Melt-Banana are one of those bands that I consider to be a rite of passage for anyone that is a serious music listener. They essentially invented the genre of music known as “spazz.” At one point in time, a friend of mine referred to them as “Barely listenable. Which is why I insist in listening to them frequently.” They’ve recently released their 9th studio record, Fetch, their first record in five years. They are also about to embark on their first tour of the US as only the core duo: vocalist Yasuko Onuki and guitarist Ichirou Agata, which their breakneck drum parts being performed by a computer instead of a human. The band will be hitting The Oakland Metro Operahouse on November 16th. Tickets available here!
The album opens up with something generally unheard of this band: gentleness. Delicate water, lite synths, and some gentle guitar. The song, called “Candy Gun,” then bleeds into a big and sweeping guitar treatment, before it all settles into something still out of character for the band. The song is a pop song! There are hooky guitar riffs. Onuki’s vocals are actually singing a discernible melody. For the first time in the bands 20 year career, they may have actually composed a song that could get played on the radio. That is, until you reach the 3 minute mark, and then it breaks down into controlled chaos. There are more meter and key changes in the last 45 seconds of this song than an entire Moody Blues record.
After the surprise of the opening track, we got plenty of art-punk on meth. Just when you think you the record is designed for a single mood, you get to track 8: “Schemes Of Tails.” We are no longer just playing fast for the sake of fast… This song might be the closest Melt-Banana will ever get to a love song. It’s a warm and inviting piece, where Onuki’s voice actually leans towards the tender. Agata isn’t just playing fast. He’s playing warm and tender power chords. This is a warm and tender song, and actually started it again when it was over.
The next song, “Zero+,” gets even poppier! Despite some Yngwie Malmsteen shredding, the piece reminds me more of Sleigh Bells at their catchiest. This song, if it weren’t 2:04, could actually get played in a dance club. The closing number, “Zero,” (yes, a different song) could have been a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song.
Despite a few “out of character” moments, the majority of the record is Melt-Banana playing by the Melt-Banana rules. Every song is played at a breakneck pace. The guitar work is speedy and aggressive without ever sounding like speed metal. Many of these songs are played in a major key, and every single song on it is the perfect thing to put on if you are trying to break your personal sprint record. They energy this band exudes makes it impossible to listen to while sitting still. Looking for motivation to clean your bathroom? This is for you. Also, at 33 minutes, it’s exactly the right length of time t0 satisfy what doctor’s recommend as the necessary daly aerobic activity adults are supposed to participate in.