I am snobby, jaded, cynical, and bored with guitar bands, and due to these character flaws, I have been unenthusiastic in recent days about the state of Japanese non-experimental indie music. But I like this band nhhmbase (“ne-han base”), and they’re now officially on my shortlist.

Trevor from Music Related sent me their old demo last year, and despite the fact that the drums were recorded to sound like they’re Casio keyboard samples, the three mp3s suddenly and inexplicably became my favorite thing outside of The Beagles. I naturally tend to like off-kilter time sequences: They sound fresh. But so many of these semi-Math Rock bands either spiderweb their guitar lines into boring drones, go jazzy, or start believing that their little science experiment in 11/8 is the hook. nhhmbase’s instrumental technique makes 9/8 sound easy, and they remember to write actual songs with melodies and structures. They also show great mastery over dynamics — that kind of Jane’s Addiction break-neck movement between pastoral scenes and heavy noise. The singer’s voice lifts miraculously into the upper register in short spurts with no warning.

They also avoid the normal rock clutter problem. The drummer nonchalantly plays his “zero tom” kit in simple patterns a la Klaus Dinger. The bass is heavy and provides the underlying riffs. The “lead guitarist” punches individual notes and lets them ring out in feedback (guitar strap: extremely loose and long), while the singer only plays sparse and sparkly jazz chords (guitar strap: extremely tight and high).

Now this could be terribly boring if they weren’t so drunken and brash and young: stereotypically trashing their instruments at the end, dropping lyrics, breaking multiple strings in the course of the first song. (For those wondering how amateur bands can afford to treat their instruments poorly, lead singer Mamoru was rocking a $200 Fender Squier last night for a few songs — the favorite guitar of fourteen year-olds everywhere.)

See nhhmbase on YouTube here.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
January 29, 2006

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

10 Responses

  1. trevor Says:

    like them or not.. they have that “thing”. i find the vocalist completely engaging.. even on those horrible recordings.

    and do you have a problem with the fender squier?

    does anyone on this blog actually care about music? do music and japanese social economics really mix?

  2. Grishnackh Says:

    What’s with this “guitar has been done to death” mentality so prevalent among electronic music enthusiasts? I mean, I used to play keyboards in a band with an analog-modeling synthesizer, and then I picked up guitar and found it just as inspiring.

    BTW, I finally found some mp3s of Metalchicks and the riffs sound very cliched to me. Apparently their idea of metal is still in the 80s. You compared them to Slayer? Hell, at least Slayer doesn’t sound dated even nowadays.

  3. marxy Says:

    I’m not against guitars, but I’m against “guitar bands” where you have to guitarists play power chords and a bassist play the root notes over drums.

    Metalchicks are not a metal band. You should think of the album as Buffalo Daughter with all the instruments replaced by real drums and guitar. Same mentality.

  4. Carl Says:

    I came for the music, stayed for the social commentary.

  5. Carl Says:

    Hmm, I’m looking at the code for the RSS feed, and actually it looks like it’s set up right. There must be a problem on my end. Odd.

  6. Carl Says:

    Ah ha! On further, further investigation http://www.pliink.com/mt/marxy/index.rdf is set up right (but does only partial feeds) and http://www.pliink.com/mt/marxy/index.xml is set up wrong (but does full feeds). Changing the first line of the second feed to oughta fix it.

  7. Carl Says:

    Correction: changing it to <?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”utf-8″?>

  8. marxy Says:

    I hope my web maintenance person is reading this. I’m just the writer, here.

  9. trevor at pliink Says:

    wha? huh?
    you want google ads? i’m right on it.


  10. Carl Says:

    Thanks for fixin’ it. Much obliged.