Once in a while, an album will come along and do something that surprises me. It’ll do something that pushes the boundaries of its genre or maybe just do something uniquely interesting. Japanese noise rock band Melt-Banana’s latest album, Fetch, does both of these and more. The unique combination of noise rock, hardcore punk, and electronic music is fantastically original and extremely entertaining. The loud, abrasive guitars, sharp staccato vocals, and explosive drum tracks all combine to create an amazing, noisy listening experience.
The album starts out some almost glitch sounding electronic sounds that lead into a huge distorted guitar sound coupled with a bass line that soon explodes into a full on rhythmic freak-out. The drums create some very loud and complicated rhythms on this first track, “Candy Gun”, and the power of the percussion is even more impressive when you realize that it’s all programmed. There isn’t a live drummer on this album, but instead there is an intricately created drum track that I didn’t even notice on the first listen; I was too caught up in how loud and intense of a sound they were creating. The preciseness that Melt-Banana was able to achieve with their drum track is amazing, and it combines seamlessly with the live guitars and vocals.
Speaking of vocals, you’d be hard pressed to find a similar vocal style, at least in any American bands. Yasuko “Yako” Onuki has a very high staccato singing style that some may find unpleasant at first, but it really completes the band’s sound. Although the lyrics are more or less unintelligible, they are in fact in English. The lyrics sometimes have a mysterious depth to them, but are often less important than the ferocity of the instrumentals; and then there’s the guitar. The huge sound that guitarist Ichirou Agata creates is one that makes you just want to rock out. Some of the most impressive guitar work takes place on the song “Infection Defective”. The guitar hook in this song is made up of what sounds like 10 guitars all playing different extremely fast tremolo licks at once, but in a way that is incredibly precise. The instrumental prowess on this album is a force to be reckoned with, and it’s different from anything I’ve heard before.
Fetch is an album that grabs the listener’s attention and not only holds it, but beats it repetitively throughout its short but violent run-time. One of the few issues I have with this album is the closing track. After an intense thrill ride through the rest of the album, Melt-Banana chooses to close with a much more laid back, almost dance-like track. It’s not a bad song, but it could have been placed better. That being said, the excitement and ferocity of the rest of the record makes it one of the most intense musical experiences I’ve heard this year, and it is definitely going towards the top of my best of the year list.
Favorites: Schemes of the Tails (Track 8), My Missing Link (Track 6), Infection Defective (Track 5)
RIYL: Japandroids, Ty Segall, The Dillinger Escape Plan
Review by Alex McCullough