Japan needs more superheroes. Not to increase safety, but to perform other public services. One caped crusader could ride the trains late at night and save people from being slept and drooled on by stinky, drunken salarymen. Another could rescue Japanese elementary, junior high, and high school students from the perils of cram school hell. A third superhero could defend the masses against the endless stream of ear-bleedingly bad J-Pop being pumped out of speakers around Tokyo.
Realizing that no one person could perform this job alone, Tokyo’s Mono volunteered for the latter task as a group. Those doubting the band’s qualifications need only to more closely examine their instrumental post-rock credentials.
The four members may look harmless but, hell, every superhero needs an alter ego. As mild mannered as they appear, when the quartet plays their soaring crescendos have the strength of a hundred men. If they wanted to, they could use the title from their sophomore effort One More Step and You Die as their catch phrase. Some may think it’s not nice to deride the country’s pop idols and their fans. The music may not be as catchy as “Up, up, and away,” but this band does show that they ain’t fuckin’ around.
Mono began their set at Club Quattro under slivers of light, beams that barely illuminated the band. Bassist Tamaki stood in the centre of the stage, with guitarists Taka Goto and Yoda seated on either side. Heads bowed, Goto and Yoda played their instruments quietly. As the guitar noise that filled the venue began to escalate, Tamaki and drummer Yasunori Takada entered the mix. On the cusp of exploding into something gargantuan, the new song quickly levelled off and the band slowed things down.
With a near-capacity crowd of young Japanese and foreign hipsters eagerly waiting, the track became a magnificent wall of sound. With red lights shining behind them, Goto and Yoda attempted to rupture ear drums with each awesome, heavily distorted guitar note. All four instruments blended to create a continuous sonic blast that destroyed all remnants of the J-Pop that attendees were exposed to as they walked through Shibuya.
Pausing briefly to allow the audience to collectively pick their jaws up off the floor, the group launched into “The Kidnapper Bell”. With their faces hidden by a purposeful lack of lighting and a whole lot of flailing hair, Mono took on the role of masked musical avengers. Lulling the crowd into a state of bliss with an intoxicating, hypnotic groove then quickly bringing everyone crashing back into reality as their spacey jam session reached its deafening climax.
With the exception of one overzealous gaijin who air-drummed, danced, and screamed his head off throughout the entire performance the audience remained deathly quiet throughout the 70 minute show. Between songs, the club was completely silent as everyone focused their attention on what was unfolding on stage. The lack of any kind of noise was a little creepy and I clutched my pen tightly out of fear that it might fall and the clang would echo throughout the room.
The highlight of the mesmerizing set was the lead track from last year’s brilliant Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined, “16.12”. Playing with one hand, Goto assumed the role of conductor as he swung his free hand to the beat of Takada’s drumming. Leading his orchestra through waves of mind-blowing feedback and blistering percussion, he soon abandoned the position to concentrate on the track’s overwhelmingly passionate delivery. Rising at a feverish pace the dense, dynamic melodies smashed into one another, creating a beautiful, deafening collage of sound before fading to a peaceful hum. Brimming with optimism, it was amazing to witness a band convey such emotion without opening their mouths. It was impossible not to be moved by the band’s silent but incredibly powerful message of hope. It also filled hearts with a different kind of hope, that awe-inspiring sounds like this will become the norm, helping Mono crush the evil empire of J-pop.
Like most superheroes Mono does what it does to help people, not for the glory. After wrapping up with an excellent version of “Halcyon (Beautiful Days)”, the members bowed briefly before retreating offstage to re-assume their roles as average citizens. With their work far from finished, citizens of Japan can sleep soundly, knowing that the band will continue in their tireless crusade to better the nation’s airwaves.