Punk rock (and its various offshoots) is best when used by the marginalised, whether it be Stiff Little Fingers or Bad Brains, as it gives voice to the previously dispossessed and silenced. Recently it’s been grasped by Japanese women (Yellow Machinegun, Otoboke Beaver) to circumnavigate the trappings of a patriarchal society. For over three decades vocalist Yako, one half of Melt-Banana, has been using music as a weapon and in the process has pioneered the whole noise rock revolution.
Live Report: Melt-Banana + Giant Head
Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, 08/04/2022
First up is support act Giant Head, an electronic/rap musician from Nottingham. Armed only with an Intellijel music sequencer he’s like a mad scientist mixing crazy beats over which he raps lyrics that focus on the minutiae of modern life. An understated performance places the emphasis on his wordplay wizardry and his whole aesthetic reminds me of The Fall’s Mark E. Smith; he’s slightly bemused and mystified yet his words contain sharp, cutting-edge observations that cut to the bone. Set to a retro sci-fi beat latest single Fails goes down particularly well and I’m sure tonight’s nifty half-hour set has won Giant Head many new admirers.
It’s been a long two-and-a-half years since Tokyo’s Melt-Banana last toured the United Kingdom so the tension that builds as we await the band hangs heavy. During the global pandemic, this pair of sonic terrorists only managed to play two gigs but there’s no evidence of stage rust as they arrive encased in a ball of glorious feedback that soon evolves into Shield For Your Eyes, A Beast On The Well Of Your Hand. Played at ear-splitting volume and at a heart-attack-inducing pace Melt-Banana are a blur of nervous energy as Agata, holding his guitar like a gunslinger and foot heavy on the distortion pedal, unleashes a barrage of unearthly sounds. A high-octane version of The Hive follows and those hoping for respite are seriously deluded as this Tokyo twosome clobbers the crowd with some of the heaviest beats known to mankind.
Part gig, part performance art, a Melt-Banana show is definitely not for the faint-hearted and the epileptic light show only adds to the feeling of extremity that’s flying around the venue. That feeling is only enhanced by a suite of short songs: T For Tone, Lock The Head, Scrubber, We Love Choco-Pa!, First Defy and Screw Loose are all fired off in quick succession and the rapidity with which they are played only serves to increase their punishing nature. Each song hits like a well-aimed punch and leaves the assembled throng slightly dazed and confused (but in the best way, of course). Throughout the show vocalist Yako waves an electronic device which triggers scything sonics that act as a foil to Agata’s guitar lines. Yako has such a unique and versatile voice that when you hear it, it’s immediately recognisable whether barking like a Corgi during Dog Song or screaming ecstatically over Agata’s musical madness on Cat Brain Land.
Despite their experimentation Melt-Banana never lose sight of song structure; no matter how seemingly chaotic or uncontrollable things get there’s an almost pop sensibility glueing it all together which renders tracks such as Blank Page Of The Blind instantly memorable. An encore is demanded, and it’s granted in the shape of Infection Defective before the band depart in a blaze of distortion (which is exactly as they arrived). At just 70 minutes tonight’s set could be construed as a tad short but with music this brutal it’s just about the right length. But truth be told, Melt-Banana have packed more into those 70 minutes than most bands squeeze into an entire career.