The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Beards, Blazers & Glasses: Fujiya & Miyagi

You've probably noticed from the picture above that Fujiya and Miyagi are not actually Japanese. Of course, if you've listened to the British trio's stellar second album, Transparent Things, that finally arrived on US shores this January (after being released last May in the UK), you'd have heard the track "Photocopier" in which F&M lead singer, David Best, recites sotto voce: "We Are Just Pretending to Be Japanese." But still, every time I bring up the band to people, it only conjures up images of crane kicks and well-made yet inexpensive electronics.

While it might be an overstatement to compare the Brighton-based, Krautrock influenced group to the late great Pat "Mr. Miyagi" Morita, the undeniable fun and energy of their live show is the musical equivalent of catching flies with chopsticks. Let's assess the facts. As you can see above, the men of F&M do not resemble anything remotely close to funky. On-stage, they wear Adidas soccer suits, making them look more like the ex-Sunday league soccer players that they are, than a buzz act capable of selling out Spaceland. And indeed Best (Miyagi) and Steve Lewis (Fujiya), the group's keyboardist, originally met while riding the soccer rec-league bench and discovering a shared love of 70s Kraut Rock and early 90s electronica.

Yet despite their unassuming appearance, the group meant nothing but business, with Best rarely uttering a word to the crowd, guitar strapped around his shoulder, murmuring the group's vaguely ironic, quintessentially Brit lyrics that would probably best be described as "cheeky." (and yes, this is just a poor excuse for me to use the word, "cheeky") Kinda' sorta' dancing along with the propulsive danceable grooves, Best's main dance steps were making some sort of box with his hands, a move presumably last seen in by an ecstasy-addled Brighton raver from 1999.

I Think I'm Turning Japanese, I Think I'm Turning Japanese, I Really Think So
Meanwhile, Lewis kept the pace up, slamming his fingers against the keyboards, head tilted to the wooden floor beams, Brit detachment readily apparent. I know this sounds like the worst show ever, but somehow the power of F&M's songs performed live consumed all the energy of the room. Matt Hainsby, the group's bassist fired off steel bar thick, pulverizing bass lines, that hit the air like round dub grooves. Occasionally, Best let off a white squall of guitar feedback, and the pounding drum machine beat down hard on the packed crowd, rifling off mechanical but wiry scorched-earth grooves. Once the group locked in, about 15 minute into the performance, it was a sight to see, three unassuming pasty-faced Brits, delivering one of the most rhythmic and impossibly funky performances I've seen in months.

The sound is part Can, part Neu!, part early Kraftwerk, updated for the age of irony, with lyrics about tripping over shoelaces, getting sucker punched by a girl and musings about whether whether people wear Rebox in Heavens. Songs that should come off as too-cute arch observations come off as strangely emotionally resonant. Tracks that should be sterile white-boy blue-eyed soul, sound cooked up by a team of Funk All-Stars. I don't know how to explain it. I'll just chalk it up to the fact that in interviews David Best has named MF Doom's Operation Doomsday as his favorite hip-hop album of all-time, as well as claiming that the metal-faced one is the artist he'd most like to collaborate with.

Yet I wasn't the only one impressed by F&M's brand of electronic-tinged indie rock, as the crowd started swaying to the point that an innocent bystander might've declared it a dance party. (this may be a Spaceland they keep records on such things?). Indeed, it was hipsters gone wild, striped shirts, beards and blazers flying everywhere. You knew someone was gonna' lose their pair of black plastic glasses tonight. Madness. Even if these guys are pretending to be Japanese, there isn't any pretending that their live show is incredibly fun and quite impressive. In fact, its almost as much fun as defeating the Cobra Kai at the 1984 All-Valley Tournament. Wax on. Wax off.

See Also Kevin Bronson's Buzz Bands Review of the Show

MP3: Fujiya & Miyagi-"Ankle Injuries"
MP3: Fujiya & Miyagi-"Collarbone"

Bonus-"Collarbone" Video


At 5:54 AM, Blogger doctashock said...

Gonna be at Sea Level tomorrow? I'm thinking about swinging by to say hey.

At 12:55 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

Definitely...come on by.

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At 7:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

crap... it didn't post right....

At 7:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the last time....

spread the word.

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