Sunday 20 May 2007

ok city ok, エディ, アカシカ - Kichijoji Silver Elephant, May 19th

by graeme

Kichijoji is home to Iseya, probably the greatest yakitori restaurant in all of Tokyo (if not Japan), and it's not right to spend a Friday night in Kichijoji without first going there to fill up on cheap food and cheap beer. Unfortunately this meant that I didn't arrive at the venue on time and missed the first band on the bill. So, apologies to The Boston Liver, I will do my best to see you again sometime.

By the time we did get there, アカシカ (Acacica) were drawing to the end of their set. A four-piece fronted by a preternaturally tiny vocalist called Mayumi, Acacica made me wish I'd foregone the final beer and got my arse to the venue on time. I picked up a copy of the three-track EP they were selling at the show. Check back for a review in which I will try and write something more substantial than this and talk about something else other than the diminutive stature of the singer.

Unlike Acacica, エディ(Eddy) had me scribbling furiously in my notebook. There's a few sentences where I consider if it's possible to drink G&T through a straw and still retain a modicum of dignity. Then there's a fairly long mental meander about the bloke standing just in front of me who looked as if he'd read too much about Jean-Paul Sartre (rather than actually reading anything by Jean -Paul Sartre), and had me placing mental bets as to whether he would ever actually take a drag on the cigarette he was holding do preciously. Finally I was driven to wonder if the reason Eddy took it upon themselves to remind us of who they were after every song was because they knew how forgettable their set was. Eddy seem to have been struck by that affliction which is common among a lot of the bands I've seen here. As individuals they are clearly very able musicians, and as a band they are duck's arse tight, but they are completely lacking in any spark or edge that would make them much more interesting. Not only that, but all their songs seem to clock in at six or seven minutes, which for the kind of music they make (i.e fairly straight ahead indie-rock) is about three minutes too long. Sadly, the most memorable thing about their set was the questionnaire that they handed out to the audience afterwards, in which we had to choose our favourite song from their set and what we thought of the band. I went for the last one because that was the only honest answer I could give, and made some kind of non-committal comments to the other question.

ok city ok had no questionnaires, but their three minute blasts of Pete Townshend-esque guitar jiggery-pokery were a welcome tonic to the lumbering Eddy. Fronted by an exiled American, Kay Grace, ok city ok are an unabashedly old-school indie-rock band that any fan of The Replacements/Paul Westerberg, The Hold Steady et al would do well to seek out. They will be touring in the States and Canada next month - check their MySpace page for more details.

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Tuesday 8 May 2007

Shift, Melt-Banana, Yolz In The Sky, nhhmbase, CLISMS - Akihabara Club Goodman, May 1st 2007

by graeme

Most of the concerts I go to in Tokyo are fairly sparsely attended. If there are five bands on the bill there will usually be around thirty or forty people there. It seems that each band brings five or six friends and family members who have no choice but to go. Add in the small number of people who are there because they want to see the bands, and the obligatory blog writing gaijin and that's pretty much it.

Tuesday night at Club Goodman was the exception to the vague rule that I just made up. Despite this being Shift's event most of the audience were there to see Tokyo luminaries (or 'it bands' if you wanted to be unkind) nhhmbase and Melt-Banana. First up was CLISMS. Like all the bands on tonight's bill apart from Shift, this was the first time I'd seen them. Taking their on-stage moves from The Who (without the instrument annihilation), they played a lean twenty five minute set that any fan of the Nuggets series would appreciate.

nhhmbase were one of the first bands I heard about when I started this blog - various people told me that I had to check them out. I bought their first mini-album and while it certainly wasn't bad, it didn't seem that special. I was then told that I had to see them live, that the CD hadn't really captured them at their best. I've been told this kind of thing before and sometimes it's little more than a way to cover up the fact that a band aren't actually that great. With nhhmbase it IS true though - played live, their songs are have more space in which to meander and expand without ever drifting off into muso-wank-noodling territory. One downside to the band could be the fact that apparently they've been playing much the same set for the last two years - do they have any more songs in there or have they shot their bolt too quickly? Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Sometimes you go to a concert where you only know one or two bands on the bill, but one of the unknown acts turns out to be the best thing you see all night and you spend the next couple of days raving to all your friends about how good they were. Unfortunately ヨルズイノザスカイ (Yolz In The Sky) were away over on the other side of the spectrum. I looked back at my notes under I've underlined the words "utter pish" in the same way a bitter cuckold might highlight his cheating ex-wife's name in the phonebook. Musically, their stew of relentless guitar noise and frantic rhythm works well, but their vocalist fucks the whole thing up. He looks like Bruce Lee and sounds similar too, as he yelps his way through every song like a loop tape of every fight scene in Enter The Dragon. It has me scrambling for the beer machine outside in the hallway for much needed oral and aural respite. One final point before we leave the whole sorry episode behind - to the bloke who stood next to me giving the sign of the beast all the way through their set, this band is not Satanic, just diabolical (before any smart arse goes to write a comment about the meaning of 'diabolical', look here).

According to Wikipedia, Melt-Banana singer Yasuko Onuki's vocal style has been described as "a rabid poodle on speed". After their set (this was the first time I'd actually heard any of their music - am I allowed to write about Japanese music after such a confession?) I was trying to figure out what to say about them when my girlfriend trumped both my half-arsed notes and the anonymous critic cited on Wikipedia - "The music was OK but she sounds like Alvin and The Chipmunks going through teenage angst." 'Nuff said.

Shift were last on and came out to a slightly depleted audience (even if it is your event perhaps playing last after nhhmbase and Melt-Banana isn't the best idea). This was the first time I'd seen them since their show at Shibuya O-nest last year, and they seem to have left behind some of the more melodic parts of their sound. Yuki Funayama's vocals stand out above Alvin and Bruce Lee, but the band's sound wasn't as distinctive as before. Then again, maybe it was just the songs they played that night, or maybe the beer I'd downed deperately during Yolz In The Sky's set was playing havoc with my ears. Either way, Shift remain a band that everyone should see live if they have the chance.

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