It’s a wolf’s world. They came, they ravaged, and they now own indie rock, thus making every other band in the animal kingdom seem inferior, if only through being outnumbered. How is a frog to protect himself? Can a bear hold his own? And what about panthers? They’re just as fierce as wolves, aren’t they? They’re certainly as cool, if you ask me, though until recently the only representation they’ve had is The Panthers, a rather mediocre stoner-rock band with wanky tendencies. But the black jungle cats now have Japanther on their side to hold up the mighty name, banging out a compelling lo-fi metallic style of garage rock that’s more than a little eerie.
Yer Living Grave, Japanther’s third release (though technically only an EP in length), is of a sound quality akin to tape recording VHS recordings of cable access TV. It’s fuzzy, alright. And that the vocals are already absolutely unintelligible only adds to the murky sound. Live drums combined with buzzing organs and clicking drum machines makes opener “Wolfenswan” a true sonic descendant of Suicide’s post-punk creep-out. Meanwhile, “The Gravy” is more or less straight-up punk rock, a la The Ramones. Skronky guitar abounds on “Dragon Rider,” one of few tracks with vocals not completely buried in the mix. You still can’t make out the words though. Trust me.
The sound of, you guessed it, whales is sampled on “The Whales,” which also features recordings of what are most likely television programs. Musically, the song is pretty basic, as are most of the others, but Japanther isn’t about making a sonically intricate composition. They’re here to make noise. It’s a damn fine noise, too, though I probably haven’t heard something this lo-fi since King Shit and the Golden Boys. But there really isn’t too much of a demand for polish in this genre anyway. After all, if wolves can do it, certainly a panther can pull it off as well.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.