March 15, 2002

Ed's Underground

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There’s something strange about The Boredoms. Actually, there’s a lot of strange things about this Japanese noise-rock band, but the one strange thing I have in mind is how they manage, in spite of all odds, to actually be good. Even stranger is that all their albums of tripped-out experimentation have been released on an American major-label (thanks mostly to Sonic Youth’s endorsement back in the early 90’s).

Super Ae is The Boredoms’ jam album, a collection of 7 epic tracks that run through heavy metal, Zen chanting, musique concrete, prog-rock, and punk — often all in the same song. “Super Going” is a great example, starting with a surprisingly melodic guitar build-up and frontman Yamatsuka eYe’s repetitive nonsense syllables. Over its 12-minute length, the band patiently add on surprises like some electronic tinkering, bizarre trippy percussion, and a steady build to a rocking climax.

This is by far the most restrained Boredoms release — veering away from the spastic freak-outs that marked older albums — but that doesn’t mean that it ever gets predictable. “Super Coming” starts as acoustic folk that gets distorted and devolves into an all-out riff-filled jam over which eYe frighteningly growls out an incomprehensible chant. “Super Are You” is closest to classic Boredoms material; it’s a traditional punk rock song except for the frenzied screaming and Zappa-esque percussion.

Like all the best Boredoms material, this album veers back and forth across the line between grating and exciting. The difference on this record is that it is utterly consistent from start to finish, with not even one sloppy misstep.

The freakiest band to con a major-label into a contract, The Boredoms — in direct rebuttal of their name — are always good for an album full of surprises.

Archived article by Ed Howard