When a band does a closet-cleaning album, it’s often just not that interesting a closet — so it says something that Meat Beat Manifesto were able to assemble an album of outtakes and closet-cleanings that’s more cohesive than most actual albums by other bands. Armed Audio Warfare, the first full-length release by MBM, needs to be approached after people are already familiar with the band to be understood in its proper context. It still stands tall on its own, though — again, something most closet-cleaning records never accomplish.
Meat Beat Manifesto are one of the most successful outfits in the whole of modern-day electronic music. Not just commercially successful — although they are that; they’ve had a slew of albums that have sold well, a 5.1 remix DVD, tons of videos and plum spots on major movie soundtracks — but successful in the sense that they set out to accomplish things most people wouldn’t dare to try for fear of looking foolish. Their sound is a massive amalgam of influences — the industrial-dance / electro-funk sound of groups like Tackhead; conventional pop music; rap; and wall-to-wall noise. Like other bands who manage to suck in a bewildering array of sounds and make it theirs, it all comes out sounding like nothing other than MBM. That’s the secret of their success, to me: they put their stamp of personality on everything that comes out of their machinery. Warfare doesn’t so much feel like a freshman effort as a remix album, and a very good one at that. Read more
His name is Kujo (Ryuhei Matsuda), and he looks far too delicate and handsome to be a Japanese high-school gang leader, but I think that's the idea. Kujo and the rest of his buddies do things like dangle themselves backwards from the fence around the roof of the school to see who can hang there the longest without falling. Since Kujo manages to stick it out further than anyone else, he's automatically elected boss, and they strut through the graffiti-splattered corridors of their school, dealing with and doling out trouble in about equal measure.
This is the setup for Blue Spring, one of an ongoing tradition of Japanese films about violent, disaffected youth that border on romanticism. Takashi Miike's Fudoh comes to mind, although Blue Spring is nowhere nearly as over-the-top as that film; it's more deliberate and thoughtful, even in moments where teachers are being doused with water. The director, Toshiaki Toyoda, uses occasional dashes of attitude and posturing — like the too-cool rock music that streaks across the soundtrack every so often — but he's mostly content to let his story tell itself. It's a smart move. Read more