Thursday, May 28, 2009


I always was going to be a sucker for Tokyo-based all-girl group, Melt-Banana.

In a country famous for smacking you round in entertaining ways with its noise music (think Merzbow), Melt-Banana have - over the past 15 years, nine albums, and two-dozen EPs - taken that aural mayhem, and infused it with hyperventilatingly-paced punk rock and a swag of electronic styles, in often desperately brilliant ways.

Cell-Scape (2003) remains my favorite album for that year. And what can I say? John Zorn and Mike Patton (Mr. Bungle) are equally avid fans.

Stand out for me in showmanship, attitude, and (surprise) aptitude, has always been Yasuko Onuki, a.k.a. Yako - the group’s founder, vocalist, and writer.

“These days, we’re making songs for singles on several labels, and getting ready to do the next album,” Yako told me a few weeks back, then turned wistful. “I have a lot of other unfulfilled dreams, besides Melt-Banana—like going on vacation to some southern island, visiting my sister in Hong Kong, playing games on PS3, and movies I want to watch.”

On one particular tour of the U.S., Melt-Banana’s van famously hit a deer, with Yako behind the wheel. Instead of moping about the tragedy, the incident inspired Bambi’s Dilemma, the moniker for last year’s band opus - which also happens to be the singer’s first pick for best Melt-Banana album.

“It’s what we’re doing right now,” she assessed in clinical fashion. After that, she wavered.

“But I’d also like to pick Charlie [1998], because it was the first self-produced album we did on our own label, A-Zap Records - and Mr. John Peel chose it as one of his favorites.”