Monday, April 21, 2014

Japanther Tries Instant Money Magic

If there is one quote that continues to resonate around Japanther, it was the one uttered by Ian Vanek three years ago. He laid it out well enough at the time. He and Matt Reilly were tired of writing for sad sacks and set out to have a good time.

Since then, the busy Brooklyn punk duo have produced albums with always more than a dozen briskly short songs that pelt audiences with positive vibes. It's all in good fun, usually delivered through a mid-tempo fuzz lens. Most punk lovers can't get enough, even if it increasingly leans toward pop.

Instant Money Magic keeps it on the quick.

Most tracks clock in at under two minutes. None of them come even close to the three-minute mark. But, unfortunately so, quick doesn't necessarily mean the same as fast-paced this time around. There may be some truth to the notion that Japanther is playing against the ropes when they step in a studio.

What seems to be missing at times is that old Japanther magic that earned them a viable cult following when they play live. People become excited because the band makes them feel that way. Instant Money Magic does it at times too, but mostly in rapid fire bursts that are slick but never stick.

Even so, some of the supposition that they turned a corner on Beets, Limes and Rice remains premature. Wiggman might be too slow and sober for its own good, but Dreams Come True (with an assist by the Puppies) turns out one of the band's best atmospheric punk fairytales.

The Puppies aren't the only ones to lend something to the album. The duo Total Warr picked up a 'featuring' credit on Guns, Guns, Guns (much like they did for Yellow Lighter). And in some quarters, they've also given up some thanks to Little Dave Merriman, Marc, and the Grumpies.

Where these of contributions begin and others end is hard to say. What isn't hard to say is that Japanther remains true to their art, especially when it means sharing some of the spotlight. It's not uncommon for them to share or showcase art and music from friends and fans to make things stick.

The song in the video, Do It (Don't Try), isn't nearly as conflicted as it sounds. It's all about doing things without thinking about it. The wisdom, subconsciously or not, was also once uttered by a short, balding green guy with a light saber. Japanther merely makes it more accessible.

Some of the other standout tracks include the sing-song Take Me In And Let Me Go, sharp and smart dedication of Vicious, and the surprisingly somber Song Of The Sun. All We Got Is Each Other captures some of the magic that is Japanther too. They can make the best of it even when they go without.

All told, the entire album plays out in less than 25 minutes. If there is any trick to it, it's that Japather never gives any one number enough time to drag. The only real downside is that not enough tracks really rise to the level of Do It (Don't Try), arguably the best track on the entire album.

What that means is simply this: Instant Money Magic isn't the best introduction to this band. Fans, on the other hand, will find it works well in entirety or alongside the band's incredibly massive archive of pop noise. Play it all at least once and play it loud.

Instant Money Magic By Japanther Rings 5.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

While there aren't as many unexpected twists as previous outings, Instant Money Magic is still a fun 14-track album that showcases what the duo does best. They make music that sometimes means something at the least likely movement.

You can find Instant Money Magic on Amazon. You can also find Instant Money Magic on iTunes. For shows, check Facebook. Japanther is almost always playing somewhere. They have a good time too.
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