Joiners - November 2005

Melt-Banana + Hunting Lodge

by Armchair Anarchist

Your reviewer is glad that he doesn’t have to interview Hunting Lodge. They are a very ugly, scary-looking bunch of people. Imagine three wiry football thugs up front, with an extra from the Blue Oyster Bar on the drums. The only hair on display is on the lower half of said drummer’s head. The bass player likes to hit himself almost as much as his instrument. The guitarist seems (comparatively) normal, and the singer (or rather vocalist) has an odd habit of staring at the ceiling while he’s doing his thing. And they sound how they look; aggressive and basic. They make an intense but largely unmusical racket, a ferocious thudding blatter of mid-tempo nastiness delivered with the thousand yard stare of a Vietnam veteran. The vocals are a sort of monotone mantra, impenetrable and disturbing. One gets the impression that the band are some sort of spontaneous therapy group from an institution for dangerous recidivists. Whether they were let out for the night or made their own way over the walls is anyone’s guess. An acquired taste perhaps, but not one acquired by many. And now, a challenge for the humble hack. How the hell can one describe Melt-Banana on paper? Well, let’s start with the obvious. They’re all Japanese. The singer and the bass player (who is smaller than her instrument) are pretty girls with cheekbones you could cut yourself on. The drummer looks like an ‘otaku’ computer nerd. The guitarist...well, he has a mask on. Not in a Slipknot sense. It’s like the ones the asbestos removal guys wear, and it is gaffa-taped to his face. Allegedly, inhaling the wrong sort of dust could kill him instantly. Suffice to say they are interesting to look at. But the sound they produce makes their appearance almost irrelevant. It is intense beyond belief. Driven largely by hyper-fast precision breakbeats from the drummer, they come across like a car crash in an alternative record shop. The songs whip at your face like a speeding octopus, fast, complex and very alien. It’s tight and it’s crazy and it’s delivered with astonishing skill. The little bass-lady thrashes away with abandon. The guitarist makes an extraordinary range of noises which rarely sound like a guitar. Most of the time you’re wondering where the synth player is... but there isn’t one. It’s all mask-boy and his battered axe, squeezing out squealing, electronic tones and howls that resemble someone torturing a warehouse full of sentient robots. The singer shrieks, murmurs and chatters along in perfect time, and has a neat line in coy-little-girl faces that ensure the men in the crowd are wrapped around her finger. Some of the songs are long, with false endings that provoke pre-emptive applause. But some are very short. The middle of the set is graced by a blitzkrieg of eleven songs in the space of maybe five minutes. Theirs is the sound of a high-velocity remixed future, the sort of thing you’d hear in a bar in a William Gibson book. And the audience loves it, howling for more every time there’s a gap in the music. The front-girl’s charm and endearing accent definitely help, as does the skill and originality of the performance. But everyone here came for extreme oriental lunacy in musical form and that is exactly what Melt-Banana deliver.