Whoever said the Japanese were a reserved culture should have his head examined. Polysics, Tokyo’s bravest export since Melt Banana and Ground Zero, thrives on counterculture eccentricity. How else could a band that is a huge follower of Devo in both attire and music be described?
Polysics’s Neu is more than a simple Devo tribute. Polysics rocks harder than Devo by a gazillion light years. Neu is an expose of the band’s no-wave roots, rife with incoherent half-English screams of delight. It’s a cross between cute and cuddly J-pop school rock and distorted punk rock noise.
Most of this album’s songs are built around guitar riffs that recall the Ramones and early Pretenders. Add rhythm that comes equally from live instruments and Casio keyboards, a bouncy organ, odd electronic blips and buzzes, and aggressive vocals via vocorder and megaphone and you begin to get the picture. Add the equally strange vocals from all three members — Hayashi, Kayo and Fumi — and we have a marriage made in looney bin heaven.
One minute they are going hell for leather, then the music stops for some crazy keyboard fill that sounds like something a five-year-old thought up in music class, then it’s back to the madness. On some tracks, it could’ve been just as easily some kid with ADD on a six-pack of Jolt Cola.
The lyrics aren’t prophetic, nor are they intended to be. But they are fun and ridiculous. Imagine some space cadet yelling, “You say go! / Just go! / You say stone cold sober / Oh no, I don’t know why.”
Some tracks, such as “Go Ahead No!” may have, in another dimension, been used as the soundtrack for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Overall, though, Neu is a combination of It Came From Outer Space meets Bad taste. Or even better, the Pixies playing at a circus rave, or Devo run through a distortion pedal with someone playing video games in the background, or Primus doing a cover of the new age rap song at the end of Revenge of the Nerds.
Whatever your characterization of Polysics is, it’s nothing you’ve heard before.