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The Big Apple's choicest art-punk duo Japanther have summoned themselves a cult over the past decade or so, mostly through frenetic and eclectic live performances (in the back of a truck, for example). They bring a beguiling theatricality – sometimes featuring synchronised swimmers and BMX riders – to their shows that's unparalleled in rock/punk nowadays, and it's earned the twosome a great deal of applause. That, and they create raw, devil-may-care noise. It's gleefully imperfect, scattered with lo-fi production and ambient fuzz that'll keep you toasty like a 15tog duvet. And it's stayed that way pretty much unchanged since 2001.
Ian Vanek and Matt Reilly can sure churn out a sonic buffet of aural finger-food on new record Instant Money Magic: the longest track weighs in at 2:09, while the shortest is a mere 43 seconds. They don't dawdle in any one track for too long, never letting themselves slip into digressions or tangents, which is a double-edged sword. It means that the record flies by in rapid-fire bursts of energetic, ricocheting punk, ready to be engulfed whole; it also means that they don't let themselves breathe in the music, and they hurtle past loose threads begging to be tugged and unravelled. But then again, venturing into avante-garde territories has never been Japanther's m.o., at least in their music anyway, and this slavish dedication to fun and simplicity has won them scores of devoted fans over the years. Basically, in short, it doesn't lend itself to deep, repeated, concentrated listens, but it'll be great at parties.
'Green Juice' is stuffed full of melodic pop scuzz and mid-'90s pop-punk – it could be featured on a Tony Hawks Pro Skater game OST. It's a pretty straight up punk ditty, with thundering bass'n'drums relentlessly charging forth, and distorted waves of guitar seeping into every crevice. 'Vicious', far from being true to its namesake, is reminiscent of ska-punk vets like Goldfinger, sans brass. True, the locomotive pace and rhythmic barrage is decisively punk-esque, but its delivery is about as vicious as a tortoise.
It's not obvious from just listening, unless you're a particularly avid Japanther aficionado, but Instant Money Magic is a pretty collaborative affair. Total Warr crop up for 'Guns Guns Guns', a blazing DIY punk splatter of falsetto harmonies and gravelly axes. The pair also cover Ghost Mice's 'All We Got Is Each Other' and 'Dreams Come True' by Puppies. The former's originally a jaunty folk jig (Flogging Molly anyone?), and the latter is a reworking of some fellow NYC art-punk scenesters. Both get infused with Japanther's signature scorching punk-lite ebullience and wriggly earworms.
Much like funsize Snickers bars, there's a gooey joy to be found in the brevity, but especially for us this side of the Atlantic, there are bands who have improved on the formula of twee-punk/whatever you want to call it. Los Campesinos! and Danananaykroyd churn(ed) out the caffeinated pop-art-punk, utilising far more ingenuity and experimental elements to evolve with each chapter of their career. The two didn't necessarily invent the style, and haven't been around as long as Japanther, but they've invented better mouse traps while Japanther have been dicking around. Which is fine, it's the New Yorkers' schtick, but when you're roughly a dozen albums into your career, sounding like a hybrid of early Blink-182 and your mates doing battle of the bands at the local doesn't immediately stick in your mind as the ingredients for a seminal LP. Especially if that's what you've been doing for approximately ten years.
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