Spot Remover

Yellow Machinegun

Howling Bull Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Sometimes, I have difficulty believing what I get in the mail.

Over my years doing various things in the music industry, I've listened to such rarities as trance/dance music from Israel, Viking metal, Christian ska music... and one album that I swear was recorded inside of a bong. Just when I think I've heard it all, something new arrives in my post office box to prove me wrong.

Today's example: Yellow Machinegun and their second album Spot Remover. Okay, work with me here: They're a punk band. Check.

They're all female. Check.

They're from Japan, singing in halted English.


Yeah, I know, not the first thing I'd choose to listen to when I got out of bed. But the Osaka-based band - bassist/vocalist Kaori Okumura, guitarist Kyoko Moriya and drummer Tamami Ohkado - is able to convincingly pull it off, though the formula starts to get a little weak at the end.

I first happened to hear Yellow Machinegun thanks to a split 7" featuring S.O.D.'s "Seasoning The Obese" on one side and two tracks from this band on the other. Once I realized I was listening to the wrong side at the wrong speed (I my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 knew Billy Milano sounded weird) and switched the speed to 45, I was blown away at the two songs Yellow Machinegun powered through. (Side note: The publicist who sent me this disc - along with a few others from the same label that we'll be reviewing soon - also included a magazine featuring Yellow Machinegun... but it was written entirely in Japanese. I can't understand a goddamn word.)

Spot Remover reprises one of those songs, "Again," and piles on more of the same in just 30 minutes. Musically, the band is quite good, even if they're not as tight an outfit as they'd hope to be. Lyrically, it's not bad, though the broken English sometimes makes for some interesting lines. I realize that English is not the band's native tongue, but lyrics like the following are a tad confusing: "You expect you to have it tighty / But it's losing from your hands / You must have tighty your need / So you will lose without your knowing." It's almost as if they ran their lyrics through the half-ass translator on Altavista. Then again, their English is better than some of the bands I've listened to who are native to America.

But what they lose in linguistics they make up for in pure punk power, sounding not unlike Joan Jett at times. Tracks like "Shut Your Mouth," "Home Alone," "Why?" and "Hip Tail" all have the ability to leave you slamming your head into the wall. The problem is that things start to sound the same by the time you hit tracks like "French Toast" and "Spot Remover".

Ah, but then "Eat Hat Fat" (what the hell is that supposed to mean?) clicks in. Wait a minute - this features Yellow Machinegun actually playing a slower song, and has Okumura singing (well, might I add). This is a twist that wasn't totally expected - though they do revert to their punk ways for the chorus. After an album of two-minute blasts to the eardrums, you're not ready for a nearly eight-minute dance on what's left of your spinal column, though it's a welcome change.

There have been numerous Japanese bands that are treated in America as no more than cartoon acts. But Yellow Machinegun could well be a group that could turn punk on its ear - and Spot Remover, while not perfect, proves that these ladies need to be taken seriously.

I never expected to find myself listening to Japanese all-female punk rock. I also never expected to find myself liking it so much.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Howling Bull Records, and is used for informational purposes only.