Published Oct 26, 2011In 2012, Tokyo noiseniks Melt-Banana will celebrate their 20th anniversary -- although there was little evidence of this on their latest tour, besides the unrivalled technical proficiency, of course.
Yasuko Onuki is still every bit the flame-haired firecracker she was back on their first seven-inch, 1994's Hedgehog. And the tandem of guitarist Ichirou Agata, whose signature surgical mask covers up his chronic nosebleeds, and bassist Rika Hamamoto, whose tiny stature makes her invisible to anyone not in front, shred effortlessly like their lives depend on it.
Their previous tour under the name Melt-Banana Lite, featured the band swapping their guitars for keyboards and samplers, but Agata and Hamamoto were in prime shape to shred for more than an hour. Without a new album to tout, the four-piece hit the stage and launched into "A Dreamer Who Is Too Weak To Face Up To" from 2003's Cell-Scape. That album and 2007's Bambi's Dilemma, their last studio album, filled most of the set, which jumped from one track to the next with only a few English words from Onuki here and there.
The crowd -- a healthy mix of metallers, hardcore vets and kids, and everything else -- took the band's breakneck mix of thrash, grind, punk, electronic noise and pop as an open invitation to mosh, crowd surf and just throw their bodies around the already stifling room. Amongst album tracks like "Lost Parts Stinging Me So Cold" and "Plasma Gate Quest," Melt-Banana weren't exactly predictable. A nice eight-song suite of shorter, spazzier material, like Speak Squeak Creak's "Screw, Loose" gave the speed freaks their fix.
But most curious of all was the addition of a few covers, namely Toots and the Maytals' "Monkey Man" and Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," which as fanatical as they were, made them appear human for at least a few minutes of the night.