Thursday, October 20, 2011

Japanther Eats Beets, Limes And Rice

Did you ever wonder if there will be any more truly great punk bands? I don't really know, but one of the best and busiest lives in Brooklyn.

They're just like the honey badger. They don't care. They do what they want.

With eight full lengths under their belt over the last decade, Ian Vanek and Matt Reilly continue to delight with their anti-pop art noise in ways that make most people shudder, shake their heads, and scream. Beets, Limes and Rice plays just like that. You pick the column you belong in best.

Never mind much of the album was written with a dark cloud still hanging over their heads after the loss of their longtime friend Beau Velaso, former member of Death Set, two years ago. Japanther did Velaso proud, dropping a reference in Yellow Lighter but never allowing themselves to wallow. (Neither did Death Set on the brilliant Michel Poiccard.)

"It can be particularly difficult when you're sad to write about what you want to write about without making your music sound sad and fucking boring," Vanek told Exclaim! "It's definitely still a fun record about being a young person in the world, [one] that's not afraid to die and not afraid to live."

This is the kind of vision that truly makes them one of the best self-described girl bands emulating a boy band emulating an animated girl band in the world. And Beets, Limes and Rice is one of the best albums ever written about catharsis and love, just like Vanek and Reilly promised. You get that off the very first track, First Of All.

It's not about you. It's all about them. And Velaso. 

For a decade, it always has been about them and letting people have a good time. By calling themselves an art project right out of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn where they met, they've always managed to give themselves more freedom than most bands. It works.

People even love to interview them because only a few facts never change. Their inventive visual performances are alway fresh too. They played one gig for 84 hours straight. They did another with synchronized swimmers. And puppets, animation, graffiti, and mutant ninja turtles always make great standbys. Here's a taste from an old vid while everybody waits for something new to share around.

Off the new album, open with First Of All and then cut to Porcupine. It's a heartfelt lament drawn out of a bittersweet memory of someone left behind and missing out. Ding Dong Alujah is a crashing reminder to feel good and have a good time no matter what. And Bloody Mess hangs onto something unhealthy. 

All 14 songs zip skip across Beets, Limes and Rice in the usual frantic pace that put Japanther on the radar. Other must-have tracks include Lil Taste, Yellow Lighter, Come Back Home and the even-handed instrumental I'm Not Really Sorry. That's not to say that splitting the album is in order.

More cleverness in their crispness and fuzzy buzz comes out with every pass. And even if Beets, Limes and Rice delivers more consistency than possibly any other album, Japanther still slips in some unexpected hooks and noises inside this semi-somber, might-as-well-have-a-good-time beast. 

Beets, Limes and Rice By Japanther Is Delicious At 8.0 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Japanther retains all its goodness with unexpected twists and combinations that you know you won't like and then keep going back for seconds. Nobody else could hope to produce such unconscious absurdity and deeply meaningful music. Listen closely, and you might even find this is their most emotional album to date. The sound is bigger, for sure. 

Beets, Limes and Rice by Japanther is on iTunes. Beets, Limes and Rice is also on Amazon. For more on Japanther, dig up the DVD that features a psychedelic trip through the puppet universe of Dan Graham: Japanther: Don't Trust Anyone Over 30. All of it is supposed to be based on a late 1960s teen flick. It's cool, like everything these guys do.
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