Japanther, Yer Living Grave

Japanther, Yer Living Grave

With Yer Living Grave, these workaholic New York punks deliver their fifth release in less than as many years, a pace of recording matched by very few other contemporary artists besides Deerhoof. Japanther’s (Ian Vaneck and Matt Reilly) press materials claim that the band has meanwhile played more than eight hundred shows in the course of at least 19 tours. As of now, the reward of so much hard work appears to be nothing more than the opportunity for more of the same. Fortunately, Vaneck and Reilly thus far show no signs of becoming jaded or unhappy with their place in the music world.

So much less, they share a mood of almost singsong playfulness with another two-man band, Lightning Bolt, Japanther cannot simply astound the listener in the same way, nor do they seem to want to. What they are able give is a sense of the danger of rock music that is often difficult to find. This is not, however, “danger” in the sense of the creepiness of Deerhunter or the Get Hustle, but more of a sense of being cut loose from the moorings of whatever passes for a normal life these days. In that way, and in its endearingly low fidelity, Yer Living Grave reminds one of the freewheeling garage-rock of the Black Lips.

Furthermore, the Black Lips come to mind because, unlike two-piece indie bands like Lightning Bolt or Death From Above or Hella, Japanther are engaged not in noise-jamming but in songwriting (not that that is a necessarily superior activity), despite the samples and, well, noise that suggest otherwise. This endeavor is not always successful, but on Yer Living Grave it yields at least the admirable “The Furrs is Gone,” a legitimate rock anthem reimagined by stoned teenagers. Its loping garage-funk and goofy irreverence are concentrations of elements that mark the album as a whole, and Japanther’s music in general, and probably their whole outlook on life. Ultimately, it is bands like Japanther that remind us of what we thought was so great about rock and roll in the first place.

(Menlo Park Recordings -- P.O. Box 1652, Cooper Station, New York, NY. 10276-1652; http://www.menloparkrecordings.com/; Japanther -- http://japanther.com/)
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Review by . Review posted Tuesday, June 6th, 2006. Filed under Reviews.

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