Melt-Banana: fetch – album review
Melt-Banana – fetch (A-Zap)
DL / LP / CD
Melt-Banana’s return to the fray is everything and more than their dedicated fan base, (lots of whom can be found hanging around Louder Than War towers), could have hoped for. Here’s our review.
It’s often said that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Earlier this year David Bowie proved this idiom correct with his still-startling comeback The Next Day – a ten year silence broken by his finest record since Scary Monsters and Super Freaks. Proving that you don’t have to be a global megastar to emerge triumphant out of dormancy, Melt-Banana have returned from the shadows with fetch.
Although their six years from releasing an album looks paltry compared to Bowie’s decade-long hiatus, the results are no less startling. fetch sees the Japanese two-piece – introduced to the UK audience as a favourite of John Peel – on outstanding form, far surpassing anything they’ve put out since 2003’s superlative Cell-Scape.
The record is a case of – to use a Peel-ism – ‘always different, always the same’ for the band. If you’re not a fan of their previous form, there’s little in fetch that is going to change your mind. If you’ve been kicking your heels since 2007’s Bambi’s Dilemma though, fetch is a smorgasbord of delights. For those who haven’t had Melt-Banana in their life, diving straight in with their latest is the best option.
As is often the case with a Melt-Banana LP, the record is sublimely structured. The ending is worth calling out immediately though. Closing track Zero is the centrepiece to fetch – the destination that every other track nods towards. It sees the band in a more experimental mood, with unmistakable nods to disco and with the usually abrasive vocals of Yasuko Onuki taking on a more tender, reflective tone. It’s not the style of the whole record, but is the perfect distillation of what makes Melt-Banana such a necessary act in the pantheon of music history. They are an act defined by outsider labels such as grindcore and noise rock, but although abrasiveness is at the centre of a lot of what they do, their music is significantly more intelligent and more thoughtful than perhaps they are given credit for.
For those people turned off by the word ‘disco’ make no mistake, this is a Melt-Banana record of the highest quality. Infection Detective (hear below) is one of those Melt-Banana tracks where it starts intensive but will continually ratchet up that intensity over a blistering four minutes, there are the usual smatterings of mind-blowing minute-something freakouts, with Vertigo Game and Left Dog (Run, Caper, Run) the standouts.
It is the opening track though that sets the stall out. Candy Gun opens the album with the sound of waves lapping up on the shore, bizarrely reminiscent of altogether different records, like Brighton indie-rockers Clearlake’s whimsical 2001 track Jumble Sailing. But what follows is one of the best record opening tracks you’ll hear for some time. Its unrelenting drums (which continually stand out through the record, structuring every break and key change – not bad for a band without a drummer) drive us into that familiar Melt-Banana territory, where guitar line piles on top of guitar line to create what is an accessibly aggressive sound, filled with hidden pop hooks and rewards for anyone listening carefully enough.
And that is what Fetch ultimately is – a reward for patience. They say good things come to those who wait and every second of Fetch’s half hour is packed with things to behold. Many people will live through sixty years without hearing a record even remotely as good as this, six years of waiting seems like a short sentence to be granted a masterpiece like this at the end of it.
All words Gareth Main. More features by Gareth on Louder Than War can be found here.