Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Melt Banana / Exit International / The Big Naturals. Thursday 14th October @ Thekla, Bristol

first caught Osaka tech-punks Melt Banana back in 2001 (my uncomfortably breathless Choke review is here). Nine years later, I was forced to watch them again, this time on behalf of Venue, and was pleased to discover they're still one of the most thrilling and innovative bands in the world...

Supporting a band as inventive as Melt Banana is a mixed blessing, but Big Naturals make a good fist of it. Jesse drums like Dave Grohl after a weekend drinking Bitches Brew, while bassist Gareth's fancy fretwork is driven home by a trio of Marshall stacks. They occasionally slumber into hard-rock clichés, but at their best they're pulverising and hypnotic. Note to the curious: don't even think about typing 'Big Naturals' into your browser at work - it could well result in disciplinary action.

Exit International are surprisingly upbeat for a band named after a pressure group for assisted suicide. Their industrial strength party rock is like a night out with the lads – good fun at the time, but somewhat hard to recall in the morning.

Osaka's Melt Banana have scanned the punk rulebook, warped it beyond recognition, and deleted the original from their collective hard drive. Rika [left]'s upfront basslines are informed by acid house, while the punishing double-time beats - courtesy of whoever's drumming for them this week - owe more to gabba than Black Flag. Meanwhile, Agata's Hendrix-meets-Public Enemy lead playing marks him out as the 21st Century guitar hero to beat, and the perfect foil to Yasuko's surreal, channel-hopping lyrics.

Melt Banana's debt to non-rock sounds is made explicit in tonight's opening section, as Yasuko and Agata summon a firestorm of electronic noise. After three songs, some of the audience begin to show symptoms of confusion, but the main set is just what the doctor ordered. 'Shield For Your Eyes' is Chemical Brothers re-imagined by Thor, while the fractured punk-pop of 'Call of the Vague', and shredded Pixies of 'Cracked Plaster Cast' inspire havoc in the moshpit.

The encore's “ten short songs” showcase Agata's shock and awe imitations of lasers, sirens and controlled explosions, before the blistering ‘Blank Page of The Blind’ - with its thrashing breakdowns and samples of barking dogs - propels us reluctantly back to Earth.

Melt Banana are ecstatically, brutally, impossibly entertaining. It's such a shame there's only one of them.

This review originally appeared in Venue magazine. Thanks to Tim Alban for the pic.

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