Melon Batake a Go Go Are SICKxIDOLSxSICK!

Obviously it’s a bit early, but I’m essentially ready to declare Melon Batake a Go Go my pick for Homicidols’ annual Best-Of in the “Breakthrough Artist” category. The group is on fire right now, with what finally appears to be a stable, solid line-up backed by great tunes, and an incrementally growing fan-following that really adore these “Idols From Outerspace”. Even from the short time ago this blog previously covered these girls, they’re swiftly taken on a new life and gained new fans. It’s fun and exciting to watch a group rise from obscurity and earn some well-deserved praise, and the time is definitely at hand for these young ladies.

With the iron hot, the sidekick idols are poised to strike with their upcoming EP “SICKxIDOLSxSICK” (It reminds me of the Cramps’ classic album “Stay Sick”!) which comes out in May. This will be the first release with the group’s current roster, because all the members are still too new to have recorded together before. (I think Soze is the only active member to have any recorded Melon music at all.)

The newly invigorated Melon Batake a Go Go has charged up their social media resources to spread the word of outer-space-psychobilly-infused-garage-rock-idol-music, including taking advantage of Soundcloud to share a brand-new song for the masses! It’s called “Horror Billy Nights”…

It’s a solid rocker that’d make about any band proud! Nice meaty guitars, great vocals, and a spooky vibe that’ll fit into your Halloween party mixes this Fall. The only minor issue I take is that with a name like “Horror Billy Nights”, I kinda wish there was a little more “billy” in there. Just twang up those guitars a little bit! This is an idol group that I’m simply dying to see eventually perform with a live three-piece band featuring a devil-locked dude slapping a coffin-shaped stand-up bass with a couple of go-go dancers (Or a guy in a gorilla suit, that’s always cool too!) shaking it fast on pedestals along the edge of the stage.

Also up on the YouTubes is a short promo video that features another newly recorded song that Melon’s been performing live for some time, and moody piece of horror pop called “Change the Wolfman”…

While things are certainly going fantastic for Melon Batake a Go Go, there’s been one unfortunate hitch in their giddy-up.  (Literally) Sadly, Soze Nakamura injured her ACL during a show last month, and she’s been out of the live-equation while awaiting surgery, followed by the eventual recovery process. The group’s been performing with occasional guest stars- as well as a framed photo of Nakamura in her honor. In the meantime, Soze has been revitalizing the group’s long-dormant Instagram account, which had been seemingly forgotten, with brand new, fresh photos. (On a related note, she now has a SOZELICA Instagram account as well!)

I haven’t seen any sort of pre-order information for purchasing “SICKxIDOLSxSICK” but I’m certainly keeping my eyes open. Also hopefully now that the Melon Girls have increased their stature considerably, perhaps the distribution for this EP will be improved. It’s been a bit of a task to get hold of their earlier stuff and it’d be great if a wider base could get their hands on this upcoming gem. They certainly deserve it, and there’s no doubt in my mind that we’re looking at future breakouts here. Keep your eyes on Melon Batake a Go Go!!!

Her Name is SOLEIL

I’d like to strongly urge you readers to do yourselves a favor, and open up Spotify or Apple music and look up the just recently released album “My Name is SOLEIL”

SOLEIL, you see, is a band, but it’s also the name of the band’s lead singer, and together they’ve released an uplifting and exciting album that recalls Shibuya-kei and the 60’s rock genre known in Asia as “Group Sounds”. And if you also love the classic girl-group era and the heyday of French ye-ye pop, well, herein awaits a tasty treat as well. To call this recording pure joy is a trifle bit of an understatement. This is a captivating concoction of nostalgic vibes bursting at the seams with fresh modern energy, it’s just really that good.  Continue reading

SAKA-SAMA Brings The House Down In Their Own Unique Way

It’s something of a watershed for every idol group when they finally achieve a following that allows them to achieve their first headlining one-man show, and the hard work of being an upstart underground unit finally came together for SAKA-SAMA this past March 17!

The venue was packed with assorted fans of all types, including Soze Nakamura, Amamiya Miku (you may remember her as “Natsu” from Avandoned, and now she’s part of a quirky project called NaNoMoRal) and Hiiro Moe of xoxo(Kiss&Hug) EXTREME in attendance, and of course the TRASH-UP!! Records staff lending their unique vibe to the event! If the gushing praise throughout the quirky corner of Twitter let us in on anything, it’s that the show completely charmed everyone in the venue. And to cap it off wonderfully, Machiko of Bon Voyaaz joined the group (in their new stage outfits!) for an in-the-round and non-amplified encore that really made the night special:

And if you’ve listened to SAKA-SAMA‘s debut EP, none of this is a terrible surprise because this release is simply fantastic. It’s been out for roughly a month now and remains in heavy rotation since the day I got it. Eclectic would be the first word to manifest in my mind, as it goes from electro-fuzz-garage-dance to twee-country-to spoken word to their signature wispy “lo-fi dreampop”.

I’m feeling quite comfortable that this delightful platter will indeed sit among my favorite releases when this year draws to a close. And they’re not done yet: A 45″ vinyl single will be among the hotly coveted items being unleashed for Japan’s Record Store Day. At this rate, we might be about to witness the summer of SAKA-SAMA!

And for further reading, (in Japanese) here’s an interview with TRASH-UP’s founders, taking about the magazine they created that eventually brought them into idol appreciation, and ultimately into creating their own group.

BONUS CLOSING VIDEO: Here’s Dr. Mahiru teaming up with Melon Batake A Go Go’s Soze (She’s EVERYWHERE!!) to enjoy some stage banter and sing a few songs, including covers of Dots and Bellheart. Enjoy!!

Somewhere Between Creation And Chaos, There Is SOZELICA

“I Feel Torn Between The Desire To Create And The Desire To Destroy.”

Lucy Van Pelt

Previously I covered the charming idol unit for the garage-rock set, Melon Batake A Go Go, and while I most certainly think they’re totally awesome, fun and terrific, there’s another facet connected to the group that I’m even more intrigued by. Melon-leader Nakamura Soze also has an up-and-coming solo career going on under the stage name SOZELICA.

How does one describe this project? I took my sweet time writing this piece because I wanted to try and figure that how to answer that. After watching a bunch of her videos several times, a few thoughts entered my mind: Experimental DJ? Oddball idol upstart? Performance artist? Chaotic destroyer of stuffed animals and train sets? The best answer I can offer is….yes.

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Melon Batake a Go Go is the Garage-Rock Idol Group We Needed

Before I started attuning my ears towards the world of Japanese idol pop, my true musical loves from Japan came in the form of the legendary punk and garage-rock scenes that took root in Tokyo and Osaka. To this day, if you really want to experience what a full-on blast of real rock n’ roll can be, you owe it to yourself to explore the wild, wild world of underground Japanese music played with no concern for money or fame, but only for that moment of pure chaotic joy that breaks the everyday routine of real life, making you feel alive and ready to shoot for the moon on a jet-powered-flame-spewing Kawasaki set to the rhythm of an out-of-tune-six-string opus clocking in at under two minutes…

Now with that spirit in mind, let’s check out Melon Batake a Go Go, a group of “Outer Space Idols” with cool superhero sidekick inspired outfits that are here to unite the legions of underground rockers under the same roof with worshipful wotas. They first formed in 2015, and like a lot of idol units, they’ve already experienced a lot of membership changes. Here’s their first MV, a great song with some cool spy-guitar surf guitar and a big dose of catchy hooks…

Oh dang, that was good! Fast-forward to the present day, and Melon Batake a Go Go has some new faces, but they remain a fantastic garage-rock infused group who really bring the fun live. I mean holy crap, they do a freaking’ CRAMPS (via Hasil Adkins) cover?!? And one of their other signature songs is a flat out rockin’ variation on The Trashmen classic “Surfin’ Bird”, occasionally joined on stage by a guy in a gorilla suit and a cat with a Godzilla mask on his head. It’s just everything that’s perfect…

At present the group is fluctuating between three and four members, while currently auditioning for a new addition. One thing that’s interesting is that their website puts their age-range at 18-30, so they’ve got a wider acceptance of “idol material” than most. I’m looking forward to seeing when the group has it’s line-up nailed down and seeing where they go from there. One of their members, Nakamura, also has an absolutely delightful solo career under the stage name SOZELICA, and she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in the near future. (I’m following up this article with one about her, so stay tuned for that.)

There’s always something new (to somebody) in the idol world, but Melon Batake a Go Go is a special kind of thing to get excited over. I just wish Lux Interior was here to see them…

Official Twitter      Official Facebook      YouTube Channel  

You Should Be Getting Excited About The New SAKA-SAMA EP…

Maniac mentioned it in the Weekender, but it bears repeating: “Lo-Fi Dream Pop” idols SAKA-SAMA are releasing an EP on TRASH-UP!! Records due out on February 28! You’ll pardon me for being a bit giddy, but I think this is a big deal … a minor milestone if you will. SAKA-SAMA’s been teasing us for well over a year cow, with tons of terrific live footage on their label’s YouTube Channel, but no actual studio releases save for some show-exclusive CD-Rs and a lone free song on OTOTOY. It’s no stretch to say I’ve been looking forward to this as much as any DOTS release, especially since SAKA-SAMA is a fellow torch-bearer for the cause of cool and strange avant-art idols.

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Let’s Hope DOTS Tributes Become A Thing…

So I saw this new Dots video linked on Twitter and of course I eagerly clicked it. Within a few moments, the ethereal powers of the・chans took over and swept me away as I watched this clip of them performing “Soda Float Mood”, another song written by For Tracy Hyde‘s guitarist Azusa Suga, who also penned their fantastic crossover tune “Slide”. (We interviewed Azusa previously…)

And then a minute in, I’m thinking “Uhh, hey, these aren’t the・chans I know.” Equally perplexed and fascinated, I dug into the #dotstokyo twitterverse to find out what was happening here. I had previously joked about the Dots entering a state of osmosis and multiplying into two groups, could it be that this thought was prophetic?

Well, nothing quite so heavy and world-changing. Quite simply, Dots had played a show with another delightful indie-idol group called tipToe, and they decided to pull a little stage-costume switcheroo…

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Younapi Puts the Y in YMQ…

Our dearest Younapi of YOU’LL MELT MORE! is just a whirling dervish of activity! Aside from being a member of one of the most prolific oddball idol groups around, she’s consistently making the rounds as a soloist, DJ, artist, clothing designer, and now, because that just wasn’t enough to hold her attention, she’s got herself a new band project!

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Zeikin 5% Bring You a Tax Increase You’ll Be Thrilled To Pay…

I stumbled across 税金5% (Zeikin 5%, or “Tax 5%” *) well over year ago on Twitter, and starting following the group, intrigued by a whole lot of potential demonstrated in a small sample of super-short clips of the member’s practicing. But frustratingly, nothing more than these scattered videos ever materialized, and more puzzling still, it appeared that the group was in a consistent state of membership chaos. New faces would appear, then go away, and ultimately the group appeared to essentially evolve into a solo act by a young lady named “Mimo”, who at one point described herself on her profile as a “Fuck’n Idol”.

Well, with the turning of a new year, nice new surprises have come! Zeikin 5% has recently dropped not one, but two honest-to-goodness MVs, and I’m thrilled to let you know that some truly special greatness is blossoming here. The video descriptions describe the group as a “Rowdy, Anti-Social Punk Rock Band”, and dammit that’s all we could ever ask for…

The group(band) has also dropped a couple of great live clips on their YouTube page, and it’s clear to see that Zeikin 5% is a pretty fun time for the family. Attend one of their shows, and chances are good that Mimo will force you to hold her mic while she cranks out some raw rock n’ roll. (Also, I couldn’t help but notice that she uses a Guitar Wolf guitar strap, so extra points there!)

Currently Zeikin 5% appears to have landed a new bass player, and Mimo mentioned on her Instagram that the group is seeking out a drummer, so maybe a real locked-down line-up will materialize in the year to come!

Lastly, I’d say it’s a fair question to ask “Is this idol?” and the best I can say is “Yes and No”, and does it really matter in the classic sense? (My interpretation of Zeikin 5%, is that they want to be a punk band utilizing idol tropes.)  YLMM!, Screaming 60’s, Hanako-san, the whole entire concept is a big, fluid free-for-all at this point and I believe that’s a great thing for all of us. Idol, band, Idol-band, tomato, tomatto. I just know I like it and want to support it!

*By the way, 5% is the average tax rate for Japanese citizens. 

Avandoned’s “Donut Friend” Is A Love Letter To Music Fans

It would seem rather obvious that most people working in some facet of musical expression got where they are because they love crafting music. But there is a very special type of writer/performer/contributor among the multitude that stand out because they are not just musical artists, but because they are passionate, giddy star-struck fans of music themselves. These type of creators tend to not approach music clinically or with overly practiced technical skill (although many are indeed highly skilled), but rather with a metric ton of heart and soul poured into making every moment shine in whatever they do.

 

I often think of people like Alex Chilton, Brian Wilson, Joan Jett, Daniel Johnston, Jad Fair, The Cramps and Shonen Knife being among these. None of these are (or were) simply musicians making great music, but they are (were) fans of great music harnessing that joyful love into amazing music. I am more than pleased to add Beni and Kotao from Avandoned to this list.  Continue reading