Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The joy of Polysics


They say there's a fine line between genius and insanity, and, when it comes to music, there's also sometimes a fine line between genius and shit. Take Cutting Pink With Knives. What might sound at least potentially interesting on paper - Napalm Death for Klaxons fans - turns out to be pretty darn dreadful.

Their minute-long songs, propelled by pounding electronic drums reminiscent of Wolf Eyes, are like fistfuls of needles to the face, and not in a good way. It doesn't help that in Chris Abitbol they have a frontman whose inane goofing and motormouth very soon become enormously irritating. Still, Holy Roar might yet turn out to be vindicated in pinning their hopes on CPWK's Nintendoid gabba metal, especially if the Kids grow tired of Hadouken! and start hunting around for a harder, heavier fix.

The subsequent music mix - a smattering of gutter punk and Bow Wow Wow's 'C30 C60 C90' interspersed with 'Don't You Want Me', 'Take On Me' and (in the words of that esteemed rock critic Alan Partridge) The Police's "gibberish classic" 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' - serves as a helpful forewarning about what to expect from the headliners.

Judging by their uniform - orange boiler suits emblazoned with the band name - Japanese loons Polysics are well aware that Fun House isn't just the name of a Stooges album; it was also the kids' TV programme hosted by mulleted legend Pat Sharp on which boiler-suited contestants competed against each other in the slowest karting race in the world. They also all wear wraparound sunglasses, but in case you're wondering they don't model themselves so much on Geordi La Forge of 'Star Trek' as on Devo.

That the Americans are band founder and leader Hiroyuki Hayashi's heroes is as evident from Polysics's jerking and twitching new-wave punk as from their sartorial stylings - though it's not just an exercise in karaoke. On the contrary, for fascinating glimpses of how certain strands of Western musical tradition can be reworked, recycled and reinvigorated and then sold back to us as something simultaneously alien and familiar, look no further than bleeping, furious recent single 'Rocket', the sweet electro-pop of encore-closer 'Black Out Fall Out' or the wonderfully idiosyncratic take on The Knack's 'My Sharona', which sounds like The Cardiacs fronted by Johnny Five. Not so much lost in translation, then, as found afresh.

While keyboardist and robot vocalist Kayo adopts the rigid pose of a Kraftwerkian mannequin, Hayashi is by contrast an explosion of energy - screaming in Engrish, clapping, leaping and bounding, scissor-kicking and, at one point, trying to lead the crowd in what seems to be a bizarre exercise video routine. We of course oblige. So now you know who to call when Mr Motivator finally goes off to the great gym in the sky...

Polysics Or Die - so goes the title of their recent compilation. There are harder orders to obey, it has to be said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm so sad that Polysics didn't come anywhere near me this time. I've absolutely adored them each of the three times I've seen them before.

I quite like the CPWK album, too, so I would've really enjoyed this tour.