This ever-evolving Osaka-based band’s confoundingly intricate sound resembles a head-on collision between the less showbizzy, free-form efforts of Sun Ra’s Arkestra and the scatological nihilism of early Butthole Surfers — fronted by the hollers and gibbers of a couple of guys who can’t decide whether they’d rather be Beastie Boys or Residents. But even that doesn’t really describe the sheer sense of otherness that pervades the Boredoms aesthetic, which appears to stem from a desire to short-circuit the game of telephone that passes for cultural exchange in these post-post-modern times. Or maybe they simply are from Mars.
On Anal by Anal, Boredoms engage in a veritable scatalog of potty-probing, including such enduring classics as “Anal Eater” and “Born to Anal.” Things really start to get weird on Osorezan to Stooges Kyo, which would sound like an outer-space interception of eclectic FM transmissions circa 1966 a million or so light years away if combating frontmen Eye Yamatsuka and Toyohito Yoshikawa (who rant almost exclusively in an invented language not at all unlike that used by Magma in the ’70s) weren’t so near- at-hand. Structure-free sonic whirlwinds like “Call Me God” and “Feedbackfuck” are simultaneously far funnier than any quirk-rock smirk-fest you’d care to name and far scarier than any death-metal posing in recent memory. The first two releases were combined into Onanie Bomb Meets the Sex Pistols, subsequently issued in the US in different packaging.
Soul Discharge has marginally more terrestrial reference points-like the snuff-film B-52’s cop “52 Boredom” and the Funkadelic-on-strychnine “funk” of “JB Dick + Tin Turner Pussy Badsmell” — but it’s still a daunting challenge to figure out how the sextet has gotten from point A to point 396. Guitarist Yamamoto, whose thrust- and-parry figures rarely last more than a bar or two, nevertheless demonstrates a prescient improv style, especially when he and drummer P-We YY (aka Yoshimi P-Wee) dive headlong into their Three Stooges slap-shtick. Subsequent CD pressings added fourteen bonus tracks, some new (like the mondo obstreperous “Jah Called AC/DC”) and some alternate versions of previously released tracks. Shadowy ancillary member God Mama “became invisible” (to use official Bore-speak) after this release.
Pop Tatari may well be the apex of Borecore, with its endless procession of sideshow audio spectacle, self- aggrandizing (and self-lampooning) conceit and remarkably intricate free-jazz-as-demolition-derby sonic wackiness. Two drummers (including the irrepressible P-Wee, who also pitches in with wordless dog whistle screeches from time to time) alternate between pushing the band forward and setting up roadblocks in its path, making songs like “Bod” and “Okinawa Rasta Beef (Mockin’ Fuzz2)” into virtual-rock Rosetta Stones. Yamatsuka’s glottal acrobatics (he frequently deep-throats the mic) highlight “Heeba” and “Telehorse Uma,” while “Cheeba,” a clever cross- cultural cop, turns the Peggy Lee classic “Fever” into a nine-minute pro-pot paean. And if you haven’t had enough excess by album’s end, the band purees 35 years of rock’n’roll into ten minutes of psychobabble on “Cory & the Mandara Suicide Pyramid Action or Gas Satori.”
Although its intent is no less twisted, Chocolate Synthesizer (which apparently revolves around the concept of electronic music’s invention in the caves of prehistoric Japan) seems to have been recorded after the discovery of the Ritalin patch. While traveling carnival spine-jolters like “Shock City” and “Anarchy in the UKK” maintain the everything-all-at-once-forever methodology of Borecore of yore, the album is mottled with ambient pieces that often veer too far toward the Zappa realm. Seemingly cut from the same swath of sound, “Tomato Synthesizer,” “Synthesizer Guide Book on Fire” and “Action Synthesizer Hero” do little to instill the sense of wonder the band seldom miscarried in the past.
The Super Roots series is dominated by unedited freakouts, with later volumes consisting of one long piece of what Yamatsuka has characterized as “ambient hardcore.” It’s possible to accept the ambient portion of that description only if your everyday living situation puts you in close proximity to either a jet-testing facility or a slaughterhouse (ideally both). The first edition is the most overtly playful, with skittery schoolyard giggles like “Ear? Wig? Web?” and “Budokan Tape Try (500 Tapes High)” setting a giddy mood. That carries over to Super Roots 2, which will keep you on the edge of your seat, if only for the numerous long silences that cleave songs like “Magic Milk” and “White Plastic See-Through Finger.” Later editions (there is no Super Roots 4; that number is considered unlucky in Japan because it is pronounced the same as the word for death) are more byzantine in structure, ranging from the third set’s 30-minute “Karaoke of Cosmos” to the utterly incomprehensible hour-long “Go!” on 5.
There are numerous ephemeral Boredoms releases, most of which stem from Yamatsuka’s situationist perspective on record-making. He’s been known to cut single-copy editions of items (like “Born to Be Wild”) to be pressed and sold in the same day. The cassettes he’s issued under the Boretronix moniker (think Frippertronics with attitude) are slightly more obtainable.
For fans of space-a-delic rap, the band offers that in its Audio Sports side project, which resembles nothing so much as the Beastie Boys being choreographed by a tag team of Neil Tennant and John Zorn. With its surreal cutting (provided by DJ Kool Jazz Takemura) and stun-gun BPM levels, Eat Buy Eat uses basic hip-hop elements as a base for wiggy gibbers and rasps that effectively skewer consumer culture icons. Yamatsuka is less of a presence on Era of Glittering Gas, but his hijinks add an edgy goofiness to the maliciously playful “Outlaw in Wonderland.”
UFO or Die (anchored by Yamatsuka and Yoshimi) takes its inspiration directly from neo-aboriginal ’60s combos like the Godz and the Fugs: the very name (an acronym for Unlimited Freak Out) is taken from a song by the latter band, and a cover of the former’s “Radar Eyes” is one of the multiple highlights on the endlessly entertaining Cassettetape Superstar. Perhaps the most Boredoms-like of the myriad spin-off bands, UFO or Die undertakes some of the more extreme regressions “rock” music has seen in the ’90s, what with Eye grunting neanderthal monosyllables over a backing of seemingly random percussion (on “Dog Wave”). There’s no real intent to pass any of this off as legitimate outsider stuff: it never takes long before the band lapses into purposeful funk deconstruction (“Kendo Machine Smokin’ “) or meta-rock insight (as on “MC5 or 6”). The most unlikely-but enjoyable- party album of the ’90s.
Omoide Hatoba provides a vehicle for guitarist Yamamoto to mobilize his own set of noise-guitar forces. While he never quite reaches the astral heights of peers like Zeni Geva’s KK Null or Fusitsusha’s Keiji Haino, he does put the six-string through some truly dizzying paces. His scrabbling on Black Hawaii fuses muscle and whimsy in a way one might expect from a (Groucho) Marxist version of Sonny Sharrock, especially on “Zen Beat Manifesto” and what’s allegedly a version of Country Joe’s “Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag.” The trio takes a similar tack on Mantako, though the freak-outs that burble through the surface of “Come On! Me!” are a bit rote. Yamamoto expands the band’s lineup for Kinsei, and the elusive bleats of baritone sax and tuba give the whole suite (titular translations are not provided) an inscrutable, provocative air.
Don’t let the altered surname spelling put you off the scent of Nani Nani, one of many projects in which Yamatsuka (aka Yamantaka) engages in non-stop headbutting with John Zorn (aka Dekoboko Hajime). Zorn’s sax playing is unmistakable, but he actually spends more time weaving off-kilter, spazzadelia on harmonium and sitar, which adds an element of brown acid trippiness to tracks like “Yoga Dollar” and the appropriately titled “Bad Hawkwind.” Eye squeaks happily on an array of toy instruments and tinker-toy percussion; that staging makes his inhuman vocal histrionics sound agreeably cartoonish. Using another set of aliases, the duo also convened as Mystic Fugu Orchestra (the fugu being blowfish, the Japanese delicacy that can cause either gustatory orgasm or serious illness, depending on the skill of the chef). Zohar is a far more solemn, Teutonic-sounding collection, dominated by Zorn’s harmonium washes, but it never achieves any real level of intensity.
Longtime Boredoms bassist Hira also serves as “singer” for the deconstructionist-blues outfit Hanadensha, which more or less transports Blue Cheer styled thud to the top of a musical Tower of Babel. The Golden Age of Heavy Blood is an improbably thick wall of sludge, peppered with Hira’s razor-cut stage whispering and injured yowls — which are most effective on the head-spinning “Mary Mary Mary.” The double-CD Hanaden Bless All is even more excessive: Although it trims the two-bass lineup to a more manageable power trio, the lava-like progression of songs like “God Only Needs Hanadensha” could easily be field recordings of a particularly primitive cargo cult.
Before the Boredoms, Yamatsuka was the prime mover in (and eventually the sole member of) the Hanatarash, a post-Einstürzende Neubauten exercise in power-tool abuse and tape manipulation. The doggedly phallocentric first album, which includes such tracks as “Power Cock” and “Cock Victory,” is dominated by Christian Marclay- styled turntable deconstruction, but the loopiness subverts any real effect. Guitarist Jojo Hiroshige brings more menace to the mix of 2 with the howling feedback and rancorous sheet-metal shriek he adds to songs like “Vortex Shit” and “Boat People Hate Fuck.” The live albums are probably the most accurate (not to say the most listenable) documents of the Hanatarash experience, replete as they are with shattering glass, exploding metal and the omnipresent sound of a machine shop full of grinding gears. Yamatsuka eventually backed off the injurious confrontation — partly as a result of nearly severing a leg when one of the stage constructions (literally) backfired.