Amateur is good

Don’t judge this album by it’s cover art.

Tasteless and cheesy and dumb as the CD booklet of Electric Eel Shock’s Slayer’s Bay Blues may be, the music therein isn’t.

In fact, Electric Eel Shock has done a pretty good job of keying into a visceral, raw vibe that made the pioneers of punk music — you know, the usual suspects, MC5, Stooges, Television — so damn good.

The Tokyo-based trio draws upon the same garage rock reference points as Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, but for some reason, Electric Eel Shock does a better job of emulating its idols.

It’s probably because TMGE’s Yusuke Chiba has a voice that really gets tired after a while. Morimoto Akihito is only marginally better, but he emotes a far larger range. He does more than scream his voice hoarse — he growls sometimes, hollers off-key other times.

Morimoto can also tear out guitar riffs in such a way that even the most overused garage clichés sound new. Tracks such as “Turbo Slayer”, “Puma” and “Vegas Night” don’t further the evolution of rock, but they do bring it close to its amateur-is-good roots.

Plus, few of the songs on the album exceed four minutes. Many clock under two. That kind of brevity is hallmark to textbook punk.

The production of Slayer’s Bay Blues is an odd mix of lo-fi messiness and hi-fi power. Somehow, Electric Eel Shock has managed to make a 16-track console sound like a 4-track home studio. The album does a tremendous job of capturing the feel of the trio’s live show.

It’s too bad this kind of gloriously rock ‘n’ roll sloppiness doesn’t translate into the album’s cover art. The booklet shows one of its members sitting on the toilet.

C’mon, guys — that image totally doesn’t reflect your music. Sure, you sound like shit, but you don’t make shit.

Electric Eel Shock is an honest-to-goodness rock band, distinctive in the way it makes amateurism sound downright professional.