japanese - The I-94 Bar
Sonically speaking, there’s an awful lot going on here. It's like a bowl of musical ramen.
For those not in the know (that’d be most of us) Masami Kawaguchi is a underground legend in Japan, playing with a string of bands (Miminikoto, Haino Keiji's Aihiyo) and touring the USA and Europe numerous times. He sings, plays guitar and occasionally holds down the bottom end on bass.
There is an Australian connection: Tokyo-based Masami toured and recorded with Penny Ikinger and Deniz Tek in Japan a few years ago. He plays guitar in Penny's latest album. His solo record, the quirky and earthy "The Mad Guitar Sings”, came out in Australia a year or more ago, and he played some solo shows.
They’ve been described as “sexy blues rock” and who's to argue with that assessment of Mustang Jerx? No strangers to touring outside their home of Japan after forays into Europe and the USA, in early 2014 they’re prepping for a second visit to Australia and they’ll be bringing this, their latest record.
It's the fourth full album for Japanese trio Mustang Jerx and while they're not a household name in Australia, there's a small but willing fanbase here awaiting their third visit on the back of this record.
"Easter Monday" is nimble blues-rock with a swing in the bottom-end and a scything slide guitar up front. Their 2019 visit to these shores will follow similar hit-and-run missions six and five years before, and will owe much to the mutual admiration between them and Sydney band Bunt.
Mustang Jerx sing in their native language so the lyrical themes are impenetrable to these ears, but the music they grind out is universal in its rawness and punchy appeal. It's dirty and unpolished - and you know that's gotta be a plus when you mix it with sticky carpet and liberal amounts of beer.
They might not be Japan’s most prolific rock and roll band but The Deadvikings’ two full-length albums each pack a considerable punch. This one dates from early in their 11-year history and delivers their Hellacopters style jams in spade-loads.
The Deadvikings toured last year’s “Libertatia” in Australia - well, in Sydney - and they're back in 2018, confusingly pushing their first CD from 10 years ago. Ours is not to reason why...
"Electric Demon" has some wayward moments (the ragged "The Ripper" and the low-key opening title track, which sounds underdone) but for the most part, it's surging high-energy rock songs. They're clearly in the thrall of the 'Copters and their Scandi Rock contemporaries, but this is hardly a bad thing when done right.
Like the financial affairs of a retired politician, it’s amazing what you find in rock and roll if you dig deep enough. Japan’s The Deadvikings are a prime example.
These Far Eastern brothers-by-another-mother of the Hellacopters have been going for 10 years and have numerous releases behind them. They’ve done a split single with UK reprobates The Sick Livers and The Hip Priests (but don’t judge them by the company they keep.)
They’ve toured Europe and China. They’re hitting Australia in November, with their Sydney mates Bunt.
Japanese guitarist Kawaguchi Masami has a reputation for heavy riffage and dreamy soundscapes in his long string of bands, but in solo mode he leans heavily towards the latter. “The Mad Guitar Sings” bears more than a reference in name only to Syd Barrett’s post-Floyd stuff but is perhaps even darker in its tone.
Masami has been in bands like Miminokoto, New Rock Syndicate, Los Doroncos (with Doronco of Les Rallizes Denudes), Aihiyo (with Keiji Haino), LSD March and Broomdusters, all of which are just names to me but well regarded by those grounded in Japanese heavy rock and psych.
It's a long time between Penny Ikinger records but the results are usually worth the wait. "Tokyo" follows "Penelope" (2010) and "Electra" (2003) and is as evocative as ever but with a slightly rockier disposition.
"Tokyo" was recorded with a batch of top-notch Japanese psychedelic musicians, with heavy input from Radio Birdman's Deniz Tek. The latter's influence is evident - not just in some flammable splashes of lead guitar but also in the odd lyric. That Four Winds Bar sure has done some mileage since being name-dropped by Blue Oyster Cult all those years ago...
Even so, "Tokyo" is very much a Penny Ikinger record. Gone are the days where she needed to be referenced as "a past member of Wet Taxis" or as "Nico defrosted". As clever as that last marketing line was, Nico ultimately shut out the world. Penny embraces its musical possibilities and has her own distinctive voice.
“Noise annoys,” said the Buzzcocks and although they took a more melodic bent than most of their contemporaries, you knew what they were on about. “Ugly music for ugly people” was the apt review tagline for the self-titled Kim Salmon and the Scientists album, many years ago.
This confronting record from electro-punk duo Ace Killers Union is a bit of both. If their music doesn’t make a mark, stick in your craw or drive you to reach for a stiff glass of Suntory whisky after a couple of listens, you’re just not paying attention.
Ace Killers Union - ACU for short - is Hiroshi The Golden Arm and Mr Ratboy with their guitars and a whole slew of machines. From the impossibly fast title track and opener to the low-fidelity, speed pulse-attack of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” (yes, that one) this is an abrasive melange of noisy, gutter rock skronk.
Unless I’ve blinked and missed them, it’s been more than a decade since King Brothers appeared on Australian stages and 20 years since they started as a band. Time is rarely kind to any of us, however King Brothers' trademark brand of brutal “hardcore blues” not only remains intact but has blossomed.
“Wasteland” might be their sixth or seventh full-length album - background is hard to dig up on the Interwebs when you don’t read Japanese - and it leaves little to the imagination.
King Brothers are a two-guitars-and-drums trio from Nishinomiya City whose sound has been called “the Germs backing Howling Wolf”. Eric Oblivian reckons they’re the best band in the world and they tour the world constantly.