Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Guitar Wolf will jet rock you to killing crazy!!

Cliffs Notes on today's entry: Guitar Wolf is playing at Chop Suey in Seattle on Friday night, March 11. If you live in this region, have a pulse, and possess any love for real rock and roll, BE THERE. You're an idjit if you ain't.

Yesterday I spent a whole entry justifying my fondness for Duran Duran. I hope that my brave stance won't seem hypocritical in light of this column, which extols the virtues of sweaty, loud, ugly rock, the no-bull variety with a lineage that runs from old-school rockabilly to The Cramps to The Ramones. For real rock and roll is in mighty short supply in these devalued times.

Let's not delude ourselves; rock has become the muzak of this generation. Every car commercial sports a razor-sharp guitar riff; every reality show uses rock as anonymous bumper music while the latest reality TV plebes race, eat worms, or screw. Even great songs get co-opted by The Man (The Ramones in a Pepsi commercial...bluurrgg...), and the kids have confused mallrats like Sum 41 and Good Charlotte for the genuine punk-rock article.

But if you hurled all the rock and roll bands on the planet into one giant red-hot frying pan and broiled the whole shibang 'til all of the poseurs, wusses, and weaklings evaporated, only one band would remain standing, sneering, and pounding out riffs: Japan's mighty Guitar Wolf.

No lie, pard'ner. This trio--guitarist/head screamer Seiji (Guitar Wolf), bassist Billy (Bass Wolf), and drummer Toru (Drum Wolf)--generates the loudest, most knuckle-draggingly primal and insidiously catchy noise this side of the late great Ramones. We're talking two-and-three chord garage rock, played with the kind of full-throttle, go-for-broke energy that only true believers can pull off. Don't write Guitar Wolf off as a novelty act because they sing in Japanese and currently record for an indie label (Narnack Records). This scruffy trio is the real deal.

They're so loud that at least one of their CDs, 1998's Jet Generation, comes with a warning that it will destroy certain types of stereo amplifiers if you play it. The guitars squeal like bandsaws grinding at sheet metal, the bass and drums rumble like Godzilla with indigestion, and the low-fi production makes your average Guitar Wolf CD sound like a giant monster battle being recorded on a cassette recorder by a scared little kid hiding from the carnage in a cardboard box. Miraculously, real riffs and tunes surface amidst the noise. And they look cooler than you or I ever will, puny mortals.

My intro to Guitar Wolf occurred, ironically enough, not in a smoky music venue, but at the Egyptian movie theater in Seattle, where a midnight screening of the trio's starring vehicle Wild Zero blew the top of my head off. Wild Zero weds flesheating zombies, rock and roll, Sam Peckinpah-style action, and grade Z science fiction with un-self-conscious verve and fun. It's the best polyglot B flick I've seen in ages, and the Wolf come off as the coolest bunch of miscreants-turned-world saviors who ever strapped on instruments and stepped in front of a camera (get thee to a DVD retailer and pick up the Synapse Films disc post haste).

And there is no better live band on the planet. The last time they played Seattle, at the Crocodile Cafe in March 2003, they pounded out a two-hour show of blistering energy. Seiji was drenched in sweat within the first seven minutes, and backed by the piledriving rhythm section of his bandmates, his energy never flagged. At one point the frontman climbed to the upper rafters of the Crocodile ceiling, started slashing out power chords like some axe-wielding demon, leapt from the rafters, and landed--hard--on his feet while continuing to pound out chords without missing a beat. It was, as Rita eloquently stated afterwards, a Rock and Roll Religious Experience.

So be there to get some religion. Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee will be there--in spirit, anyway.

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