Otoboke Beaver may not be terribly popular in their home country of Japan, but elsewhere a realization is coming sharper and sharper into focus: they might just be the greatest punk band in the world.
A tall claim? Give an example of another band that accomplishes exactly what this foursome does, and to the degree they do. From a technical aspect, you can’t touch them, and they would dare you to try. They play at lightning speeds without sacrificing tightness. They speed up and slow down and stop and turn on a dime like rigged Whack-a-Moles. Such proficiency belies a deft musicality that they deploy not only for compositional color but for thematic weaponry. Lyrically they may be deadly serious – and they would need to be, considering the culture they’re up against – but they’re also funny as fuck, using their swift dynamic control to hit punchlines other bands could only dream of.
If 2020’s ITEKOMA HITSintroduced the Western listening world to Otoboke Beaver’s high-octane power, SUPER CHAMPON redefines the formula. Structurally it’s not terribly different from its older sister, but it does tilt the scales toward lightness and pop, especially out the gate. Its first four tracks provide a solid (if not entirely representative) version of the band as a “pop-punk” band, in the term’s most literal interpretation. “YAKITORI” and “I am not maternal” are as accessible as anything they’ve done yet, each finding the group largely discarding their serrated rock edge in favor of more melodic vocal lines and sing-along choruses.
What SUPER CHAMPON doesn’t skimp on in any capacity is viciousness. If Otoboke Beaver endeavor to lean into pop here, they do so within a record that streamlines the band’s approach so effectively it’ll give you whiplash. Several of its eighteen tracks barely pass the one-minute mark, and some don’t even get that far. The songs are shorter because the band knows how to say what they want to say in smaller packages, which means we get the band’s usual biting social commentary in songs that fly by thrillingly. There’s no chaff at all, just blasts of joyous punk noise and gleeful excoriations of centuries of patriarchal tradition.
Who are you, what’s your name? Who are you, what’s your name? Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut the fuck up!
The emphasis on shorter songs – and the wicked speed with which the band plays them – foregrounds a key component of theirs for the first time: humor. SUPER CHAMPON is filled to the brim with it, in all forms. Lead vocalist Accorinrin delights in simple humorous imagery – yakitori thrown into a postbox or freshly-birthed babies being shoved back in – but she also sharpens her attacks on regional misogyny into dark laughs. She skewers “pocket brothers” (from a Japanese term meaning men who have had sex with the same woman) sharing hot pot and crashing a wedding; she rails against common company protocol wherein female subordinates serve salads at a party; in one late track, a perverted old dude getting his rocks off is similarly lambasted. It’s still dire stuff she’s documenting, but the laced-in humor adds a dimension to the band’s attacks, softening their blows but leaving bigger bruises.
Across the album, she and the band push the boundaries of their silliness further than they’ve gone before. Accorinrin’s appreciation of “manzai,” a style of comedy based around timing and wordplay, comes out in full force on tracks like the hilarious marital vignette of “George & Janice” and the bipolar “Leave me alone! No, stay with me!” On those tracks, the origin of the humor comes from how quickly the band can turn around based on Accorinrin’s narrative – the former exudes the energy of a puppet show on fast-forward. At other points, the concepts of the songs themselves are enough to earn a chuckle. On one track, omnipotent copyrights holder JASRAC gets a love song written just for them, as if Accorinrin were cynically cutting out the middleman.
Though Otoboke Beaver use SUPER CHAMPON to highlight their levity, they also don’t sacrifice anything about themselves to get to that point. The elements that make them such a compelling rock band are still here, from Hirochan’s madcap bass on the ferocious “PARDON?” to Yoyoyoshie’s constantly ascending chords on “I put my love to you in a song JASRAC” to the group’s warped vocal harmonies on “I checked your cellphone.”
Each of these tracks, however brief they are, take unexpected directions that stay fresh on repeat listens, and the energy levels refuse to dip until the last snare hit. In fact, the record burns so hot that by its end it implodes on itself; a two-part musing on illicit DMs and a cheeky imploring to shop for band merchandise all pass in the span of a minute, leaving an eerie silence like the fallout of a technicolor tornado.