Melt-Banana, Torche, Hot Nerds | Empty Bottle | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Melt-Banana, Torche, Hot Nerds Early Warnings (Music) Sold Out (Music) Soundboard Recommended Image

When: Tue., July 14, 9 p.m. 2015

Melt-Banana sound like nobody else, with an aesthetic so idiosyncratic that in 23 years they haven’t inspired a single persuasive imitator. This Tokyo band’s spasms of peppy, kaleidoscopic grindcore and noise-rock produce a distinctive emotional state—somewhere between agitation and elation, like how it must feel to be an Alka-Seltzer tablet in a glass of water. Melt-Banana’s music gets much of its furious effervescence from its busy upper register: front woman Yasuko Onuki chirps and barks in clipped bursts rarely longer than a syllable or three, her yippy, punchy delivery combining kawaii cutesiness and punk muscle, while guitarist Ichirou Agata fills the air with sparkles, streaks, zings, and bleeps, alternately sounding like a dime-store ray gun, turntable scratching, hee-hawing sirens, or a sputtering electric arc. Even Yasuko’s use of language is inimitable: writing for the Reader in 1998, Douglas Wolk called her “a sort of monosyllabic, dadaist Gerard Manley Hopkins,” and she loves to chew on the unfamiliar shapes of English words (for instance in the album titles Speak Squeak Creak and Teeny Shiny). On Melt-Banana’s most recent studio full-length, 2013’s Fetch, they’re a duo of Yasuko and Agata, and though I miss the gutty growl of founding bassist Rika Hamamoto, the band’s reliance on machine accompaniment lets them weave a dazzling lattice of prerecorded electronics and live guitar—onstage Yasuko marshals backing tracks, drum programs, and lighting effects with an illuminated, motion-sensitive MIDI controller. Melt-Banana are touring to support this spring’s Return of 13 Hedgehogs: MxBx Singles 2000-2009 (A-Zap), the follow-up to a 2005 compilation that covered 1994 through ’99 (the band debuted with a seven-inch called Hedgehog, and that’s the name they’ve given their nonalbum releases). The 29-song collection includes several brilliant covers—Mina’s 1959 single “Tintarella di Luna,” Devo’s “Uncontrollable Urge,” a maniacally Auto-Tuned version of “Love Song” by the Damned—whose familiar hooks and structures demonstrate by contrast just how far off the rails Melt-Banana usually runs. —Philip Montoro

Price: sold out

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