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Melt-Banana



Melt-Banana with Hot Cross and Breather Resist Friday · Southgate House

Sirens. Staccato shots. Fast driving. Shrieks. It could be a particularly good action movie or a particularly bad day in the neighborhood. But it's neither. It's Melt-Banana, the Japanese Punk/New Wave/Noise band. Brace yourself. Melt-Banana was formed in 1991 (as MIZU) and released their first album, Speak, Squeak, Creak, in 1993. In 1995 they recorded their second album, Scratch or Stitch, with Steve Albini.

Singer Yasuko Onuki and surgical mask-wearing guitarist Agata have been there since the beginning. They've been joined for some time now by Rika Mm' (bass) and have employed an "open door" policy in regard to drummers. In 1997 they formed their own recording company, A-Zap, and reissued all their previous releases on the label, as well as their most recent CD, cellscape, from 2003. The M-B sound is an unmelodic, attention span-free, jackhammering soundtrack to a grand mal seizure. In Jazz, there's the confrontational "stylized violence" of John Zorn. In Hip Hop, there are the avant-garde leanings of Handsome Boy Modeling School. In Rock, there's the propulsive, one-two-three-four punch of The Ramones. Put all of that together, more in attitude than sound, ship it off on a bullet train to Japan (on which anime is being shown at double speed) and that comes close to what Melt-Banana is like. Their live show isn't so much a performance as it is a ferocious attack. Some artists need three or four minutes plus to come to a catharsis. Melt-Banana has other things to do — like get to the next song — so, they generally only need two minutes (or less) to make their point. What that point might be (at least lyrically) is often anyone's guess. The words to Melt-Banana's songs don't really conform to linear logic, but you might have guessed that by now. But musically, they're constructing a sound sculpture made of shards of broken glass that are still dripping with their own blood. Melt-Banana's songs are things of terrible beauty that make you feel. Personally, I can't think of a better goal. (Dale Johnson)

John Prine with Leon Redbone

Saturday · Taft Theatre

At the dawn of his career in the early '70s, John Prine was asked by a journalist how it felt to be dubbed the Next Dylan, to which Prine famously replied, "I don't think we're done with the last one yet." After a 30-plus year career as consistent as the Mississippi River and as comfortable as a pair of old jeans, Prine finds himself being name-checked as an influence by younger artists who are often saddled with similar comparisons, and Prine's observation about Dylan over three decades ago is now eerily applicable to himself. Prine's been busy since his last album of original material, 1995's Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings; he recorded In Spite of Ourselves, an album's worth of duet covers with a Who's Who roll call of female Country singers, toured frequently and released two live albums (1997's Live On Tour and 2000's Souvenirs), recorded with The Chieftains, played the Concerts for a Landmine Free World and contributed to tributes for Stephen Foster and the Carter Family, among other projects. Most importantly, Prine survived a 1997 neck cancer diagnosis that came at the outset of the sessions for In Spite of Ourselves. The subsequent surgery and chemotherapy treatments forced him to drop his tunings because of changes to his voice; it was the first time in his career that he'd made such an adjustment. It also made Prine reassess a lot of the songs from early in his career. "I sure am glad those songs were as good as they are," says Prine. "Just changing the key made those songs brand new for me. The first time I went in front of an audience that way, I was like, 'Wow, who wrote this?' I'm thankful that kid knew how to write so good." Prine is now back on the road celebrating the release of his latest album, Fair and Square, his first all-originals release in a decade, where he once again looks askance at love and life ("I Hate When That Happens to Me," "Crazy as a Loon") and needles the current administration ("Some Humans Ain't Human"). In other words, the best of what John Prine has always done well. (Brian Baker)

Flyaway Minion with And Andy and Chaselounge

Saturday · York Street Café

It's so Nada Surf to adopt musical personas that transcend geography, but listen to a few tracks from Flyaway Minion's debut album, Fair Travels, and you might find yourself wondering just where in the heck these guys hail from. These songs that grab your hand and pull you ... somewhere were initially the brainchildren of vocalist Tim Pritchard, who paired up with Patrick Himes about a year ago to layer the burgeoning sound. Since then, Adam Edwards took up bass and the Brians (Hoeflich and Greaney) now bring the beats with everything from drums to tambourines to cowbells (for crying out loud). Travels was the product of an exertive summer search for the perfect sound and was well received on its maiden voyage in early 2005. The hook is this: a heady combination of all-embracing diversity with a stone foundation in pure and simple Rock music. Honest and tight drumbeats, persistent and steady guitar changes and an overall optimism give Flyaway Minion its band-next-door sound. Lyrically and melodically, Travels reinvents no wheels, but multiformity is an evident credo and less than a measure away at all times. "Sleeper" rains so lazily that one can almost smell the fish-and-chips of its BritPop influences, while the twangy "Blue Collar Fire" is a campfire-ish Folk ballad dominated by mournful mandolin sequences. Lyrics like, "Let me be whom you're talking to/'Cause it's only you who can make me feel so blue" stir up images of exhausted cowboys, rather than nomadic rockers who aren't afraid to dabble in a little Electronica. The band gets away with all of this thanks to a healthy dose of Middle American confidence and an assurance that there is more to come. (Hannah Roberts)

Machine Head with Lamb of God and Twelve Tribes

Tuesday · Bogart's

The typical progression of an empire usually begins with a glorious rise followed by a tragic fall. This works on the largest to smallest scales. From dinosaurs to dot.coms. Rome to No Limit. Machine Head is no exception, who ascended to Metal glory with their first two albums, Burn My Eyes and The More Things Change. While their third outing, The Burning Red, displayed a more melodic and lighter side, this is where their reign peaked and soon started arching into the plummet all empires must face. Perhaps it was the flourish of Rap Rock or the cover of The Police's "Message In a Bottle." Whatever it was, their initial fans and followers all shrugged their shoulders and wondered where their familiar Machine Head went. In 2001 they released the forgettable album Supercharger, which was forgotten not because it was a lackluster effort but more because it became a victim of circumstance. It was released mere weeks before the Sept. 11 tragedy, an event that rendered aggressive music decorated with metaphors of destruction and chaos out of high demand. It certainly didn't help that their first single was "Crashing Around You," with an accompanying video that portrayed the fiery obliteration of San Francisco. But by following the message of their lyrics about drive and perseverance, Machine Head has used the disappointing public reception of Supercharger as an end to one point in their existence, making their latest album, the suitably titled Through the Ashes of Empires, the rebirth of their Metal edge. Critical acclaim from around the world has been heaped on this Metal opus, breathing new, furious life back into the rumbling beast. The deep chugging and razor-sharp thrash they built their intimidating reputation on has been amplified tenfold. The end result is fresh Metal, a rejuvenated call-to-arms reaching out of their dark core and shaking just as much life into its listeners as it has the band. (Jacob Richardson)

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