MELT-BANANA / GINDRINKER | LIVE REVIEW
The Globe, Cardiff, Sun 4 June
“What are you doing, you prog rocker?” scoffs a smirking DC Gates. His bandmate Graf’s crime? Having the temerity to tune up between songs. Anything with the faintest whiff of prog may be strictly verboten in Gindrinker’s universe, but there’s not much else that’s considered off-limits. The songs in tonight’s set find DC singing about combining his loves of drinking, driving and ice cream; offering to kill the boyfriend of a girl with whom he (or his character) has a decidedly unhealthy obsession; and paying tribute to classic 1980s game show Bullseye. Old favourite and “pop hit” God Of Darts is the source of not one but two improbable exclamatory catchphrases: “Hail Bowen!” and “The speedboat’s going nowhere!”
The division of labour in Gindrinker – who remain Cardiff’s answer to Big Black – is much the same as in Sleaford Mods. Graf performs the Andrew Fearn role of providing a suitably rudimentary musical backdrop (guitar, cheap drum machine) for a vocalist who, like Jason Williamson, has a simultaneously savage, deft and amusing way with words and an array of well-chosen targets against which to use them. Tonight, DC – whose stage persona approximates a drunk, nihilistic Vic Reeves – is wearing a solitary leather glove and a fluffy orange jumper that isn’t quite fit for purpose. “I really should have bought a bigger jumper from the charity shop”, he says “or maybe just tried being less fat.” No, don’t ever change, Gindrinker.
If anything, Melt-Banana are even less tolerant of prog indulgence. Like many other Japanese acts, they seem to have made it their mission to adopt a specific style of music – in their case, noise-influenced grindcore – and take it to the extreme. Their hyperspeed intensity is astonishing, the use of a drum machine an absolute necessity as no mere mortal could stand a chance of keeping up. Some songs are so fast they’re over before they’ve started. So much for Sunday being a day of rest. Last year, Melt-Banana played a series of shows around the US in the esteemed company of kindred spirits Napalm Death and Melvins, under the banner of the Savage Imperial Death March Tour. Frankly, it’s remarkable that anyone present survived to tell the tale.
These days, Melt-Banana are a duo. Ichirou Agata uses his guitar and an assortment of pedals to create some quite extraordinary sounds, while his surgical mask is part of his regular stage attire rather than a commentary on the health and hygiene of those of us in the crowd. Meanwhile, Yasuko Onuki colours her band’s aggression with a splash of Deerhoof-esque surrealism, waving her arms around and yapping like a dog. She also supplies the electronics and chiptune elements, controlling everything from a handheld remote. Simply standing static behind a laptop wouldn’t quite work, somehow.
When Melt-Banana first played a session for John Peel’s show, in 1999, the late DJ was moved to describe the performance as “just mesmerising, absolutely astonishing”. If he was still alive to witness tonight’s pummelling, exhausting hour-long set, he’d probably be saying much the same thing.
words BEN WOOLHEAD