Music

Tokyo Sex Destruction: Black Noise is the New Sound

Patrick Schabe

Tokyo Sex Destruction

Black Noise is the New Sound

Label: BCore
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: 2004-09-20
Amazon
iTunes

Tokyo Sex Destruction is completely sincere. Despite wielding a near perfect band name for a group of arch ironists -- really, how much further can you deconstruct rock and roll beyond exoticism, sex, and violence -- Tokyo Sex Destruction is not here to win you over with a sly smile or bemused aloofness. Tokyo Sex Destruction means business. Tokyo Sex Destruction is serious about its love for '60s radical politics, and this time out it's proving it's serious about its love for '60s music.

With its 2003 debut, Le Red Soul Communique, Tokyo Sex Destruction presented itself as a group of retro-minded musicians trying to reinvigorate the past in words and in sound. Rather than simply reference the revolutionary spirit of a bygone age, the group went for the total package. All the band members adopted the last name Sinclair in honor of musician and activist John Sinclair, founder of the White Panther Party, and, in an honest attempt to recreate the scene, Tokyo Sex Destruction did everything in its power to emulate Sinclair's prodigies, the MC5. Members wore matching black uniforms and the band filled their songs with political rhetoric and anti-capitalist screeds. Oh yeah, and they did all this from their home country of Spain.

That a Spanish band might look back 35 years to a US musical-political environment as fans isn't all that strange, but within the context of Spain itself it makes even more sense. That country's long, drawn out version of the cultural revolution that swept the States and Europe in the '60s and '70s has been both protracted and enduring -- developing slowly but maintaining a vibrance that other cultures quickly lost. In this environment, youth culture is bound to latch onto hero radicals, and Sinclair's early belief in fusing politics with music in the form of aggressive rock and roll has been an enduring theme in cultures the world over.

Unfortunately, Le Red Soul Communique didn't play so well on the other side of the Atlantic. While the band's commitment to the sounds of the MC5 and the Sonics won over some listeners (especially in light of the recent re-discovery of garage rock), the political sentiments were a tougher sell. For any number of cultural reasons, the taste for political agitprop is narrow (or rather, segmented by a large array of causes).

With Black Noise is the New Sound, Tokyo Sex Destruction concentrates more on the music than the rhetoric, and to worthy results. The band shows a lot more maturity on this album, having moved beyond their MC5/Sonics dichotomy to include some of the other pop elements of the '60s, including the psychedelic scene. The band's initial love for soul elements seems to have pulled them towards a sense of Hendrix's more pop moments, and there's an undercurrent of the Animals and the Kinks that gives things a more melodic flavor. Still, it's the driving rhythms and power chords of songs like "Two Years Ago" and "The New Sound (in the Black Noise Religion)", and really, if you were to trace the MC5's career development, you'd see Tokyo Sex Destruction following the same trajectory. The Detroit legends' proto-punk sound is still the blueprint, and even when TSD slips more angular effects in, as on "Rainy-Day Light", you're never too far away from waiting for the transition to "Kick Out the Jams". Essentially, if you think the Von Bondies are more "authentically garage" than the Strokes, you'll a lot to admire in Tokyo Sex Destruction.

On the other hand, being so sincere about the music and putting the message on the backburner was one of the contributing factors to the MC5 imploding, and it's hard to say whether Tokyo Sex Destruction is heading in the same route. While "Modern Education" brings back some of Le Red Soul Communique's fervor, it's pretty lonely among all these love songs. What's more, once you strip the proselytizing away, you're forced to really notice the weaknesses in RJ Sinclair's vocals. His soupy, low-end drawl really does fit the retro-rock sound, but its sludge only reinforces how uneasily some of the English fits in his mouth. Sure, when you've got an accomplished set of musicians kicking out guitar licks and pounding drums, vocals come second, and musically Tokyo Sex Destruction really sells it. But eventually you notice the singing, no matter how well guitarist RR Sinclair can imitate Fred "Sonic" Smith.

Ultimately, Black Noise is the New Sound winds up being a great garage rock record because Tokyo Sex Destruction really means it. This is the real deal, and the group's sincerity is palpable; there's little irony or hipsterism to be found here. But, well, we've had a lot of garage rock as of late, and without the added element of the adopted political stance, it's hard to say that Tokyo Sex Destruction distinguishes itself enough for this disc to fare any better than the last.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.

Music

3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".

Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor
Film

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.

Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.