Review: Otoboke Beaver – Super Champon

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“Japanese girls ‘knock out or pound cake’ band”

(This review was written by Murad)

After a long awaited nearly three year wait, Japanese all-female hardcore punk quartet Otoboke Beaver finally released Super Champon on May 6, 2022, the follow-up to their 2019 debut album, titled Itekoma Hits. The band, named after a local hotel in Osaka, formed in 2009 while its members were active participants of Ritsumeikan University’s “Rock Commune ”, a school club based on uniting members over a shared interest in, well, you guessed it, rock music. Since the release of their first demo in 2011, they have followed a rigorous program of recording and touring, leading to the release of Itekoma Hits in 2019, an album whose pummelling, frenetic sound prompted Pitchfork to describe it as a “tornado of defiance” and that garnered the band significant attention and acclaim from the music press. So how does Super Champon compare? Well, somehow, on this new album, Otoboke Beaver have miraculously managed to surpass their debut in terms of sheer speed, noisiness, and aggression.

Make no mistake, the core elements of Otoboke Beaver’s sound: fast-paced hardcore punk, shouted gang vocals, rhythm and tempo changes galore, and influences from Manzai, a traditional style of Japanese comedy akin to stand-up, are still present on Super Champon, but have been taken to a level of aggression and eccentricity that surpasses even that of their first album. The rapid, blistering, seemingly constant changes in rhythm, tempo, and overall musical direction can be almost disorienting, bringing Otoboke Beaver closer to bands such as The Locust and The Dillinger Escape Plan, though not quite as abrasive, largely due to the fact that the vocalist generally refrains (with some exceptions) from high-pitched screams, instead utilizing punk shouts and even melodic singing when it suits the music.

For a good example of the band’s overall sound and ethos, take the third track on the album, “I Won’t Dish Out Salads’’: starts out in a relatively accessible fashion, with an almost-catchy guitar riff followed by what sounds like a gang vocal chanting of the word “salad” before descending into a frenzy of complex, frenetic bass lines, dissonant tremolo picking, and head spinning stop-start rhythms. Speaking of bass guitar, special attention must be given to the band’s bassist, Hiro-chan; rather than simply providing a root note-foundation or playing whatever the electric guitar, Hiro-chan prefers to follow her own path, spewing out one intricate bass line after another. On the track “Leave me alone! No, stay with me!”, her chaotic slap bass fills would make even Les Claypool perk up his ears.

In general, the musicianship on Super Champon is fairly advanced and even technical, especially for a punk album; to the potential dismay of old-school, die-hard hardcore fanatics, this band’s music is a far cry from the “Three Chords and the Truth” mentality of Ramones and the Sex Pistols.

But the fact that Otoboke Beaver departs from the traditional(one could almost describe it as antiquated) style of punk played by those two aforementioned bands is exactly what makes them so exciting. Their rhythmic creativity, manic exuberance, and overall playfulness injects much-needed vitality into a genre often stereotyped(fairly or unfairly) as tired, outdated, and based on repetition and innovation. Is Otoboke Beaver the new face of hardcore? It may be too early to give a definitive answer, but I can certainly say that Super Champon is a highly entertaining album, and I eagerly await this wonderful band’s future output.

 

4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

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