Melt-Banana Cell-Scape

[A-Zap; 2003]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: noise rock, punk
Others: The Locust, Daughters, Erase Errata

Japan's Melt-Banana, one of those "gotta hear 'em" bands, are one of the most creative units working the noise-hardcore scene this decade. Singer Yasuko squeals out staccato bursts of what is apparently English, though rarely particularly distinguishable. Song titles have rarely been of much help, either. Cell-Scape is no different in this regard ("Chain-Shot to Have Some Fun," "A Hunter in the Rain to Cut the Neck Up in the Present Shape"), but does the band fall prey to the hardcore trend of giving the songs names more interesting than the songs themselves (looking at you, The Locust)? Fortunately, Melt-Banana has been more of an "experimental" (cringe) band than straight-ahead rockers since the beginning.  While it's reasonable to say that the band has been working with the same tools for their whole discography to this point, be pleased to know that Cell-Scape sees the Banana expanding their palette.  The songs are longer, many over three minutes, allowing for the band to see ideas through before ricocheting off again. There's more shout-along moments along with the standard frenzied yelping on Yasuko's part (especially in the almost-catchy "If it is the Deep Sea, I can See You There"), and guitarist Agata is excellent as usual. The bass is higher in the mix than past LPs, allowing for the petite Rika to lead on some of the tracks. A misstep comes with the 10-minute long closing track, a droning lump of bloopy electronica, but at least the band's made us able to hit the stop button sooner and not miss a thing. Were this "just another" Melt-Banana album, there'd be little reason for any but the band's already-converted to care, but as it is, Cell-Scape is a record of interest for those who already pack their shows and the newly curious alike.  Cell-Scape is far from a complete departure, but a little change never hurt anyone.

1. Phantasmagoria
2. Shield for Your Eyes, A Beast in the Well...
3. A Dreamer Who Is Too Weak to Face Up To
4. Lost Parts Stinging Me So Cold
5. Chain-Shot to Have Some Fun
6. Like a White Bat in a Box, Dead Matters Go
7. Key Is a Fact That a Cat Brings
8. A Hunter in the Rain to Cut the Neck Up in the Present Shape
9. If It Is the Deep Sea, I Can See You There
10. Outro for Cell-Scape