Talk about a blast from the past. Melt Banana, the grindcore duo hailing from Japan, has returned to the U.S. and I had the privilege of banging my head around to their noisy, nonsense at the sold out St. Vitus show in Brooklyn. I was still in diapers when the band got together back in 1993, but their yearly rush through the states and truly unique performances have kept them relevant to forever fans while still discoverable to a younger crowd.
After two openers that were so painful I can’t even recall their names and don’t want to know badly enough to search for them, the one time trio turned duo burst on stage. Yasuko’s scream rap paired with Ichirou Agata’s shredded and warped guitar formed a hurricane of cyberpunk grind you never find in American noise rock. Running around the stage Yasuko waved a light board in front of pulsing strobes, which coupled with static, laser grind setting a scene from a Japanese horror-rock nightmare any 90s punk kid would have died to be part of.
Melt Banana hasn’t released an album since their 2013 Fetch. However, Fetch echoed the sonic, futuristic, and less accessible sound of their freshman album, Speak Squeak Creak, reminding it’s fans that music isn’t always fluid. In fact, it’s sometimes more interesting when it’s outright chaos. And that’s what Melt Banana brought to St. Vitus: total anarchy. Agata’s guitar technique is specifically unorthodox. At times he overlapped multiple riffs while simulating sirens, lasers, and shrills through his pedals. He is distorted and otherworldly, while Yasuko’s raps are repetitious and, in a way, simple. The two crashed into each other to create what is merely a semblance of order that ultimately breaks down into the messy grindcore for which we know and love them. Yasuko encored with her infamous “Dog Song,” in which she barks the would-be chorus and extended it longer than it’s usual minute and a half time stamp, resulting in a moshed and sweaty finale. The crowd went truly insane.
Seeing Melt Banana live is a trip back into the mid-nineties that somehow thrusts you forward into the distant future; a feat only a Japanese outfit might be able to perfect. Unlike any American or English noise-rock band, Yasuko and Ichirou remain at the foundation of noise rock after twenty years. Melt Banana endures by way of overpowering their turbulent sound with pop energy, and allowing nostalgia to prevail over pursuance of fame in something new. In their chaos there is a constant. Melt Banana is hitting the southern and western states throughout the summer, and I highly recommend taking that futuristic walk down memory lane.