When TV chef Alton Brown adds salt to his dessert recipies, he always explains that salt is a flavor enhancer.
“You won’t know it’s there, until it’s not,” he says.
The “salt” was definitely missing from bloodthirsty butchers’ previous album, birdy. On the surface, birdy has all the hallmarks that makes the butchers such a reknowned punk band.
It was hard to find fault with the album, but it wasn’t easy to praise it either. (And my meandering review of birdy certainly demonstrates it.)
Whatever was missing from birdy is found again on banging the drum. In fact, repeat listens of banging the drum become more satisfying.
Having played with the butchers as a full-time member for two years now, ex-Number Girl guitarist Tabuchi Hisako makes a significant mark on the music. She serves as Lee Renaldo to Yoshimura Hideki’s Thurston Moore.
In fact, “Sanzan” and “B2” indulge in a bit of Goo-era Sonic Youth interplay. When “B2” concludes with a pair of guitar riffs entirely new to the song, I half-expected it to go on for another 10 minutes, awash in an ocean of distortion.
“Sanzan”, on the other hand, is one of the catchiest songs the butchers have written. The screaming chorus almost harkens to Number Girl, while the harmonizing conclusion offers a nice contrast.
“Yamaha-1” features Tabuchi on the chorus, and the sweetness of her vocals adds a pleasantly shocking shade to a buoyant song.
When the butchers pull back, its songs sound more like the extended, introspective workouts predominant on 2001’s yamane. “Plus/Minus” and the title track could have fit well on that previous album.
Instrumentals also take a big chunk of the program. “Maruzen House” and “This Is Music” are essentially karaoke tracks, hinting at melody and lyrics where there are really none. And the opening track, “Jushoo”, finds the band literally banging the drum — one full kit and a set of taiko drums.
Early reports described banging the drum as experimental, which it is — the butchers sound like they’re stretching themselves creatively and enjoying the results. Oddly enough, the album is also one of the most melodic the band has produced.
Maybe the experimentation brought back that intangible missing thing. More likely, the butchers stumbled onto their salt by simply playing hard and fast. Whatever the case, it’s nice to have it back.