The two-piece band Japanther have made the noisiest pop record of the year, using distortion not merely as effect, but as a way to challenge your expectations.
It seems that when we talk about music, we've boiled the term "distortion" down to something awfully simple. It is nothing more than the fuzzing of a guitar, and aside from the occasional use of it on vocals or other instruments, that is about all it means. Luckily, we have bands like Japanther to remind us what distortion really is. With Skuffed Up My Huffy, Japanther has distorted the entire album to sound like something its not. Here, the two-piece have songs that are all lo-fi static and garbled samples over heavy drums and guitar. The songs come fast and brief, and Japanther convince you they are one kick-ass rock band. But what they subvert here is the pop sensibility that goes into all of this. Skuffed Up My Huffy reveals itself eventually to be the loudest pop record of the year. Past all the white noise and squalls are anthemic songs full of subtle melody. Not only that, but there are well-incorporated, genre-apeing surprises to be found all over the record: the raggae guitar buried in "See Evil", the Beach Boys harmonizing in "Summer of 79", the glacial pace of closer "The Boss". These guys fit an awful lot of variety into twenty-six minutes; but it is not a variety easily noticed. This is a record that rewards active and repeated listening. Japanther is a band using distortion in its most elemental state, and to battle against them, to knock down the wall of static and let the bricks settle around you, is to find one of the surprisingly great pop bursts of the year.