Sharps & flats

Garage sounds revisited: Guitar Wolf roars on the loudest record, ever.


Alex Pappademas
June 25, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

Guitar Wolf's music is so aggressive that the band members probably have to be chained to their gear before they play, like Animal from the Muppets. The perpetually leather-clad Tokyo trio -- "Guitarwolf" Seiji, "Basswolf" Billy and "Drumwolf" Toru -- draws on the musical grease trap of Link Wray, the Ramones and the MC5, channeling 40 years of garage rock into ear-searing sheets of fidelity-challenged noise. After every song you expect to hear the band yell out "ROCK AND ROLL! ROCK AND ROLL!" and start chewing on their microphone cords.

According to the warning sticker on the cover of "Jet Generation," the band's third U.S. release, the record is the loudest ever made, precision-mastered to fry the indie-rock nation's tender cochleae. My home stereo doesn't measure decibels, so I'm not able to quantitatively verify that boast. But it sure as hell feels loud: Guitar Wolf work with that strain of pure, essentially unbearable volume that makes the nerves in your fingertips crackle.

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"Jet Generation" is the band's best-produced album to date. At the start, five brain-melters fuse drums, vocals and treble-cranked guitar into razor-sharp steel wool. After that, Guitar Wolf steps off the volume a bit. On "Cosmic Space Girl" you can actually discern the biker-rock dynamics that ground the balls-out assault. But then it's back to "Kaminari One" -- which sounds like the Stooges setting off M-80s in the Death Star's trash compactor -- and the Spinal Tap-ish eleven of "Roaring Blood."

You can always turn it down, of course, but Guitar Wolf actually sounds worse at a comfortable volume level. The quality disappears, and every song starts to sound like a distant-cousin bootleg or a dying dishwasher. If it ain't hurtin', it ain't workin'.

As for Guitar Wolf's message, the only thing I can really say is that whatever it is, it's really loud. On the back of the CD, two band members pose in shiny leather, flaunting their duck's-ass hairdos like they're the missing link between '50s greasers and 21st century cyberpunks. Maybe, in juxtaposing originals like "Teenage UFO" and "Cyborg Kids" with a guttural cover of Eddie Cochrane's "Summertime Blues," the Wolves are making a statement about old-school juvenile delinquency as the antidote for computer-age dehumanization. But for the most part, Guitar Wolf is a band that would rather spray it than say it -- they know they can raise a better fuss and raise a bigger holler just by letting meaning itself burn up in one huge jet-engine whoooooosh.


Alex Pappademas

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