Sunday, September 16, 2018

King Brothers' "Wasteland"

Consider the fate of Japanese garage rock in the US: Guitar Wolf, the's, and Shonen Knife ghettoized in Noveltyland, and mighty Thee Michelle Gun Elephant -- signed to a major at home, where they played stadiums with ambulances on standby -- releasing their product via obscurantist indies and consigned to slogging around the rawk dumps.

King Brothers have been treading the boards since '97, and while they're unlikely to become as perennial Meercun faves as their countrymen in Boris and Acid Mothers Temple, their new elpee, released by estimable Berlin-based indie Hound Gawd, comes loaded with enough garage grease and grit to enthrall anyone who owns the entahr Estrus Records catalog. (Indeed, the out-of-control slide guitar showcase "Bang! Blues" could be the handiwork of the late, lamented Immortal Lee County Killers.) I'd had it for several days before I was working in the record store, Ted Stern threw it on, and my ears perked up.

A bass-less trio with instrumentation reminiscent of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (whom they namecheck, along with Guitar Wolf, in Wasteland's liner notes), King Brothers have the audacity to rip off the 'orrible 'oo's "Generation" (in "No! No! No!") and close their album with an unironic, harp-driven cover of the Stones' "Sympathy" (somewhere, Brian Jones shakes his blonde locks and laughs), but they're a lot closer to Boris' punky side than they are to Spencer's garage-blues or anyone's idea of "classic rock."

The real story, though, might lie in their lyrics -- sung in Japanese, but helpfully translated on the inner sleeve. They range from the pure nihilism of "No Want"'s "I DON'T WANT ANYTHING...EVERYTHING IS SO DAMNED PRETENTIOUS" to the more nuanced expression of "Break On Through" ("The time you've lost / Did it become a good experience? / But in the end / It doesn't mean anything / If you haven't changed") and this surprising call to action from the aforementioned "No! No! No!":

You can't forgive if you can't forget
If you think it's wrong raise your voice
Stupid things won't change
If you let it go that's THE END. 

Amen, brother. Amen.


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