Japanther, Captains Rest, 10/02/11
Japanther use cassette tape players in their live shows. They like to perform their art-punk-dance-party-silliness over recordings of their own songs. You hear it and you ask yourself all kinds of pointless questions about artistic ownership and the nature of performance. That, or you spend the next week boring your friends to death with stories about how awesome it sounded. Except Japanther’s tape players weren’t loud enough at the start of their set. Let me just say this – any band who thinks it’s funny to spend a good few minutes berating the soundman is firstly, totally immature, and secondly, pretty funny. In a way, the evening’s preliminary sound issues highlight just how much of a damn Japanther don’t give. And listen now, because I’m serious – not a single solitary damn was given tonight, and that is exactly the kind of rubbish, generalized statement I’m completely averse to making.
It was really good to see the Glasgow one-man outfit Streets of Rage opening tonight with a full band set-up – they tear it up like a stripped down Social Circkle and it sounds joyous, translating well from the glorious fuzz-ridden drum-machine fuelled sound of the EP (available online).
Shellshag are quite obviously the perfect warm-up for Japanther’s feel-good fest. ‘Alright!’ they cry, ‘My new best friends! Let’s go!’, before wailing, crooning, dancing and thrashing through a rapturous, forty-minute eruption. Visually, Shellshag throw a stunning party. Everyone loves a standing drummer bashing the hell out of a floor tom and snare, especially one who’s got so many bells and jangling trinkets on her person that every other step she makes sounds like a hippie’s back garden in the middle of autumn. Truly the best medium through which to deliver succinct, inspired messages like ‘Fuck Society, Fuck Sobriety’. True that.
Here’s the biggest problem with this gig – it doesn’t take long to realize that you will never in your life come close to having nearly as much fun as Japanther seem to have all the time. The joyful arrogance of the two beach-combing art school terrors yelling down their telephone-microphones, thrashing out an uncompromising brand of feel-good noise is something so utterly ridiculous and overblown about that it feels revolutionary. Or at least, it does, until something ridiculous like the duo’s encore destroys any pretentious notion whatsoever – amid a sweating crowd demanding one more tune, Japanther stick on a weathered Beach Boys tape and dance onstage for the entirety of Surfin’ USA. I suppose the real question is why did I not feel like I was getting ripped off by Cry Parrot, and I’m not being flippant, I’m sure there is a perfectly good answer to that question involving words like ‘spectacle’ and ‘challenging the nature of performance’, but honestly, I find it hard to care, and have found reality to be quite a challenge since.