Otoboke Beaver Turns Consumer Culture on Its Head on the Ferociously Surreal “YAKITORI”

Otoboke Beaver, photo by Mayumi Hirata

Otoboke Beaver from Kyoto, Japan might loosely be described as a punk band but listen to any of its songs and like most of the best bands from Japan the music defies easy categories. The frantic pace of many of its songs and the irrepressible energy mixed with creative dynamics in even the shortest of the band’s songs suits the surreal quality of the music well. The single “YAKITORI” has a single line repeated in various ways through its one minute forty-four second length: “I’m sorry one day, your post box, throw into yakitori it’s me, destroy!” What does this mean? Does it matter? It works for a song and in the final twenty or so seconds of the song the Japanese lyrics sound like something a company would tag on at the end of a commercial with the disclaimers. And this is intentional. The band’s music and the tracks from its new album Super Champon (released May 6 via London-based label Damnably) are a send-up of traditional culture and the ways hypercapitalism tries to impose a boring conformity and uniformity on humans who aren’t all the same. And on the album the group addresses situations women and not just in Japan deal with regularly but it does so with a deliciously irreverent humor turning it into a chance to make commentary on sexism, consumer culture and the natural human desire to break free of such stultifying constraints.

It’s also obvious the group is having fun making this hyperkinetic and nuanced music and writing songs about whatever is on hand to inspire a song. Though it must be said that a band that can write songs and call them things like “Dirty old fart is waiting for my reaction,” “You’re no hero shut up f*ck you man-whore” and “I put my love to you in a song JASRAC” and perform them with the spirited energy heard across the album has to be honored. “Otoboke” means “feigned ignorance” and considering that meaning paired with “Beaver” and the multiple meanings of that word makes this one of more genius band names in music history. It is perhaps too facile to say that fans of Melt Banana, Shonen Knife and Deerhoof will appreciate Otoboke Beaver but so will fans of the likes of Napalm Death and Ganser.

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