Melt-Banana at Stereo, 10/6/17

A packed Stereo is bubbling over with anticipation for noise-rock stalwarts Melt-Banana’s first Glasgow show in three years.

I sense that most in the crowd know exactly what to expect from the Japanese duo, and surmise that the die-hards significantly outnumber those who have simply wandered in off the street in search of shelter from the rain.

Melt-Banana are an utterly unique aural assault; a rich smorgasbord with dollops of hardcore punk, grindcore and chirpy video game sonics.

Ichirou Agata’s famously deafening guitar tone approximates a swarm of bees one minute, exploding megaton bombs the next; his grinding riffs nestle into every cavity of the audience’s willing eardrums.

What a gig to forget my ear protection for, I think; as Agata’s guitar does an uncanny impression of an oversized Windows PC stuttering to a crash.

Vocalist Yasuo Onuki is on similarly fine form, her hyperactive yelps piercing the air with surgical precision – aggressive, yet controlled.

She swings a colourful, pocket-sized MIDI controller around like a candy handgun; from this she controls the electronic drums (the band have been down a live drummer since 2013), providing the crowd with a visual reassurance that those colossal blast beats are actually coming from somewhere.

In a quirky interlude, Onuki forthrightly announces that the band will now play “play seven short songs – OK!”

Melt-Banana then treat us to exactly seven songs on the trot, each of less than a minute in duration (those familiar with their extensive back catalogue will know that there are more than a few of those to choose from – on record, ‘We Love Choco-Pa!’ clocks in at a mere 14 seconds, and it feels like it’s played in half the time tonight).

While I’m not well-versed enough to put a name to every song in Melt-Banana’s set, newer tracks from 2013’s fetch like ‘Candy Gun’ and ‘Lied Lied Lies’ – featuring trippy, melodic pedal work from Agata and marginally more tuneful vocals from Onuki – do stand out, contrasting nicely against earlier, more lo-fi fare.

I’m perched at a relatively safe distance from the stage (again, folks, don’t forget your ear protection), but the overjoyed faces of front row folk ambling past me for a breather mid-set say it all.

Melt-Banana have put a jolt up the spine of rainy Glasgow tonight; it’s an absolutely blistering performance well worth the three-year wait.

Words: Graham Neil Gillespie

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