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I Got Tokyo Fever, Caught Screen Vinyl Image & Survived

Monday, November 9, 2009

091109_sCeremony, Eskimo Hunter, Screen Vinyl Image + Various Japanese Bands

Fever Live House

Shindaita, Tokyo, Nov. 9/2009

This one was more an exercise in survival than anything else.

— 4+ Hours

— Sound levels that had to be at least 140+ decibals

— Enough smoking going on in what was a fairly small space to jerky-fy an entire cow.

If anything could make a person go instantly deaf and contract lung cancer, this show was it.  To add further insult to the injury, almost none of the bands were worth it at all.  Between the three Japanese bands there (which were called Caucus, 死んだ僕の彼女, and burrrn — you’ll have to forgive me for not knowing which was which), only one was decent, and by decent I mean they had two good songs.  Every single other song by the three combined was just so derivative, repetitive and boring; 4 chords built on 4/4 time, over and over again.  You know, something like: F, F, F, F, Em, Em, Em, Em, C,C,C,C, G, G, G, G.  Accompanying this was either low male monotonic mumbling or higher pitched female monotonic mumbling.  I’m not exactly sure whom it was a copy of — there are so many of these cookie-cutter shoegaze bands floating around these days — but it was all extremely tiring.

Two of the U.S. bands of the ones mentioned above didn’t provide any respite either — even though I (thankfully) didn’t stay for scream-thrashers Ceremony, their MySpace provides enough evidence that this is true; and Eskimo Hunter was again more of the same boring sort of droning stuff, though my brain’s not working properly at the moment so I can’t think of an immediate example of whom they sound like.

However, the last of those three, Washington, DC based Screen Vinyl Image, thankfully put on a good show.

3294436929_bfc9a87a00They’re good.  Not ‘so brilliant you have to run out and scream it from the rooftops,’ but decent enough that you want to pass them along to your friends to see if they dig it.

Their sound (taken from an interview at this website):

. . . electronic music (infused) . . . with the fuzzed-out guitar aesthetic.

And wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what we get.  Some of the mellower songs bring to mind Joy Division/New Order (which I suppose isn’t surprising given that they credit John Carpenter’s soundtracks — that particular sort of late-70s, early-80s creepy, spacey, electronically moody sound — as one of their main influences); the heavier stuff maybe a Sonic Youth type-of-thing.  It’s a good mix, which is why they stood out for me so solidly from the other contrived bands.  Each song starts off in a simple sort of way, with a synthed-in base, but as they progress they build and build upon it with guitars and some excellent percussion work until you’re really drawn in.  I bought the album, Interceptors, and I’m listening to it right now noticing this, but in comparison I’d have to say they did it even better last night.  They have a really good live set-up, a very energetic presence, which just intensified the build so that you could really get into each song.  They just know when to add an extra little layer in to pick you up and keep you moving along when normally a song would begin to get repetitive.  Their percussionist, Nathan Jurgenson, was one of the main reasons for that; he’s quite technically skilled, and he was actually the best part of the show last night, always going off in different directions you wouldn’t expect.  I don’t seem to hear him quite so much on the album, but he’s a recent addition to the band so it’s possible the album was recorded with a drum machine and he’s so far just done the live shows.  If this is true, I can’t wait to hear their follow-up to see what he can do in the studio.

Lyrically it’s all somewhat boring; things like ‘I want you, I need you, until the end of time.’  Or the words ‘cathode ray’ repeated over and over again on the song — you guessed it — Cathode Ray.  But I think I’m always too hard on bands over their lyrics, so I’m not going to worry about it too much here.

Anyway — I’m just glad I got something lasting, other than possible chronic health problems, from the show last night.  Click on the picture below to check out their MySpace.  They’re also on iTunes.

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