Consumer Guide to Boredoms
By Marc Baines
Editor’s Note: I have Marc to thank for a deluge of great Boredoms tapes and helping me to figure out their music which (at first) struck me as nasty, stupid chaos. He said, ‘See them live and you’ll understand’. My memory of the one live show I saw in London was of a game of Mortal Kombat featuring Librarians in Black Leather vs Half-Naked Tattooed Monsters – a joyous madness of insane logic and wild energies. That show prised open my cranium with forceps and infected me with the Boredoms virus. Who better then to testify to their awesome power than Marc, who has assembled the collection described below at great personal expense, trawled for more data, and now gives us this intensely enthused, personal Consumer Guide and appreciation…
Onanie Bomb meets the Sex Pistols
UK EARTHNOISE EN001 CD (1988)
An electronic code, a chime, a swipe at the snare and into a churning loop and chant – ‘In a gnat style booby hatch, in a gnat style booby hatch…’ Okay, it may be a gross mishearing on my part but it sounds like an apt locator for what is to follow. In the space of 21 seconds Boredoms No-Core has staked its claim on your listening lobes. This first LP leans heavily on their bedfellows in the ‘B’ section of the record racks – Black Sabbath, the Birthday Party, Butthole Surfers – and tries to outdo them all. It’s by turns confounding, funny, disconcerting and obliteratingly powerful, sometimes offensive (is the title ‘Lick’n Cock Boatpeople’ non-PC or what?), sometimes frustrating (‘Young Assouls’ ends with an agonising 90 sec belching contest) but Boredoms always redeem themselves, putting their absurd production ideas into practice, putting inspiration above studio convention. Compared to later releases Onanie Bomb is a straightforward rock/hardcore mix; compared to most straightforward rock records it could be from Venus. The final three bonus tracks on the CD are from the Anal by Anal EP – soul powered boogie from when Boredoms were just a studio bound duo – Tabat (later of Zeni Geva) and Yamatsuka Eye.
Soul Discharge ’99
UK EARTHNOISE EN002 CD (1989)
The ‘psychoalphadiscobetaudioaquadoloop sound’ that introduced Boredoms to the West when Shimmy-Disc issued it in ’89, probably the best known of their records, it’s subsequently been reworked and reissued by Earthnoise, so you don’t have to feel you’re lining Kramer’s pockets to buy it. You may even put some cash the Boredoms’ way. The overhaul starts with an additional first track, ‘Your Name Is Limitless’, hard to describe without sounding like some Vic Reeves patter – ‘a hornet in a Robertson’s Golden Shred jar suggesting a melody to John Barry at Cozy Powell’s rehearsal rooms’. All of which does nothing to prepare you for ‘Bubblebop Shot’, a flailing ball of hyperfunk; Eye squawking ‘weex ah!’; a bellow in the cloisters; Cistercian vocal warm-ups, then into a monstro rock riff, gunshots and enter Yoshimi introducing her operatic divebombing vocals. If anything could be classed as the definitive Boredoms sound perhaps this is it.
Yoshimi introduces the next track, ‘Hello, 52 Boredom!’ and it’s a B-52s tribute – for about half a minute then they’re off into ‘Sun, Gun, Run’ and some sloganeering about ‘peace in the village!’ They’re going wild, they’re all over the shop but at the same time very disciplined and precise. I’ve read live reviews in the weekly papers dismissing Boredoms as a barrage of formless making-it-up-as-they-go-along noise, but it’s idiotic to imagine music so focused is just jammed out on the spot. Those writers show themselves up for the witless fashion correspondents they are.
‘Z&U&T&A’ starts with a dog in the garden of the gods / Martin Denny scenario then progresses through guitar freak out and yelping to stomping spacefunk. Just as you expect the big Black Sabbath guitar riff and ponderous drum thud of ‘Pow Wow Now’ to build to a crescendo things get squelchy and Eye scats ‘boo bah bey boo bah bey…’ On paper this may sound like comedy rock for stoners but that’s nowhere near the mark. It’s unshackled music, confounding expectations, picking up on whatever aspects of pop culture they want to throw in the pan and doing it aggressively and seriously. It’s also refreshing to see them set themselves apart from a lot of their noise and hardcore contemporaries by not entitling their songs with pat death / nazi / visceral / satanic imagery and pretending to have a deeper agenda, but rather producing music with intensity that’s overwhelmingly positive and doesn’t rely on those clichÃ©s.
Bossadelic? Novadelic? Indisputably.
US REPRISE 9 45416-2 CD (1992)
‘Hey Bore Hey’ – Boredoms go grunge, ‘cept they’re too fucked to grunge, the riffing breaks up and breaks up and finally breaks down. ‘Bo Go’ finds them more at home with a nightmarish Jet Harris riff. ‘Telehorse Uma’ takes the Fire Engines’ ‘Dischord’ underwater, matches it up with a disgruntled Gregorian drone then breaks in with a celebratory ‘Maker Maker!’. This is a record full of little thefts, appropriations and transformations. ‘Heeba’ takes the melody of Davenport and Cooley’s ‘Fever’, mangles it through a cute robotic voice modulator, adds fingersnaps and Hira’s beautiful drifting basslines.
‘Bod’ has some dumbo trying to figure out who they are – ‘Four Tops?’…’No.’…’Motorbosom?’…’No’…’Son of a Chippy?’…’Nooooo’…Finally he gets it – ‘Boredoms?’…’Yayss! And…good…noise!’, and Boredoms blast out an earful to prove it. It strikes me that there’s the same positive energy, grandeur of ideas, hugeness in execution and hairbend twists and thrills that 60s and 70s Jack Kirby comics give you – that epic planet-swallowing, primitiveunleashing of possibilities. And there’s more great riffs on one track like ‘Okinawa Rasta Beef’ than on the whole of that last Screaming Trees record. It’s clear this is a bigger, sharper more melody-filled disc than the last two.
‘Cheeba’ is jawdropping pop funk that would be chart material in ’96 if pop had run on the right tracks and every major city had a monorail. Definitely one to stick on when you’re preparing for a night on the tiles…
JAPAN AVANT AVAN 026 CD (1993)
Subtitled ‘Life is OK!’ Produced at Martin Bisi’s studio with John Zorn. From where I’m sitting this is one of the greatest records EVER. No question. It’s Boredoms’ most accessible record too and fully bears out their assertion that they’re a pop group not a noise outfit. It’s probably the record that’s most like their live shows too.
Kicking out with ‘Domsbore’, surge from the begin, a huge all-enveloping riff. ‘Jet Net’ follows, the melody riding on Yoshimi’s trumpet, snatched by Yamamoto’s guitar and rode all the way up. ‘Pop Can’ plays the twin drummer rumble to full effect, topped with a Sly Stone ‘Chakka-lakka-lakka’. ‘Rydeen’ shows them to be masters of the unexpected, just when you think they’re going to explode into action they drift into a long long meditative / amble section THEN explode into action. ‘Heps’ they’ve played the three times I’ve got to see them live – a murderously insistent melody line, Yamamoto shines, Yoshikawa and Eye chant ‘I Could see My Heart in a key-po key-po’ and you almost believe you could too.
‘100 Dom’ has a spooky ambience – the writhing of souls in torment. Boredoms could produce a great film score except they demand too much attention. It’s almost impossible to use Boredoms records as background music for any activity – reading, writing, even drawing, they’ve got this knack of stopping your brain. Dead.
It is surprising though that Boredoms have never made videos, considering how visual their stage shows are. Yoshiwaka and Eye facing off against each other with martial arts moves and mock ritualistic posturing. I asked Yoshiwaka after their Glasgow show last year if he likes martial arts films, he pawed the air ‘I like…I like…’ then grabbed a jacket and pointed to a patch – ‘Yin Yang?!’ – ‘No No No’ and pointed closer and there was a little praying mantis – ‘Praying mantis?’, ‘Yes, yes, praying mantis!’
‘Up’ closes the record with great crackling sheets and snarls of guitar, perhaps a tip of the hat to Keiji Haino.
USA REPRISE 9 41559-2 CD (1993)
A 16 minute EP that’s turned up reasonably cheaply over here – studio doodles and digressions that don’t reflect their live shows. The first in a projected series of 10 Super Roots. ‘We go to the studio’ says Eye, ‘discuss what we will do and have fun realising on the spot what we have thought of, jokes and so on, normal songs making…’ ‘Pop Kiss’ is runs of descending guitar notes and kissy noises. ‘4’ is a medley of ‘good noise’ including ‘Machine 3’ – a huge rhythm generating and the band screaming ‘Machine’ at the top of their lungs, and ’96 Teenage Bondage’, Yoshimi’s tribute to early Pussy Galore, that’s like all their best moves condensed into two minutes. ‘Ear?Wig?Web?’? I dunno, a lot of the fun with these songs is no matter how many times you hear them you can’t quite fathom them out.
JAPAN WEA WPC 2 7508 CD (1994)
A patch design on the cover proclaims ‘KUNG FUsion’ and littered inside are lots of screwy little doodles and collages and photos of band members in preposterous clothing like some latterday Dada pamphlet.
‘Acid Police’ is thankfully free of housebeats but builds around a call and response – ‘Aceeeed!’ – ‘Pol-Lee-Shay!’, after a few goes round the guitar chimes in, eventually Yoshimi and Atari thunder in on tomtoms and just when you think they couldn’t get no higher – Bang! Zoom! ‘Synthesizer Guidebook on Fire’ is a trancey dreamy dub of ‘Acid Police’ with gongs and tablas and phasing and big dub bass.
‘Anarchy in the UKK’ is built on a corny-corny metal riff but mutates into something stranger, almost Dixieland in parts but with that big double drummer throb, ending with a ‘good game, good game, good game’ repeat like a broken-down Bruce Forsythe simulacrum…
‘B for Boredoms’ has a sped-up computer processed sound, like a lot of the last three or four Butthole Surfers records, but they pull it off much better than their Texas cousins, it’s still a crazy all over the place sound. ‘Eeedoms’ is their Osaka Nocturne – a sleazy noir harmon muted trumpet, saved from the cool by interfering guitar mayhem and a rowdy pack of midgets. It’d make the perfect theme for a 90s ‘Get Smart’, just as ‘I’m Not Synthesizer (YPY)’ would be a great metal theme for World Spittoon Championships.
‘5 Moke 7’ is brilliantly structured by some insane logic. Boredoms cram so much into one song but there’s no sense that they’re trying to impress with flashy technique, wacky contrast contrivances and clever signature changes like some of the drearier 80s European collective type groups. Chocolate Synthesizer is the last record they made with Yoshikawa, second vocalist, mini-drum kit drummer and Eye’s foil, also the last rock album style album to date.
Super Roots 2
JAPAN WEA 3CS-2011 CD (1994)
A 3-inch, 6Â½ minute collection – cute as a button and not much bigger; included with initial Japanese copies of Chocolate Synthesizer, I was going to say ‘free with’ but I paid Â£30 for the special edition Choc Synth, so free it weren’t. More spontaneous unrehearsed confections, minute-long snatches – ‘Go Come Oparks’ is a cowbell and tomtom rhythmfest, ‘Magic Milk’ uses dropping a pencil and popping a pop can for percussion. ‘Noise Ramones’ is a series of overlapped tones and frequencies, a reprise from Pop Tatari. Super Roots 2 is slight but it’s a nice item. I especially like the slip sleeve with waxy bandage-like / medical-feel inner bag.
Super Roots 3
JAPAN WEA WPC2-7513 CD (1994)
A single track – ‘Hard Trance Anarchy Way (Karaoke of Cosmos)’ for the aspiring Eye to wail and squawk over. A mess of galloping guitars and battering drums that keeps up its intense energy level for over half an hour, changing key about every five minutes and only after laying on plenty of teasing drum climaxes. An adrenal rush of joy of the kind I imagine motorcyclists feel on a long clear trap-free road. It’s sometimes hard to know if you’re hearing organ and guitar tunes seeping in and out of the mix or if it’s overtones and sustain playing messing with your mind.
Super Roots 4 [Unissued]
Super Roots 5
JAPAN WEA WPC2-7518 CD (1995)
I’ve had four hours sleep and I NEED eight a night. I heard the mail plop through the front door and the cat was whining so I got up, put some food in the cat’s bowl and opened this package containing a tape of Super Roots 5, put the tape on and went back to bed. Barely half awake, lulled for the first few minutes of pastoral calm, suddenly it feels like the ground has opened up and I’m tipped forward and falling at speed down an endless borehole, through warm rushes of air and heading right for the Earth’s core. Before I know it I’m spat out into daylight and soaring upwards through the clouds with an incredible feeling of well being. And all the time I’m there in my bed.
Later on I find out the Boredoms had recorded the record lying on the floor of the studio in near darkness with their eyes shut.
Super Roots 5 is one hour-long piece, ‘Go!!!!!’ ‘It was like a marathon high,’ says Yoshimi in an interview for Alles internet magazine, ‘Not at all tiresome…’ She plays just one cymbal throughout. Eye, as always, produces. ‘I am mic-er,’ he says, ‘Put $1 toy microphones and the pin microphones everywhere such as headphone. They all have their own frequency bands so mix them together and they make a different kind of harmony…it’s hardcore New Age.’ A fantastic extension of their positive energy approach and the perfect gift for the bedridden. An incredible record.
Super Roots 6
JAPAN WEA WPC2-7519 CD (1996)
Seventeen tracks of solo flibjab from the recently rechristened Yamataka Eye. It’s a wonder that WEA continue to issue these improvised non-commercial quickie recordings but long may they continue. Most of these pieces are pretty dry, a few monotonous but more of them inspired pulse-pounders whether funky interplanetary transmissions, a techno-Sandy Nelson percussive storm or moody organ and gong meditations. Eye says ‘You can call it Water music’.
A promo LP 2001 has surfaced recently with no label information, just ‘promo’ stamped on it and titles for the three long tracks. ‘Super Go!!!’ fills one side, a varispeed drone over Jaki Liebzeit drums – a prototype for Super Roots 5? ‘Super Future’ is a cavernous dub mix of the previous track and ‘Super Now’, the most insidious of the three has plucked piano strings, clattery and boxy percussion and some similarity to ‘6’ from Super Roots 6.
Public Bath Records featured Boredoms along with Hanatarash and Omoide Hatoba on their Japan Bashing Vol 1 EP, and also issued a 7-inch – ‘Michidai’ / ‘Fuanteidai’ extracted from the Boretronix cassette series, three volumes of live, studio and sampled collage. ‘Pukulee and Rukulee’ appears with good songs by Pell Mell and Cupid Car Club on the Rock Stars Kill LP.
Eye also appears on releases by UFO or DIE (with Yoshimi), Naked City, Hanatarash, Puzzle Punks, Audio Sports and with Otomo Yoshihide. A 100-CD box set of Eye’s tour of China with John Zorn is available mail-order, at $350 per set. Yoshimi occasionally drums with Free Kitten, plays guitar and sings with OOIOO and has three solo singles on Ecstatic Peace. Hira plays with Hanadensha, Yamamoto with Omoide Hatoba and Yoshiwaka with Concrete Octopus. What Atari is doing with his spare time I don’t know…
Special thanks to Tim Gane and Hidetsugu Ito