The Cow Haus, Tallahassee • October 27, 1998
Living in Tallahassee is not exactly non-stop ecstatic dancing for me, but I have to admire the promoter of the Cow Haus for adding a little light to an otherwise jock-infested existence. Firewater, Quintron, Barbara Manning, the artist formerly known as Will Oldham, and the omnipotent Melt Banana, all playing within days of one another? I’m not one for plugging, but this establishment deserves further scrutiny, if not fervent patronage. Consider yourself warned.
Now on to the important bits – Melt Banana in Tallahassee (??) mere feet away from me!! It’s a pure Beatlemania scene tonight – the kids scream and dance and jerk like Devo while hanging on Yasuko O’s every word. It’s the essence of the music — no wave without the self-conscious pretension, avant garde composition compressed into one minute or less bursts, urgency, intricate destruction, pure glorious abandon. Melt Banana play the same way that Repulsion, Naked City, the Ruins, or the Boredoms all make you want to scream and dance and kill your neighbors. This is not music that we are conditioned to accept. This is you delirious with joy scraping your five senses off the floor.
Introducing the band:
The guitar player, Agata, clearly a madman, wears what appears to be a surgical mask while he abuses and manipulates an effects rack that resembles a miniature Frogger arcade game. Agata never stands still. He absolutely flies up and down the fretboard (Note that any other time I have used that phrase, it is followed by a sneer and wanking gesture. This time it is a compliment.), crossing from death spazz to insect sounds all while keeping his mask in place.
The rhythm section of Rika (bass) and (I think) Watch-Ma (drums) is the most brutally efficient freak-out unit that I have had the privilege of witnessing in years, and that includes Brutal Truth and U.S. Maple.
Yasuko O. is obviously the head provocateur behind the Melt Banana operation. She takes her performance cues from hip hop artists, but of course at 200 times the speed of mere mortals. But the vocals… I am at a loss. Think Poly Styrene. Think Eve Libertine. Think Michael Patton. Think Absu. Think for yourself – I can’t figure it out. I can only speak for my ringing ears. She’s absolutely brilliant.
Melt Banana race through song after song after song — punctuating each one with a polite “thank you,” admonitions to buy the new record, and calling off the title of the next one. In classic grindcore fashion, by the time the audience got finished applauding for the last song, the band would be about halfway through the next one. They threw in a Dead Kennedys cover and encored (encored!) with the much-demanded cover of “Surfin’ USA!” For one lovely moment, Brian Wilson finally lived up to his hype. Melt Banana is the dance party scene in the ’80s film of my dreams!