Tut Tut Now Shake Ya Butt
“I am the indigene!” Crass’s Penny Rimbaud—wizened, ailing, failing—does not bestow his blessing lightly. The anarcho-punk nudist, poet, philosopher, musician, artist, provocateur, and drug-user is nevertheless here, howling, not one year ago, in the basement of PS122, knighting Brooklyn’s Japanther as heirs to an antic throne. The piece is called “Dinosaur Death Dance,” a circling vortex of skateboarders, dancers, and marijuana smoke with Japanther at its center, the duo hiding out behind two Dan Graham–designed optical screens. Rimbaud is up in the corner, past the snarling, smoking animatronic dinosaur, administering last rites—to the creaking puppet, to the crowd, the tangled scene, to the myth that we’d come to see ‘performance art’ instead of, say, something more unaffected, less theatrical. More punk.
Japanther are not news in this city, but then again, that’s the thing. Art-world excursions—see their 2006 Whitney Biennial cameo in Dan Graham and Tony Oursler’s “DTAOT: Combine (Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty, All Over Again), 2005“—seemed at the time like the ragged ends of the Forcefield era at that Museum. Longtime label Menlo Park, which sheltered Harry Pussy, the Gerty Farish, Splotch, and Deerhoof, somehow managed to dodge—Deerhoof excepted—the early-aughts NYC-noise alchemy, when Black Dice left Providence for New York and were greeted as, er, groovy. Plus, when you could actually hear the songs, filtered through two telephone receivers repurposed as lo-fi mics, Japanther were doing something unfashionable: this was a pop-punk band, in the basement-trash tradition of Dead Milkmen, Plow United, New Bad Things, Matt & Kim, Parts & Labor, etc. Like Crass, though, they’re plenty antagonistic, slagging off CMJ, cops, and, uh, dead celebrities.
Highlights. Premiered here is “The Dirge,” a cover of the aforementioned New Bad Things and the second single to be released off of Tut Tut Now Shake Ya Butt, out next Tuesday. Tut Tut gives its executive producer credit to Rimbaud; two of his poems are included, and a potentially disastrous collaboration with sex-rapper Spank Rock made the tracklist with, presumably, Rimbaud’s approval—shades of the hundreds of addled, unlistenable Crass releases after Penis Envy and Christ – The Album. “The Dirge,” a live staple, pays homage to a similarly crooked act in NBT: Casio-keys whirling, overeager pre-teen croaking, beatboxed preverbal sound effects, and a song-ending, self-deprecating self-immolation.
Honorable Mention. “Bumpin’ Rap Tapes” nails a certain schoolyard cadence this band uses to great effect: part fight song, part ironic girl-group homage, part teenaged love letter. There is, almost always, participation anticipated in the conception of these songs: they’re to be sung by two people at least, and by as many as a few thousand, should that day ever come which, let’s face it, it won’t.
Honorable Mention II. You’re more than likely to see this band in a setting other than your average rock show: on a bridge, in a bathroom, on film, performing an opera, with a synchronized swimming group, etc. Vanek and Reilly are the right kind of art-school damaged—impatient, ambitious, visual, interested in spectacle and circumstance.