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MESS ME UP

By Steven Strange

Welcome to the premier edition of Mess Me Up, the column that will strive to bring you the latest info on the Japanese scene. I try to keep abreast of recent releases and happenings in Japan, despite not living there at the moment, and I'm going to do my best to relay it to you. In the future this column will contain updates on Japanese bands both old and new, record reviews, and anything else of interest going down in Japan. Also, with a lot of effort I can (clumsily) read Japanese, so I'm also going to make an effort to translate some articles and interviews with bands that usually don't get much exposure outside Japan. A lot of rock n roll maniacs have known for a long time that Japan is a particularly fertile breeding ground for awesome bands, so hopefully, I'll be able to shed some more light on bands that don't get any press outside Japan and bring you the latest on your favorite bands. Unless your favorite band happens to be Thee Michelle Gun Elephant or another band as equally over-hyped and boring. It's kind of old news by now, but just in case you didn't hear about it TMGE broke up last year. Good riddance to bad rubbish I say. When I was in Japan last year there were huge displays in Tower Records for their last album with photos of them dressed up like metrosexuals and frolicking in a sun drenched field. Yuck. Add that to the fact that a friend of mine in Japan had a CD single of theirs where they covered "Soda Pressing" without giving credit to the Boys and you get a band of poseurs and plagiarists that the world is better off without.

While we're on the subject of bands with new looks, the photo accompanying a recent English language interview with Registrators main man Hiroshi Otsuki (you can read it by clicking right here: (Ed.= This interview also appears in the latest issue of Roctober magazine) shows him wearing a brand new Puma shirt. This is sure to stir up some controversy as the Registrators signed an endorsement deal with Adidas late last year. For real. No word yet on why Adidas would be interested in a deal with an indie band that draws an average of hundred to two hundred people to their shows, but I wonder if this means their next record will eschew their recent power pop direction in favor of something along the lines of Korn or Run DMC? One can only hope. The rest of the interview is decent, if not overly probing. I kept waiting for the interviewer to ask Otsuki tough questions like what he thinks about American's tepid responses to their post "16 Wires" output, but he played it pretty conservative. One last note about the Registrators: I might be wrong because I read it pretty fast without taking the time to plug it into a translator, but their website says they are working on an album that they plan to put out next year. In the meantime, Waveform is putting out a four song split EP of the Registrators and Water Closet next spring. I've never heard Water Closet, but I've heard a lot of good things about them, and their singer was really nice when I met her. Might be worth checking out.

Did you read that interview I did with Firestarter in Blank Generation this summer? If not, head over there and read that ASAP. Not to toot my own horn, but it's probably the most comprehensive interview ever by the godfathers of Japanese punk rock. Fifi told me it was their best ever. In the interview Fifi went into an impassioned speech about how some bands are considered legendary by the Japanese, yet are ignored by Americans despite the fact that they live in their own country and are still playing shows today. One of the examples he used of this was a band hailing from Connecticut called the Reducers. It looks like the boys from Firestarter are gonna get another chance to play with one of their favorite older foreign bands this summer, as they're going to be going on a mini Japan tour with the Reducers this summer. Actually, "tour" might not be an appropriate word here, since two of the three shows listed are at the same venue, but their website says there are more details to come, so they might add some dates. Now they just have to get over here and play some shows, or at least the Horizontal Blackout. Fifi, if you're reading this, wouldn't you love a chance to play with the Testors?

Speaking of bands I've interviewed that are going to be touring with American bands soon, the Gimmies are going to be doing a tour in March with Tina from the Bobbyteens new band the Deadly Weapons. This time it's actually safe to call it a tour, as they're playing shows in Osaka and Nagoya in addition to the requisite Tokyo show. The Tokyo show also includes the Jet Boys and Guitar Wolf on the bill, so it's sure to be a rocking good time. The Gimmies are hands down one of the greatest bands walking the planet today, and their live show will make all but the most soulless squares shake what their mama gave 'em. The Gimmies aren't as well known as they should be, but hopefully that's gonna change once their debut US album comes out on Dionysus whenever they get around to recording it. I didn't ask yet how they scored such a coup, but it's gonna be mastered and "post produced" by Michael Davis (ex-MC5)! I've got all the confidence in the world that this is gonna be a monster of an album that turns a lot of people on to one of the best kept secrets in rock today. In the meantime, two new Gimmies tracks can be found on the recent "Power Punk Party" comp. I'll review it if I ever get a copy, but I have both Gimmies tracks and they KILL!!! If you didn't see the Gimmies interview when it was in MRR, you can read it in the last update of Blank Generation after you get done with the Firestarter interview.

The Havenots single that came out on Nice and Neat last summer brought them back into the international spotlight, but it looks like it might be awhile before we see anything new from them. They're currently drummerless, but have gone so far as to post an add for a new drummer on their website. Lets hope this lineup can stay together and they can make it to the US for some dates.

That's about it for news this time…I'll try to scrounge up more for the next update. In the meantime here's a whole mess of reviews to chew on.

Badge "Smash It Up! Previously Unreleased Songs and Demos vol. 1" CD
Those who think that the Japanese fascination with power pop began with More Fun, First Alert, and Firestarter have obviously never heard of the Badge. The Badge put out their first single in the late 70's, and was contemporaneous with all of the great first wave power pop bands from this era. The fact that they sang in Japanese may have prevented them from reaching a larger audience outside of Japan, but at their best they could hold their own with all but the most elite bands of the era. While they were obviously total pop nuts, they could play with plenty of guts and drive when necessary, as tracks like "Tomorrow," and "Lonely Night" bear witness to. They could also knock out a stunning melody, with "Rainy Day" being the real standout hit on this volume. As the title says, this is a collection of previously unreleased material , with this volume spanning from1981-86. As such, the quality shows a marked drop with most of the later material. With the exception of one or two songs, almost everything recorded after 1985 on here is pretty limp, with a couple songs ("Winter in the City" and "Buriki no Omocha [Too Young to Die]") that are almost embarrassingly bad. Still, the good on here makes this a worthy purchase for any fan of Japanese power pop or late 70s power pop in general. If that doesn't whet your interest, maybe this will: the singer of the Badge recently put out a solo LP where huge Badge fans Firestarter play backup on a few tracks. In fact, Fifi wrote the notes on the outside of record sleeve. Both volumes come in a super nice LP mock up sleeve, so the price tags on these are a bit steep compared to the already high usual price for CDs in Japan.
(MMR Records)

Badge "Strikes Back! Previously Unreleased Songs and Demos vol. 2" CD
Playing against type for these kinds of things, the second comp of unreleased Badge material (released concurrently with the first) is much more consistently listenable than the first. Whereas there are some tracks on the volume 1 that I just can't listen to, this is for the most part great from start to finish. This volume also contains the best Badge song I've heard as of yet, "Mada Minu Omae Ni (Hard Tour)." I haven't bothered to translate the lyrics yet, so I'm not sure if lyrically it's one of those "on the road" type of autobiographical songs I so loathe, but with a song this cool it doesn't even matter. What I do know is that, thanks in part to a killer bouncing bassline and neat backing vocals, this song is fucking rocking ("like a hurricane," in fact, according to the lyrics). In a bit of sequencing genius, they follow this up with another atypical song, the sinister "Mr. Girl." After that though, it's back to the upbeat power pop they usually play, and "Sutekina Music" (translates to "Wonderful Music"), with it's quirky yet catchy chorus, is as great an example of the Badge's brand of pop as anything. In fact, on quite a few songs here you can hear the beginnings of the slightly off kilter touches that sets the majority of Japanese power pop apart from the rest of the world. I guess there are a lot of "Badge Freaks" (what they call their fans) out there since in addition to the aforementioned solo record, MMR just released a comp of all of the Badge's singles, so look for a review of that soon.
(MMR Records)

Beat Caravan "She's My Girl" 7"
The title song sounds like the middle ground between the Treeberrys and Sunnychar (anyone remember them?) but less inspired than those bands. If I learned one thing from this song, it's that she's definitely his girl. After all he only says it like 600 times. The next song "Good Bye My School Days" starts off a lot more promising with some upbeat, rapid drum beats, and gets even better when the pretty female vocals kick in. It's a well-crafted, upbeat, jangly pop song that would make me think about buying their record if I heard it on a comp. It's back to the male vocals on the next song, and it's a bad move. I can't really get into this song as it's verses seem like they're building to a dramatic chorus, but it never really materializes. Next up is a Katrina and the Waves cover sung by the girl, and it's pretty good, if not amazing. My advice to these guys is to let the girl handle all of the vocals because they sound a lot better with her singing. Then again the male singer's name is "e-motorsports" so I don't know if he can be expected to show good judgment in this matter.
(Pop Ball Records)

5.6.7.8's "Teenage Mojo Workout" CD
First of all, I hope all of you caught their awesome (and surprisingly long) scene in Tarantino's "Kill Bill vol. 1" while it was in theaters last fall. How cool was it to see them get to play like three songs in a majorly hyped American movie? As great as that was, it was nothing compared to how much fun they were when I saw them live! This album comes as close to capturing the off the hook party that is their live show as anything I've heard by them. Hits include the opener "(I'm Sorry Mama) I'm a Wild One" with it's, uh wild, chorus where Yoshiko wails "I'm a sorry, I'm a sorry, "I'm a sorry" over and over, and their fucking killer rendition of Ike Turner's "I'm Blue" which was featured so prominently in "Kill Bill." The hits just keep coming with the slightly down tempo, almost Velvet Underground sounding "In the Subway," and most of all the title track. With it's unrelenting beat, sexy vocals, and infectious chorus, this is thee cut!!! With the 5.6.7.8's is always guaranteed to be a party, and this album in particular stands out as one of their funnest yet. Available in the US at www.nice-neat.com.
(Time Bomb Records, Toporo 51 Bldg. 2-18-18 Nishi-Shinsaibasi, Chuo-ku, Osaka 542-0086)

Great Mongoose "Hong Kong Baby" CD
I first heard this when I was shopping at Barnhomes last spring. As usual, Kunio was playing some pretty great stuff that day, but when he put this on my ears where piqued and I thought, "Jesus, who the fuck is this? It's great!" I immediately found the record that I wanted to buy. It's wild garage bashing from all the way back in the early to mid nineties heyday. There's a real 50's rock n roll sound all throughout, but it's given extra power due to a frantic delivery, howling vocals, and coolest of all, some guy wailing on a sax. It comes across like the middle ground between Teengenerate and the Wailers if that makes any sense. If it doesn't how about this: imagine a testosterone driven version of the 5678's.
(1+2 Records, Clean Nishi-Shinjiku, 1F, Nishi Shinjiku 7-5-6, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0023 JAPAN www.barnhomes.com)

Guitar Wolf "UFO Romantics" CD
I know this has been out for awhile now and has been issued by Narnack Records, but since I haven't really seen any reviews for it anywhere, I figured I might as well do it myself. This is Guitar Wolf's second LP for a major, and it seems like they might be toning things down a bit compared to their first major label LP (and shining moment) "Jet Generation." I'm not sure if their intent is to end up like Thee Michelle Gun Elephant (who were really huge in Japan), but I don't think it's gonna work. While there are some catchy songs on here like "Giyon Midnight" and "Hikari Baby," even with cleaner production these songs still sound too fucked up and sloppy for a mainstream audience. It's too bad they dropped the noisier production because it suits their songs way better than the standard production found on this record. Despite the antiseptic production, there are some good moments on here like the aforementioned "Giyon Midnight," "Orange Juice," and "Inner Zoom No Melody." The latter features the insane, in the red production that made Guitar Wolf famous, and it only serves to illustrate how much better they sound with dirty production. Let's hope their major drops them and come to their senses for their next record. One random note: the lyrics of "Nagasaki Jet" are really funny, as they come across kind of like "The Ballad of Guitar Wolf" or something.
(Narnack Records // www.narnackrecords.com)

Havenots/Soviettes split 7"/CDEP
For those of you who haven't heard the self released "I Hate Music Star" CDEP (available in the US at www.nice-neat.com) the Havenots' sound on these songs might come as a bit of a surprise. It's a bit more well produced and melodic compared to their lone album from a few years back, and while it's more along the lines with the power pop sound that a lot of post-Firestarter Japanese bands tend to favor (Aoki named his label "Starjets Records" after all) it's still got the trademark energy that made the album so great. Among the three songs on the CDEP are two of the best songs from the Havenots current live set. "The Boys are Back to Street" and "Rock N Roll Weekend" are both anthemic, mid tempo power pop at it's best. Both songs would often be ringing in my head for days after seeing a Havenots show. Actually, only when they played one of my favorite old songs per request ("I'm Just Modernist") did I realize how much better these new songs are than their old classics. "Rock N Roll Weekend" is particularly great, and it's lyrics read like the soundtrack to my time in Japan. The other song on the CD is "Sick Boy," and it's also good in a more rocking way akin to their older songs. The CD version of this has one song that isn't on the single, but since the CD is an import (and plus CD singles are the lamest format of all time) you should buy the 7" first. If you're a real Havenots fan though, I say get both. Oh, and for those who are interested, the Soviettes are a ¾ female band from Minnesota. They don't really do it for me musically, but from the little I've spoken with them they seem like really nice people.
(Starjets Records via Nice&Neat Records // www.nice-neat.com)

Iguwannas "Fall In Love With Eight Beat" CD
I suppose the "w" is to keep people from getting them confused with Iggy's 60's garage band. Whatever the reason, the Iguwannas sound is firmly rooted in 60's garage and beat (hence the title of their LP). The results are a pretty mixed bag, a couple songs rock respectably enough in a Real Pills-esque vein, but there are also some real clunkers. When they keep things up-tempo I find myself tapping my feet, but when the slow songs start I find myself gazing longingly at my pillow. There's maybe a single or two's worth of good songs on here, and the rest are total snoozeville. They do get bonus points for writing all of their lyrics in Japanese though (not an easy task from what I hear).
(Deckrec 5-2-14, Daizawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, JAPAN, 03-5486-5221)

Keen Monkey Work "Maniac and Violence" 7"
While it might appear that most young bands in Japan are aiming for a pop sound along the lines of First Alert or Firestarter, Keen Monkey Work is definitely working from a "singles era" Registrators approach. That's not to say they sound like the Registrators per se, but this single has the same feel as the more punk Registrators singles (like "Automatic Exit" and "Monkey") along with a healthy doses of KBD and Raw Records influences. I saw these guys quite a few times while I was in Japan last year, and this single contains probably their best song. "Eighteen" is a super catchy tune that's propelled along by a driving beat, pulsating bass, and slashing guitars. Of the remaining three songs, two appear on their CD (although different versions). The other single exclusive track, "Negative Sign" is also pretty good, if not as memorable as "Eighteen." This is good stuff if you're looking for a Japanese band with a more raw sound (no pun intended).
(Needle Records)

Keen Monkey Work "Slow Pork" CD
While the above single may be good, this album is fucking fantastic! To tell the truth, based on the 7" and their live show, I really didn't think they were capable of a record like this, but in this case I'm pleased to be proven wrong. Anyone who misses pre-Velocity era Registrators, really owes it to themselves to check this CD out. Like I said in the review of the single, KMW evokes the same spirit of the more aggressive Registrators output without sounding at all like a copycat band. Maybe it's because they've got a knack for writing memorable tunes with just enough odd flourishes to keep things interesting. Whatever the reason, with songs as addicting as "Usual People," "Black Shadow Over Me," and "Dead Body," I can't stop listening to this. If they were on an international label, I'm sure everyone would be into these guys by now.
(Waveform Records)

Pram Bath "Sweet & Hot!!" CD
Pram Bath is Chihiro Wonder, the ex-bass player from Radio Shanghai's new band. Like Radio Shanghai, their sound is firmly rooted in late 70's, early 80's power pop, but unlike Radio Shanghai, Pram Bath goes for a more straight forward approach that eschews the quirky touches favored by the former. It's a lot more Go Go's (who they cover) and Nikki Corvette than 20/20 or the A's. They come across kind of like Japan's answer to the Bobbyteens, but more energetic and endearing than that band. They show a little more spunk than the average power pop band on songs like the title track, "I Don't Want You," and the excellently named "Cold Shadow (Six Six Six)." The best song on here though is a totally wussy, sugar coated pop song called "Skip My Bunny," that was written and sung by their now departed ex-guitarist, Ma Ma. She actually lives in America now, so if she can write more songs this great I hope she starts another band here. Luckily, when I saw Pram Bath live last spring, Ma Ma's replacement was more than up to the task. The two songs he sang were both great, and anyone who is hunting down obscure Israeli punk singles is a-ok by me. Check this out if you're a Radio Shanghai fan, or if you like straightforward power pop.
(Groovie Drunker Records, Kikusui BLD. 6F, 5-30-2 Daizawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, 155-0032, JAPAN)

Psychotic Reaction "Every Little Bitz" 7"
A really cool single here, from a band that, despite my time living in Japan, I know absolutely dick about. They're definitely coming at things from the post "16 Wires"/Firestarter neo new wave school of thought, but unlike a lot of those bands trying their hands at that sort of thing these days, Psychotic Reaction sounds really fresh and inspired. The A-side is a mid tempo, organ-driven pop song that's deceptively infectious. It's the kind of song you don't think much of the first time, but find yourself playing like five times in a row and then eventually falling in love with. The B-side is a far more revved up rocking number called "Minimum Life," that's powered along by a pulsating bassline and pounding drums. It's a cliché that's used so often when talking about recent Japanese records that it has almost become meaningless to say, but this song really wouldn't sound all that out of place on " 16 Wires." Even though this single came out in 2002 it's worth reviewing now because just recently have some copies shown up in the States, at U-Med. Not to be confused with the TWO other Japanese bands of the same name (one is fifties inspired rnr, the other is more seventies style punk).
(Mangrove Label // www.recordshopbase.com)

Registrators "1995 Demo Sessions" CDR
Whatever your take on their current output (I actually like "No Fantasy" myself, but I found their current live show to be a huge disappointment) there's no denying that the Registrators circa 1995 were one of the greatest bands to ever inhabit our little scene, and that "Terminal Boredom" was hands down one of the best records of the past 20 years. Compared with nowadays the Registrators were also an incredibly prolific outfit during this era, as their three other singles and rarities comps will attest to. With that in mind I was super excited, and a bit disappointed, when I read that they were going to be selling a limited edition CDR of "Terminal Boredom" era demos with six (!) songs that had never before seen the light of day! The reason I was excited was obvious enough, but my disappointment stemmed from the fact that I didn't think I was going to be able to score a copy. Luckily Sora Shitty from the Gimmies came through and hooked me up with a copy when his band played a show with the Registrators last summer. I'm really glad that he did too, because the unreleased songs on here are, for the most part, classic Registrators that shouldn't have had to wait so long to come out. "Disco Idol," "Love the Blank," "Fall in Love," and especially the hyper charged "I Wanna Fuck Somebody" (a sentiment close to Otsuki's heart) all could fit in on "Terminal Boredom" or one of their classic singles with out a noticeable drop in quality. It's also interesting to see that they were playing "4-Vibrate" era songs before they recorded "Terminal Boredom," as evidenced by the comparatively rawer version of "She's So Vibration" found on here. Besides that and the unreleased songs, there's another version of "Pogo Pogo" (more straightforward than the piss take found on the "Terminal Boredom V.2" CD) and a run through of "I Wanna Be Rich" from the "Baby Don't Cry" single. The real story here though are the unreleased tracks, which put almost everything on that "Rare Tracks" comp Rip Off put out (actually, both that and the "Singles" comp on Rip Off were originally issued by the Registrators themselves on one disc) to shame. One has to wonder how much more of this stuff is left in their vaults? Probably just for the fans, but if you aren't a fan of mid nineties Registrators, what are you doing reading a zine called Terminal Boredom anyway?
(Self-released by band)

Sneeze "Chronic Wave" 7"
Fuck Yeah. Now this is more like it! Even though Mitch did a bang up job spotlighting this single in the final update of Blank Generation, I'd be remiss in my duties as both a Terminal Boredom record review chimp and, more importantly, as a socially retarded chronic rock n roller (there's a song title there somewhere if anyone wants it) if I didn't chime in. Simply put, I've been playing the shit out of this single ever since I got it last spring! Mitch called it the best Japanese debut single in ages, but I'm gonna have to go him one better and call it one of the best, and most original, singles I've heard in years! Although they borrow heavily from late seventies punk (particularly the more punk Raw Records singles…actually if someone told me this was a lost Raw 7 inch I'd almost believe them except for the fact that it's too good!) and the more new waveish post punk elements that are so in vogue in Japan right now, I'm at a loss to think of a single band that sounds like this. "Chronic Wave" kicks off with a pounding stop start drum beat and a rapid fire guitar riff that let's you know that these guys aren't messing around. Then the vocals kick in and manage the trick of merging the ferocity of a shout with the composure of singing. The rest of the song is a blur of snotty vocals, ripsaw guitars slashing and burning everything in sight, and savage rhythms that appeal to the libidinous primate within. In short, it's a thing of beauty. "They Were Not Here" is up next, and it's even harder to figure out than "Chronic Wave." It starts off with a discordant guitar clanging away like a phone left off the hook and gives off an alarming vibe which is only magnified by the paranoid, chanted chorus where the singer just says "they were not here" a bunch of times. On the B-side is "Something Against You" which, although a bit more melodic than the two songs on the flip, is far from a pop song. It's got a real haunting quality to it that's hard to put my finger on, but I'd almost call it insidious, like an offer to abandon everything in favor of a nihilism that's too sweet to resist. Whatever you call it, it's a really fucking infectious song that demands to be played again and again. Everything about this single is flawless. The compressed production provided by the Registrators' Hiroshi Otsuki, while sometimes annoying on his own bands' records, is really complementary to the Sneeze's off kilter songs. Although it has nothing to do with the sound of the record, it's also worth noting that the graphic design on this sleeve is really top notch (in fact that's why I originally bought it), with small photos of the band in little puzzle pieces on the cover and multiple pictures of each member on the insert, one of which where each guy is wearing this headphone helmet thing. I know it's a really small touch, but those things help to make a record memorable. Not that a record this amazing needs any help in that department! I don't care what you have to do: beg, borrow, steal, or trade in that shitty Piranhas LP on In The Red, by all means make sure you get this record!!!
(Needle Records, Usui-House 2F, 3-22-8 Kouenji-Kita, Suginami-Ku, Tokyo, 166-0002)
(Sneeze/@jp-t.ne.jp)

Supporters "No One Can Answer" 7"
I picked this one up because they're friends of Psychotic Reaction and the packaging would suggest them to be of the mod, 77 punk persuasion. The cover proudly states "punk rock" after all. Turns out this time you can judge a single by its sleeve. This is total mod worshiping power pop with a healthy abundance of Hammond Organ and sing-along choruses. It's pretty fun stuff, if not as superlative as a lot of records from Japan. Of the three cuts here the winner is "Not Too Late" with its catchy and pretty cool organ part. Still, I don't know if I would recommend shelling out seven bucks to order this from Japan. Maybe they'll get a lot better soon though. They do get bonus point however for thanking "all punk rock fans" in the liner notes. That covers a lot of ground!
(Suburban Label, Nishimiyauchi 2-37-302, Hyogo Kobe 652-0892, JAPAN)

Usuals "Escape" 7"
One of the myriad unfortunate consequences of the recent schism between the Stateside scene and that of Japan, is that often times once an amazing single makes it over to these shores, the band has long since broken up. Such is the case here. Like so many of their contemporaries the Usuals were a little more on the pop side of things, but what separated them from the pack was a 77 style punk approach that made their melodies pack an extra wallop a lot of pop bands forget about. Although I like everything they recorded, this single finds them at their best. The A-side has an almost street punk like chanted chorus and throttles along at a breakneck britpunk-esque pace, while the B-side, sung by a girl, features another anthemic chorus and culminates in a really neat bit of point-counterpoint background vocals. What makes this so great is that it's so obviously done without an excess amount of thought put into it and the subsequent enthusiasm is totally infectious. A winner. Recommended for fans of 77-style punk, mod, power pop and Japanese punk.
(Mangrove Label // www.recordshopbase.com)

Usuals "I'll Keep Your Heart In Mind"
Much in the vein of the above single, this platter is also more high energy, catchy 77-style punk rock, although this one showcases perhaps a tad softer side with two "sensitive" love songs. You've gotta write something to get the ladies excited after all…even when you are a lady! It's one of the unwritten rules of being in a band! The title track is as up-tempo as the other single, but it's also peppered with a bit of Buzzcocks-like lead guitar. The flip side (which is labeled the "AA-side"…can't show any bias after all!) however, is the real cut. The pace is slowed a little and the melody is increased to great effect. In an alternate reality where Japanese bands that broke up a year ago make chart-topping records, this would be their hit. It's also noteworthy for featuring a killer drum roll in the midst of a mid tempo love song, which, although somewhat incongruous, kicks all kinds of ass. As I mentioned in the above review, the Usuals broke up about a year ago. The guys started another band as a three piece with out Megumi (the girl) called Warmed Over Band. I saw their first live performance last spring, and it pains me to say it, but their name was pretty appropriate. Almost all trace of the enthusiasm and melody of the Usuals was gone. Let's hope they got better over the past year!
(Mangrove Label // www.recordshopbase.com)

Young Ones S/T CD
Saving the best for last… The Young Ones were definitely my greatest "find" while I was in Japan. When I saw them live, I was blown away from the opening notes. The Young Ones take the crushing riffs of the Dead Boys and Testors, add the ferocious energy of Teengenerate (while that might be a comparison that's bandied about a lot in reference to Japanese bands, I mean it 100% here), and write hook filled tunes that sound like some long lost punk rock classic you've never heard. Seriously, it boggles the mind to think a band this amazing is still around playing shows…they're that great!!! Almost everything about this record is beyond reproach: al the songs are killer, the drums are among the most savage and punishing you're ever likely to hear, the bass and guitar are both tight as hell, the vocals are spat out with all of the alienation and aggression of a thousand juvenile delinquents, and the production is so in the red you keep expecting these songs to defy the laws of physics and reach out and slap you in the face. The only complaint I have about this is that there isn't enough of it…there are only nine songs on here! I have a demo tape they put out a few years ago that has seven or eight songs that aren't on this record, about half of which are as good as anything on here. Still, that minor complaint aside, this is without a doubt a modern classic by one of the premier bands on the planet today, and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to clean the jizz out of their ears post haste. Despite how much I love that Sneeze single, this is my "can't miss pick" of this update. Get this at all costs!!!
(Needle Records)

V/A " Do You Remember Rock n Roll High School? A Tribute to the Ramones" CD
This all Japanese Ramones tribute comp has some pretty big shoes to fill. I'm not talking about Dee Dee and crew, but rather all of the giants in the world or Ramones tribute comps. How can these guys hope to capture the essence of the Ramones as well as punk rock legends like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kiss, and U2?!?!? Truly it is an unenviable task. Fortunately a few bands' offerings are worth listening to. Case in point, The Gimmies, Strawberry Mud Pie, and, most notably, the 5678's AMAZING version of "Howling at the Moon." Other than that though, there isn't much of note on this. But hey, I got it for free…
(Motor Machine Gun Label)

V/A "Mangrove 2002" CD
Japan's Mangrove Label is best known in the US for releasing records by bands like the Registrators, First Alert, Privateways, Radio Shanghai, and Firestarter. Some of those bands are represented here, with the highlight being Firestarter's most boss cover of First Alert's "Dear My Sweet Radio." I love covers that improve on already great originals. There's also good to great contributions by the Evil Hoo Doo (the 1st ever Mangrove single, featuring the guys who would later go on to play in the Teenie Cheetahs and Outs), Usuals, Privateways, and the first half of First Alert's first single (too bad, the B-side of that is where its at). What Mangrove is perhaps not so well known for outside of Japan is hardcore. Since songs 8-19 suffer from the most unfortunate affliction modern science has come to term "crustitis," I can only listen to first five songs before turning this off. To me it was worth the ten bucks I paid (a steal in Japan) because I love the Firestarter song so much. If you love them as much as I do, by all means get this. Otherwise save your money for the Sneeze single and the Young Ones CD.
(Mangrove Label // www.recordshopbase.com)


Contact:
Steven Strange
1115 Paul Parkway #102
Minneapolis, MN 55434
steveotron@hotmail.com
(Registrators pic swiped from The Modernist)


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