A welcome addition

bloodthirsty butchers were around before Number Girl was a twinkle in Mukai Shuutoku’s eye, and it’s around even after Number Girl ran its course.

And yet, no two bands seemed so suited for each other. Both groups laid catchy melodies over thick, dischordant harmonies and pushed their amplifiers to Spinal Tap-ian levels. The butchers still do.

So it was a welcome surprise when Number Girl’s master axegrinder, Tabuchi Hisako, became the butchers’ only new member in 15 years. Hisako-chan’s disregard for a tonal center fits nicely with bloodthirsty butchers’ liberal harmonies.

The chemistry between the band members impressed them so much, they decided to start taping their live performances. The results can be heard on the butchers’ first live album, green on red.

Tabuchi integrates herself incredibly well with the band. Whether she’s working with Shiina Ringo or Odani Misako, Hisako-chan stands out. But with bloodthirsty butchers, she sounds like she’s been with them for years.

When the full band kicks in on the opening “Faust”, Tabuchi stamps the track with her trademark fuzz. And when she noodles on the intro to “Soredake”, you’re glad guitarist/vocalist Yoshimura Hideki isn’t. (Yoshimura isn’t what anyone would call a shredder.)

But don’t think for a minute Tabuchi’s presence does anything to clean up the butchers’ sound. Unlike Number Girl, whose rhythmic precision called to mind early Helmet, bloodthirsty butchers haven’t quite channeled the concept of unison playing, which of course gives them their charm.

In fact, bassist Imoriya Takeshi and drummer Komatsu Masahiro seem intent on spreading themselves thin, Komatsu supplying the bass rhythm while Imoriya supplements the harmony. Throughout green on red, Komatsu is more likely to follow Yoshimura’s lead than to fortify Komatsu’s rhythms.

Unlike other live albums by Japanese artists, the butchers culled together green on red from a number of performances. Recent live albums by pop acts Do As Infinity and Bonnie Pink reveal the risk of capturing only one set of performances.

That said, the sound quality between tracks can vary widely. On “8gatsu”, the band sounds front and center, whereas on “Saraba Sekai Kunshu”, they sound like they’re playing in a fish bowl.

It’s still a better approach than committing to tape (or ones and zeroes) a performance that’s brilliant one moment, excruciating the next. The performances on green on red are consistently solid. (And consistently loud, but what else is new?)

Still, don’t expect green on red to resemble anything like Number Girl’s Sapporo Omoide in My Head Jootai or Kiroku Series. bloodthirsty butchers are long-winded while Number Girl was concise, and the 13 tracks on the album clock in at nearly 69 minutes.

After a while, green on red demands stamina from listeners, but with that level of intensity and passion, it’s a welcome request.