Polysics the “bastard Japanese offspring of DEVO.” Polysics themselves call their music “technicolor pogo punk.” We just call is awesome. Next party I go to, I plan to dance by flailing my arms around my head like I’m fending off an invisible swarm of bees, just like the girls in this video. Though I won’t look as cute in a Mylar tutu.

For more Polysics, visit their website or browse their entire catalog on Amazon.com. “Mega Over Drive” comes from their most recent album, Action!!!

Melt Banana

Melt Banana

For our 250th Weird Band of the Week, we decided to go the crowd-pleasing route. Over the years, a metric fuck-ton of you* have said we should add Japanese noise rockers Melt Banana to the Weird List. Well, today, you freaks finally get your wish. Now please stop posting embeds of “Sick Zip Everywhere” in the Submit a Band comments, will ya?

Now in fairness to all y’all, Melt Banana are indeed a pretty weird band. In fairness to us, “Sick Zip Everywhere” is nowhere near their weirdest track. It’s just one of the few with an official video, and it does that whole B-movie karate flick “Hey, let’s badly dub American actors trying to sound vaguely Japanese over actual Japanese people!” thing that everyone can’t get enough of.

Here’s a better example of Melt Banana at their weirdest. This is from a “live” album they recorded with John Zorn in 1998 called MxBx 1998/13,000 Miles at Light Velocity and yes, those squeals that sound like turntable scratches or dive-bombing Roland 303s are all coming from Ichirou Agata’s guitar.

Pretty cool, right? The only other guitarist I know who can get tones like that out of his effects pedals is Tom Morello, although I’m pretty sure in a dueling guitars fight, Agata would kick Morello’s ass. Even though he always performs with a surgical mask over his face. What am I saying? Especially because he performs with a surgical mask over his face.

Agata formed Melt Banana in Tokyo in 1992 with Yasuko Onuki, a singer he had been playing with for about a year in another band called Mizu. With the addition of bassist Rika Hamamoto and a rotating cast of drummers, they developed a balls-out style that made even their one-minute songs sound kinda epic. Here, for example, is an early track called “Dust Head”:

By the way, Melt Banana’s first two albums were produced by none other than Steve Albini, the punk-rock “super producer” whose other credits include Nirvana’s In Utero. But he’s also the guy behind this band, so don’t hold that against him. He recorded MxBx (as the kids like to call ’em) in his basement studio in Chicago and the albums definitely have a dirty, Midwestern basement vibe to them.

Melt Banana are also famous for their covers. Here’s my favorite.

After 20+ years, Agata and Onuki are still at it…although they cut Hamamoto loose in 2012 and now operate strictly as a duo. They released their last album, Fetch, in 2013, and their music is still completely…well, bananas. Sorry, I had to go there.

So there you have it, weirdos! Think we can get to 500 bands? Stick around and let’s find out.

*Metric fuck-ton including but not limited to: Frostoriuss, Spoon, Josh Gold, Alex, Lou and Genericus. Thanks for your patience and suggestions, dudes and dudettes. You complete us and shit.

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Peelander-Z’s spring tour is going to melt your fucking face off

Peelander-Z
Photo by Brian D. Byers

With their whole Mighty Morphin Power Ramones shtick, I didn’t think Peelander-Z could get any more awesome. Then last year, they transformed from a punk band and into a metal band and bam! More awesomeness. I’ll never underestimate you again, Peelander-Z.

You can see the new hesher-friendly incarnation of Peelander in action starting next month, when they head out on a U.S. tour that is sure to leave a lot of sore necks and torn fishnets in its wake.

Peelander-Z On Tour:

03/08 Savannah, GA @ Club One (Savannah Stopover Festival)
03/18 Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s Upstairs
03/19 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks
03/20 Birmingham, AL @ The Bottletree Cafe
03/21 Athens, GA @ 40 Watt
03/22 Knoxville, TN @ The Bowery
03/24 Atlanta, GA @ The Drunken Unicorn
03/25 Chattanooga, TN @ JJ’s Bohemia
03/28 St. Louis, MO @ The Demo
03/29 Springfield, MO @ Outland Ballroom
03/30 Tulsa, OK @ Mercury Lounge
04/01 Norman, OK @ Opolis
04/03 Lincoln, NE @ Knickerbockers
04/05 Kansas City, MO @ Middle Of The Map Fest
04/09 Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater
04/15 San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
04/16 West Hollywood, CA @ The Roxy Theatre
04/17 San Francisco, CA @ DNA Lounge
04/19 Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theatre Lounge
04/21 Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
04/22 Boise, ID @ Neurolux
04/26 Billings, MT @ Railyard
04/29 Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St. Entry
05/01 Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s Rock Club
05/03 Toledo, OH @ Frankies
05/08 Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter
05/14 Providence, RI @ Fete Music

Peelander’s metal-themed album, Metalander-Z, is available here.

Wait, Peelander-Z is now a metal band?

Peelander-metal

Geez, we take one lousy little month off, and the weird band world goes apeshit. Apparently our favorite Japanese action comic punk band Peelander-Z is now a Japanese action comic metal band. What next? Is GWAR going to release an album of big-band standards? (Actually, that might be kind of awesome. Can you imagine Oderus crooning “Under My Skin” while peeling the flesh off a guy in a Frank Sinatra mask? But I digress.)

Anyhoo, yes, it’s true: Last month, Peelander-Z released a new album called Metalander-Z, inspired by the peroxided glory days of hair metal and bands like Def Leppard, Cinderella, Van Halen and Mötley Crüe. Their press release claims they even went so far as to collect ’80s-era guitar amps and other vintage gear, the better to capture that Spandex-and-Flying-V sound. They’ve also scored themselves some sweet new headgear and a new bassist, Peelander Purple. The video for the album’s first single, “Ride On the Shooting Star,” tells the story of how Purple arrived from the Planet Peelander and joined the band. Apparently, they skipped the traditional audition process in favor of shooting each other with energy beams.

Metalander-Z is available now via Bandcamp, Amazon and wherever fine action comic metal records are sold.

If you’ve never been to a Peelander-Z show, a little part of you might be dead inside. But don’t worry, that part can still be resurrected. Yeah, they’re that good.

PEELANDER-Z TOUR DATES:

10/12/13 Philadelphia, PA     North Star Bar
10/15/13 Richmond, VA         Stange Matter
10/16/13 Charlotte, NC         Tremont Music Hall
10/17/13 Knoxville, TN         The Bowery
10/18/13 Nashville, TN         The Mercy Lounge
10/19/13 Chattanooga, TN     JJ’s Bohemia
10/20/13 Orlando, FL         Nerdapalooza 2013
10/22/13 Lake Worth, FL     Propaganda
10/23/13 Gainesville, FL     High Dive
10/24/13 Ybor City, FL         The Orpheum
10/25/13 Jefferson, LA         House of Shock
10/26/13 Jefferson, LA         House of Shock
10/31/13 Brooklyn, NY         Glasslands

Shibusashirazu Orchestra

Shibusashirazu Orchestra

Wikipedia describes this week’s weird band as a “free jazz orchestra,” which is a little like saying that Fight Club was a movie about making soap. Meet the Shibusashirazu Orchestra, and let’s all appreciate, once again, how exponentially more batshit crazy the Japanese are capable of making anything, even something as already batshit crazy as free jazz.

Shibusashirazu, which apparently translates to something like, “don’t be cool,” was founded in 1988 by a guy named Daisuke Fuwa, who outside of Shibusashirazu seems like a perfectly nice, unassuming jazz bassist who makes music like this. Fuwa assembled a group of his fellow jazz musicians to perform music for an avant-garde theater troupe called Hakken no Kai, and that somehow morphed into the insanity that is the Shibusashirazu Orchestra.

Since then, the band has continued to tour all over Japan and Europe with a rotating cast of some 20 to 30 musicians and performers, the most striking of which are the near-naked butoh dancers, covered in white body paint and writhing, climbing the scaffolding and engaging in general freakery. There are also video projections, giant balloon creatures, live action painters and enough all-around sensory overload to make Cirque du Soleil look like C-SPAN.

For awhile, we were starting to think Shibusashirazu only had one song, because every single YouTube video seemed to feature the same giant horn-fueled jam session with the same 14-note refrain that sounds vaguely like the hero’s theme from some ’60s martial arts movie. But eventually we were able to figure out that they have, in fact, released eight albums’ worth of material—some of which even just sounds like conventional modern jazz. It’s almost weirder in a way to watch those eerie butoh dancers gesticulating to a nice Kenny Kirkland-style piano solo.

Oddly, two readers (thanks, Sam and Giovanni!) suggested we add Shibusashirazu to the Weird List within a week of each other—and they both forwarded the same video, which features a particularly over-the-top version of that signature 14-note jam session, taken from a 2002 festival in Fuji. So we present it here for your enjoyment. This is really one of those videos where, just when you think it can’t get any nuttier, it does. Our two favorite parts are the giant mylar balloon dragon and the Caucasian dude at the 2:12 mark shaking his head at the camera in disbelief. Oh, and the dancers dressed like a swarm of bees. And the…oh, just watch it.

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Weird Live Review: Peelander-Z

Peelander-Z and a lucky fan

Sometimes, we here at TWBITW gots to pay the bills. So my full review of Peelander-Z’s pre-Halloween extravaganza at L.A.’s Bootleg Bar can only be read on LA Weekly’s West Coast Sound blog, whose editors were kind enough to compensate me for going to the show in exchange for telling their readers how frickin’ awesome it was. And it was pretty frickin’ awesome, but for all the gory details, you’ll have to visit LAWeekly.com.

Meanwhile, here are a few more photos from Saturday night’s show, plus more Peelander-Z tour dates after the jump. If they’re coming to your town, you really should go see them. How many bands do you know with a unicycle-riding squid?

Remaining Peelander-Z tour dates:

10/31 Dallas, TX @ Club Dada *
11/01 Shreveport, LA @ Fatty Arbuckles *
11/02 Austin, TX @ Red 7 FunFunFun Festival, 1230AM
11/03 Austin, TX @ Yellow Stage FunFunFun Festival, 755PM
11/04 Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live *, w/ Anamanaguchi
11/05 Lafayette, LA @ The Feed & Seed
11/06 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks *
11/09 Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn *
11/10 Nashville, TN @ Mercy Lounge *
11/11 Knoxville, TN @ Cider House *
11/13 Tallahassee, FL @ Rehab *
11/14 Orlando, FL @ The Social *
11/15 Tampa, FL @ The Orpheum *
11/17 Gainesville, FL @ High Dive *
11/19 Wilmington, NC @ The Soapbox *
11/21 Washington, DC @ U Street Music *
11/23 Brooklyn, NY @ Knitting Factory *, Brooklyn Vegan Presents

* w/Electric Eel Shock