Japanther - Instant Money Magic

For a moment it’s almost like Japanther are revitalised and reinvigorated.

Label: Seayou

Rating:

Brooklyn’s Japanther are a noisy bunch, or at least their early records would have you believe anyway. Their hyperactive, lo-fi take on punk rock has become a signature sound to anyone interested in the world of low-budget DIY music, cropping up in people’s Last.fm recommendations since the first time they listened to Times New Viking. This was all well and good for the majority of their output, but their peak seemed to come with 2008’s ‘Tut Tut, Now Shake Ya Butt’. Since that quite frankly brilliant record (‘Bumpin’ Rap Tapes’ is still one hell of a backyard BBQ jam), Japanther’s albums have put them across as exhausted burnouts - so many of their efforts often end up soft and limp. On their latest full-length ‘Instant Money Magic’, it’s refreshing to hear them bring some of that Japanther magic back, if only for a couple of tracks.

Things start well with opener ‘Take Me In’, and despite the now amped-up production levels that have been creeping up since 2010’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Ice Cream’, Japanther’s knack for writing pure earworms drenched in sweat is unmistakably there. ‘Vicious’ is a belter, too - short and sharp and hook-laden, the hiss of the restless drum machine feels like bumping into an old friend after a long time. “You’re so vicious baby, you’re making me crazy,” is exactly the kind of sickly sweet hook that needed injecting back into their veins, and for a moment it’s almost like Japanther are revitalised and reinvigorated. The problem lies in just how much of ‘Instant Money Magic’ seems like exactly that - instant Japanther microwaved for three minutes on the highest setting.

Some of the qualities that make this band so great remain - most notably their crunchy guitars and angsty lyricism - but so much of it feels powdered down and diluted. The drums aren’t pummeling, they’re soft and undercooked - not even the most devoted of Japanther fans are going to revisit songs like ‘Wigman’ or ‘Centralia’. This is frustrating, as there are moments of utter brilliance - ‘Dreams Come True’ harks back to the melodic excellence found on 2007’s Skuffed Up My Huffy, while ‘All We Got’ rounds off the album as a foot-stomping, yell-along anthem. If Japanther focused more on their punk rock sensibilities and honed in on their talent for hook-infested pop songs, rather than trying to clean up their act, then they’d be far better off for it.