Melt-Banana’s music is extremely difficult to classify for a few pretty good reason. Firstly, they do not really sound like anyone else, and no other band really sounds like them. Secondly, they have continuously reinvented themselves throughout their career, showing their fans different aspects of their sound while always sounding unmistakably like themselves.Thirdly, and perhaps most critically, once the listener has been catapulted into the feral, manic, lunacy that is any given Melt-Banana track, attempts at reflexive, lucid genre categorization starts feeling unimportant pretty darn quickly. Usually by the end of the average minute and a half Melt-Banana track, the listener has destroyed most of their personal belongings in a fit of wild-eyed ecstasy. If the person in question was in a public place when first exposed to the mighty Melt-Banana, they have probably been arrested or otherwise institutionalized within four or five minutes of hitting the “play” button, depending on the response time of their local law enforcement or medical professionals. Symptoms of Melt-Banana exposure often include wild yelping, foaming at the mouth, super-human strength, and a deep sense of joy and well being. The Japanese duo’s new record Fetch marries the lupine, atypical grindcore of their mid-‘90s output, with the lunatic pop sensibility of 2007’s Bambi’s Dilemma with results powerful enough to destroy entire continents.
Yasuko Onuki and Ichirou Agata have always been the core members of Melt-Banana, although they have been joined at various times by a number of temporary members and famous collaborators. On Fetch Onuki and Agata are pretty much left to their own devices, with a drum machine given the formidable task of providing the percussion for this breathtaking, hypertensive track list. As they indicated on 2003’s magnificent Cell-Scape, Melt-Banana are not tethered to half-assed, restrictive notions of humanity or musicality; if a machine can effectively turn the listener’s brains to jam like a nasty case of rabies, than that’s good enough for them. The sometimes synthetic quality of these beats frequently adds to the intensity and surrealistic nature of Fetch, and I can attest that the drum machine comes off just as well in the live setting. In many ways Fetch is the amalgamation of everything that Melt-Banana have done throughout their career, drawing on all of their experiments, splicing them together, coming up with a sound that is unmistakably their own, and unmistakably wonderful.
One of the primary misunderstandings that people who do not listen to extreme metal or punk frequently articulate is that extreme music must be angry and negative. When I am listening to Emperor shrieking from their icy northern fantasy world, or the overwhelming roar of Napalm Death, I hear ecstasy and exaltation, not anger and negativity. One of the coolest things about Melt-Banana is that the mirth, whimsy, and elation in their music is almost unmistakable, even to people who cannot wrap their minds around extreme music. Fetch is relentlessly playful, without ever seeming like just a joke, or like some tired exercise in hipster irony. These tracks are often breathlessly intense, while never sacrificing the fun. There is more imagination and personality on Fetch than on any other record you are likely to come across. Fetch is ten times more intense than any death slam or tough guy hardcore record that came out this year, and about ten billion times more fun to listen to.
Melt-Banana continue to prove to us that no one on this earth makes extreme music with more style, ingenuity, and inventiveness than they do. This is music for uncontrollable giggle fits, playing fetch with over excited border collies, and sledding down steep, snowy hills with your kids; this is music that makes you feel intensely alive.
// Notes from the Road
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