concert reviews

Melt-Banana: Hard-Core With Little Appeal
Melt-Banana at the Black Cat, Washington, DC, Thursday 14 April 2005

Melt-Banana's show at the Black Cat on Thursday night felt as if it had been plucked out of a dank basement circa 1997. The Japanese hard-core quartet blazed through an hour-long set of grinding guitar riffs, thumping drums and pounding bass lines, topped off with the shrill vocals of Yasuko O.

O.'s limited range kept most of her singing centered on the same three notes as she repeated syllables over and over with a percussive tone that sounded like a hyperventilating stutter. The group's take on Devo's "Uncontrollable Urge," while a decent fit for O.'s vocal style, steamrollered the rhythmic nuances of the original with an intensity that was -- appropriate for the song -- uncontrollable.

Toward the end of the concert, O. announced that the group would play 10 short songs. She wasn't kidding about the "short" part -- the longest clocked in around 20 seconds. Even though the group's pauses between those songs were brief -- just long enough for O. to catch her breath and announce the next title -- the start/stop feel of those abrupt bursts of noise was a momentum-depleting contrast with the rest of the night's unwavering energy.

The half-capacity crowd stood mostly still through the show, except for a loud cheering section right in front of the stage. Much of the audience rushed for the doors the instant the group's set was complete, with little interest in the brief encore that followed.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 16 April 2005
.: Selected discography: Cell-Scape (Melt-Banana, 2003); Speak Squeak (Melt-Banana, 2001); Teeny Shiny (Melt-Banana, 2000); MXBX 1998: 13,000 Miles at Light Velocity (Melt-Banana, 1999); Charlie (Melt-Banana, 1998); Scratch or Stitch (Melt-Banana, 1996); Cactuses Come in Flocks (Melt-Banana, 1994).