Meeting your heroes isn’t always a good idea, as this album from Brooklyn noise rockers Japanther demonstrates. Tut Tut Now Shake Ya Butt was recorded with Crass drummer Penny Rimbaud in an executive-producer role and also includes two of his interminable poems. Stylistically, the album is all over the map, with straightforward punk mixed with rambling ambient passages and heavily distorted robo-vocals.
Much of the album is dominated by generic punk-pop tracks that aren’t a million miles from Green Day’s American Idiot. It’s the kind of unadventurous punk that lost its flavor decades ago, and it’s puzzling why a band deeply enmeshed in the (often highly creative) Brooklyn noise scene would take this direction. Tracks such as “Bloated Corpse” and “Radical Businessman” hint at something more innovative but are sadly among the shorter tracks on the record.
The former morphs from some Liars-esque chanting into a demented form of 21st-century doo-wop, easily becoming the best song on the album. “Radical Businessman” takes the band’s inclination to emulate D.C. punk into a few interesting directions by throwing in a strident “fuck the cops” vocal by Spank Rock. If Japanther had used these songs as creative building blocks they would have emerged in a more sonically demanding space than much of the music that makes up this record.
“Africa Seems So Far Away” is the first lengthy screed to feature Rimbaud’s poetry. It’s a challenging listen, for all the wrong reasons. He initially sounds like an angry high school teacher scolding his children, while Japanther limps along quietly behind him. The song vacillates between embarrassment and boredom with unfortunate ease, and ends up sounding like no one in the studio had the cojones to tell Rimbaud that what he was doing wasn’t very good.
After a few more standard punk-thrash numbers, Rimbaud comes back for a second turn on “I the Indigene.” It’s more of the same, and really drags the pacing of the album into solemn death march territory. “I am the sphincter! I am the sphinx!” he bellows. At times the former Crass man sounds like he’s about to break into Vincent Price’s “the funk of 40,000 years” dialogue from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” seemingly unaware that he resembles an embarrassing drunken uncle who’s outstayed his welcome at a kids’ Halloween party.
Tut Tut Now Shake Ya Butt is a horrible misfire by a band whose creative well seems to be running dry. Perhaps Japanther were over-awed by the presence of Rimbaud? It certainly sounds like someone needed to excise his tracks, or at least release them as part of a separate project. Instead, this horribly messy record has surfaced, which is probably best swept under the carpet in the hope that no one noticed its release.