Gang of four, Japanese style

Number Girl may have recorded some incredible albums, but the band cuts its teeth in live shows.

Jump on a file sharing network, and more than likely, fans will be trading audience recordings of Number Girl concerts.

Back in 2001, Number Girl tied fans over between albums by releasing two live products — a DVD titled Sawayakaneso and a cassette tape titled Kiroku Series.

Kiroku Series is only available at the band’s gigs, which is a shame — the performances captured here practically blow the quartet’s 1999 live album, Shibuya Rocktransformed Jootai, out of the water.

Number Girl is nothing if not precise. Ahito Inazawa is perhaps the best drummer to come around since Smashing Pumpkins’ Jimmy Chamberlain graced a kit. He and bassist Nakao Kentaro 27-sai are locked in tight over the twin-guitar attack of Tabuchi Hisako and vocalist/songwriter Mukai Shutoku.

When all four of them tear into the opening of “Omoide in My Head” or hammer away at the pounding rhythm of “Drunk Afternoon”, it’s revelatory.

Those comparrisons to Gang of Four aren’t all far off.

When Number Girl released Shibuya Rocktransformed Jootai, it had only two albums of material to draw from. Essentially, it was School Girl Distortional Addict live.

Kiroku Series still limits itself to the band’s major label work, but the set list feels more diverse.

That’s because there’s more to draw from, such as single-only songs “Drunk Afternoon”, “Haikara Gurui” and “Destruction Baby”, a metal song turned Police-like dub for this recording.

But the real treat is the band’s 10-minute rendition of “Zazenbeats Kemonostyle”, a song Number Girl contributed to a movie soundtrack.

The original song had a quirky rhythm and seemed to meander a bit. Performed live, “Zazenbeats Kemonostyle” transforms into a hulking wall of sound, with Mukai screaming himself hoarse. It’s an impassioned reading, one so riveting, 10 minutes seems too short.

The existence of that track alone makes the tape’s limited availability almost criminal. However much it’s uncool to advocate file sharing, this performance justifies the effort to find the entire album online.

Maybe one day Kiroku Series will be released on a wider scale. Let’s hope Number Girl doesn’t top itself with an ever better live recording.

Fat chance that’ll happen.