Twenty years ago I arrived at the conviction that the best punk band in the world came from Japan: Teengenerate broke up in 1996, just three years after their first seven-inch, but the one proper LP they released during that span, 1994's Get Action!, still hasn't been topped. I'm not referring to "punk" in the "bondage pants and great big pointy haircuts" sense, but rather to an in-the-red descendent of undomesticated 60s garage rock, rooted in the blues and fueled by the reckless energy of juvenile delinquents in hopped-up cars.
The members of Teengenerate remain on good terms and have reunited sporadically—including in 2013, when Crypt Records announced plans to release an LP and an EP drawn from scrapped Get Action! sessions. Bassist Sammy and guitarists Fink and Fifi played several shows to promote those records, Get More Action! and Five Covers. (The band's drummer, Shoe, has trouble getting away from his day job.)
When Teengenerate split in '96, Fink and Sammy founded the Raydios and Fifi founded the Tweezers. Within a few years all three of them ended up in the power-pop band Firestarter, which Fink quit in the late aughts to resuscitate the Raydios (Sammy didn't follow). In part because Fink wrote 14 of the 19 songs on Get Action! and cowrote a 15th, out of all these groups the Raydios probably come closest to Teengenerate's sound—and they've got a new single due next month.
"Brand New Kid" b/w "My Way Back Home" comes out May 19, released by Slovenly Recordings out of Reno, Nevada, in partnership with Tokyo label Mangrove. Fink gets closer to singing in the Raydios than he did in Teengenerate, where his vocals were more of a ragged shout—it's clearer what notes he's going for, anyway. And though it's fashionable these days for garage bands to hide diffidently behind curtains of shitty reverb, at least in the studio—they tend to sound like they're receding down a long hallway instead of jumping up and down on your face—the gratifyingly trashy recording of the new Raydios seven-inch foregrounds every instrument at once.
The A side, which you can stream below, emphasizes melody over pell-mell drive, though it's got plenty of both. I miss the bubbly, mobile bass lines that buoyed Teengenerate's feral roar, but otherwise, no complaints. The B side is a touch slower but hardly relaxed, with a few new-wavey single-string licks and lots of syncopated punches.
Surprisingly little of Get Action! is up on YouTube, but here's a taste: "Let's Get Hurt," one of Fink's numbers.
Here's the first eight minutes of a Teengenerate set at the Fireside Bowl in November 1995. You can find the other two parts in the related videos.
I saw the band on this tour at the late, lamented John Henry's in Eugene, Oregon (which also hosted memorable shows by Barkmarket and God Is My Co-Pilot). Teengenerate were polite and deferential during sound check, almost to the point of self-effacement. But after their vigorously exothermic set, when I wriggled through the sweaty crowd to the lip of the stage and reached up to shake Fink's hand, he slapped mine away. "Fuck you!" he said. And then he laughed—at both of us, I think.