Thee Michelle Gun Elephant

Rodeo Tandem Beat Specter

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The Japanese quartet, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, continues to churn out punk rock with more melodic and structural variations than hardcore, yet still not as many of those attributes as what's heard in most alternative rock, On their third album, Rodeo Tandem Beat Specter, they add some funk to their shifting lurching tempos, and create a general, sinister ambience to their jagged and tense riffs, just occasionally slowing down to noir-ish moods in "Mona Lisa" and "Beat Specter Garcia." The words are gruffly yelled/sung with a hoarse curl of the tongue that echoes vintage Johnny Rotten. A group that sings virtually entirely in Japanese is never going to make a big dent in the Anglo market, even the underground one, but to its credit the liner notes include both Japanese and English printed lyrics. Perhaps some nuances are untranslatable, but theirs seem more stream of consciousness and random than most in the genre; full of non sequitur images like "rodeo tandem beat specter," "a ground-dwelling seagull," "a spade Monkey in an Aloha shirt," "a boarded one-story sunhouse," and the like. Then again, without the novelty of hearing this angst enunciated in a foreign tongue, this might sound like far more ordinary retro-punkish-rock than it does.

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