I always thought it was funny how most “Brooklyn-based” art-rock bands will introduce themselves on stage by saying, “Hello everyone, we are So and So and we’re from Brooklyn.” No you’re not. Where I’m from there’s a pretty big difference from being from somewhere and simply living there. And thus begins my grudge against Brooklyn bands, fueled by the fact that most of the music surfacing from the gentrified Brooklyn areas sucks.
But I have to give it up to Japanther. Why? Because the don’t suck, despite proclaiming that they’re an “art project” rather than an actual rock ‘n’ roll band.
Japanther’s second release, cleverly titled Dump the Body in Rikki Lake, has the same “garage recording” sound as their debut Leather Wings. Refusing to adopt a traditional sound, Japanther’s music best described as experimental. Each track ranges from hip-hop beats and sampling, to cinematic instrumentals, to angry, pounding, screaming, fuck you garage rock.
The title track samples the sound of your Macintosh turning on, with an accompanying mellow ambiance that could soothe Mike Tyson on a crystal meth binge. “Critical,” the next track, destroys every emotion that the opening track creates. Distorted, incoherent screams backed by a whimsical off-beat synth and a hard-hitting drum beat make for an angry song.
But what I love about Japanther is their mix of influences: early punk, new wave and industrial. If the Minutemen and Joy Division fucked one night after drinks, the offspring would be the instrumental track “Supertap.” The Ministry-like “Super Loser” can only be described as “point of view” race car music. Ninety-five miles per hour from start to finish. Opening up with a super funny quote from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, “Gimmie the Map” has a catchy hip-hop beat that moves up and down and sideways, all while being peppered with witty movie samples.
Just when you think that you can somewhat pinpoint Japanther’s sound, they throw you for a fucking loop. Experimental is usually referred to as a genre of music. But experimentation is first an act. And by experimenting, it’s as if they set out to make every song sound drastically different. That or fuck up everyone who tries to classify bands by genre.
Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, or Mars. It doesn’t matter. Good music is good music. A good band these days breaks convention rather than follows it. Japanther is a good band.