I admit it: I have not been looking forward to this post. For the life of me, I cannot understand Melt Banana’s appeal. They were a group of university students who formed the band in 1992, and have released a myriad of short songs, normally in compilations with other Japanese bands. Their website carries pictures and videos. They sing in English, but select the words based on their intelligibility to Japanese audiences. They proudly proclaim, ‘we do everything ourselves. We don’t work with engineers or producers. We use our own equipment.’ [Karaterice interview]
Nonetheless, I can honestly say that, if I didn’t have to cover these songs as part of my FF mission, I would never have even listened to them. But, I hear you cry, it’s not a million miles from grindcore, and you gave that a fairly positive write-up!
Fair enough. Then it has to be Yasuko O’s voice, one description of which forms the title of this blog. She barks and yelps, squeaks and shrieks to very little effect. Shield For Your Eyes, A Beast In The Well On Your Hand (FF 2003 #12), from Cell Scape, for example, starts as a fairly conventional rock track, before Ichirou Agata’s guitar stabs shards of glass into your ears, running the entire gamut of the fretboard in its urgency, and a semblance of a tune is there. Then the drumming goes frantic and she’s in, the Yoko Ono of the first decade of the 21st Century. This is one of the longest songs they have ever recorded.
Stimulus For A Revolting Virus (FF 1998 #37) and Plot In A Pot (FF 1999 #38) are typical of their early work: low-fi, extremely short noise pop, one of which treats us to studio ambience and guitar feedback at the end.
I liked grindcore (in small doses) because it had a sense of humour and brought a welcome note of discord to the pop-drenched 80s. It was not an end in itself, more a pointer to more exploration. Unfortunately, it seems to have led to Melt Banana, and that will probably baffle me for ever.
Postscript, long after the fact: they appeared at Club Funky Funky in Seoul on 28 August 2009. I missed them. How will I ever live with myself? Well, Yasuko, to make amends, here are the two Peel Sessions they did, both recorded live (BECAUSE APPARENTLY THAT”S THE ONLY WAY TO APPRECIATE THEM) at Maida Vale (4 and 3 respectively). The first has an audience of four (not because they drove the others away, surely?), but there are a larger amount of press ganged invited groupies in the next. The titles in the first were not announced by Peel, but even with my meagre appreciation of their ‘genius’, I know that the last is ‘Plot In A Pot’.
Melt Banana, Peel Session 1999-09-21
Melt Banana, Peel Session 2001-10-03
WEDGE/Seesaw Semiology/RRaGG/FDC For Short/Free The Bee/Flash Cube Or Eyeball/Ethar Twisted/First Contact To Planet Q/Warp-Back Spin/Third Attack/Flip And Hit/Stimulus For Revolting Virus/Tintarella Di Luna/Lost In Mirror/Spathic!/Plot In A Pot