Japanese punk’s first generation produced some of the country’s most creative and enduring music. The Tokyo Rockers scene of 1979 gave us Friction, formed by bassist Reck and drummer Chico-hige, formerly of New York’s Contortions; the Kansai No Wave scene produced punk poet Phew, who has collaborated with Ryuichi Sakamoto from Yellow Magic Orchestra, Eye Yamantaka from The Boredoms and most of German prog rockers Can.
But ask Japanese punk musicians about their heroes and they mention Totsuzen Danball. Predating most of the “Tokyo Rockers” generation, Totsuzen Danball’s music accommodates both avant-garde noise and quirky yet catchy melodies. Their latest, “Junsui de Socchoku na Omoide,” kicks off with “Missile no Nagatabi,” setting a poppy yet apocalyptic tone that climaxes with the 7-minute “Judge,” which recalls Television and Pere Ubu in its blending of punk and psychedelia.
Listening to “Junsui” next to the band’s early singles such as “White Man,” it’s hard to tell that 30 years have gone by. Partly this is down to the authentically lo-fi production, but it’s also testament to how far ahead of their time they were in the first place.