By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
By Steve Weinstein
By Araceli Cruz
Japanese hard-rock acts are generally pitilessly annoying in some way. Instructive example: Church of Misery, a stoner metal band doing concept EPs on serial killers, in gibberish. To get the slightest enjoyment from them it's necessary to grant a "get out of jail free" card to whatever feature sticks out as beyond wretched while understanding it's the result of a great desire to be perceived as enthusiastic and earnest.
Guitar Wolf were basically awful at the American greaser lock 'n' loll they venerated. The band's fringe audience, having never heard the real thing, was ill prepared to grasp their shortcomings. Dressing up like Link Wray and seemingly Vaseline-coated for dramatic rock-action poses, Guitar Wolf always looked like they delivered the goods. And while the trio had a genuine commitment to loud noise, the rhythm was ramshackle, the tone horrible. Eventually, on "UFO Romantics" and "Loverock," honed reflexes and an animal cunning made some of the Wolves' unintelligible blurtslike "Shinkansen High Tension" and "Jett Beer"really invigorating. Accidental evolution or purposeful development? Who cares; on the anthology Golden Black, it finally works when you turn it up enough.
Electric Eel Shock's Beat Me beats you over the head with ludicrous titles: "I Can Hear the Sex Noise," "I Like Fish but Fish Hate Me." The prizewinner in the fools' hall of fame is "Don't Say Fuck," a self-defeating gem which spews the F-word ad nauseam. But the band aims squarely for early-'70s hard rock/metal tunefulness and achieves it, notably in the slash of "Scream for Me." Last year's Go USA featured "I Want to Be a Black Sabbath Guy but Should Be a Black Bass," which was solidly in the Birmingham way even though the title screamed stay away. For this year, the Eel Shocks redo "Iron Man" and dare to affront consumers of dogma by switching between re-creation and a sliced funk delivery. It's a winner because the Iommi/Butler/Ward tonal magic is preserved.