Essential New Music: 番長 Taste’s “I Dipped My Comb In Shochu And Ran It Through The Hair Of The Night”

Let’s start with the album title. It looks luxuriant enough to apply to a Jon Hassell LP with an accompanying, tastefully exotic video. However, since shochu is a Japanese liquor of relatively stingy booziness, this is basically the Tokyo way of confessing to grooming with Malört. Flip that sleeve around and look at the recording date: 2009. Why did it take 15 years for this music to make it to LP? (Parts of it were previously released on seven-inch and CD in 2022 and 2023.)

Put it on, and you’ll know a couple things. One is that, given the spare and inexact diction of whichever members of 番長 Taste (pronounced “Bansho Anchi” or “Bancho Taste”) get near the microphone, no one’s going to tell you anything. And the other is that factual knowledge is irrelevant, because these sounds tell the truth. The multinational combo—Mark Anderson, Anthony Guerra and Mariyo hail, respectively, from New Zealand, Australia and Japan—has tapped into whatever it is that makes some folks swear that Sonic Youth’s best work was done before its first album.

It’s not enough to play raw and discordant guitar, brute and bludgeoning bass and drums that get lost on the way to the most basic time signatures. No, you have to be able to make it all sound like it’s not just falling apart, but also coming back together at the same time, so that catchy hooks tumble out of the trebly noise like a three-alarm incident in the fishing-lure aisle. Go on, slick your hair with this stuff. I dare you. [Carbon]

—Bill Meyer