Melt Banana with Mr. Bungle

Melt Banana are from Tokyo, Japan, and this was their first time in Washington DC, performing at the Black Cat. You could hardly believe that the voice that made this announcement, Melt Banana's female lead vocalist, could screech in a way that would put Kat Bjelland (of Babes in Toyland) to shame. It's also always surprising to me that groups like Melt Banana, coming from a country with strict values and disciplines, could unleash such a wall of what has now come to be known as Japanoise. A simple and nice explanantion is that Japanoise provides a cathartic release for the younger generation in Japan today. However, that doesn't diminish the amazement I feel whenever I hear such music. While I don't get into the music a whole lot, I couldn't help but not my head at the end of Melt Banana's performance. Even though they made a lot of noise, they were incredibly tight. The sheer raw passion and aggressiveness is a sight to behold.

Mr. Bungle put on a show unlike any I have seen. I have mixed feelings about it, and I'm sure most people who were there do as well. To what extent is Mr. Bungle's performance "art"? And to what extent is it just a load of crap? While I tend towards the former, it is hard for me to take any form of music that seriously and not acknowledge that there is some BS in almost all art.

The band came out with masks and this added to the overall eerie effect they projected with their music. The masks disguise all emotion from the performer and it was weird watching powerful and self-indulgent performances without any facial expressions behind them. Mike Patton, who is the vocalist here (he's also the vocalist for Faith No More), wore this off-white translucent mask which made him look like the lead character from Powder. The stuff they played appeared to be a lot of improvisation, with a few tunes, if you could call them that, coming off of their latest release, Disco Volante, and one coming off of their first self-titled release. The songs in general consisted of a variety of instruments, from the standard guitar and keyboards to trumpets, saxophones, and xylophones. Usually the songs alternated from really mellow to really thrashy. They were syncopated and arrythmic (which confused all the would-be moshers), dissonant and cacophonic, and as I said before, self-indulgent and passionate. I liked the keyboard and guitar work of Trey Spruance (I think, who also goes by the name Uncooked Meat Prior To State Vector Collapse) the best. In fact, I think the keyboards were the highlight of the show, since they indulged in a lot of electronic noise mixed in with some really catchy melodies.

It's hard for me to write a review of the show, mainly because what they did was not standard entertainment, but really performance art. But if you are interested in the bizzarre and the off-beat, and are willing to put with a bit of self-indulgence in the name of art, then be sure to check them out in concert. I guarantee it'll be a memorable one.

Music ramblings || Ram Samudrala || || November 29, 1995