There goes a Supernova

Rock music is fleeting.

When it was released in 1999, Supernova Vol. 1 “Uni” was a showcase for emerging Japanese rock bands. “Vol. 1” in the title implies there would be more editions of this compilation. There hasn’t.

Of the five bands featured on the disc, two of them didn’t produce much more after making their contributions. One band broke up. The other two have persisted, with a few line-up changes.

Still, the Hoppy Kamiyama-produced Supernova brings together artists similar only in their distinctiveness.

Number Girl starts the collection off with its live staple “Samurai”. The song doesn’t appear on any of the band’s studio albums — nor does the accompanying track “Wei?” — so Supernova is the only recording to contain studio versions of these songs.

Number Girl sounds positively fresh on these tracks, recorded around the time the band signed its major label deal. Mukai Shuutoku was just beginning to come into his own as a performer, his vocals a powerful force compared to his timid indie work.

The original incarnation of eX-Girl contributes “Gween-Kong-Gee”, which was re-recorded for its US debut, Back to the Mono Kero! The newer version of the song is punchier, but even here, the trio proudly struts its quirkiness.

“Hey-Ann-Kyo”, meanwhile, is classic eX-Girl, full of whimsical screams, bizarre flourishes and mangled lyrics in foreign languages.

Yo!Go’s, on the other hand, filter Deep Purple through a psychedelic lens on “Sunshine Yororei Love”, while “Elvis” imagines the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll come back from the grave.

Smile Like Dog, described as “Pizzicato Five meets Violent Onsen Geisha” by Sister/Benten Records, combines a manic techno beat with Polysics-like synthesizer effects and banjo on “Kung-Fu Shirts”, while on “Shoodon”, the band throws in a few profanities with its ukeleles and Hawaiian steel guitar.

King Brothers finishes the album off with its special brand of disintegrated garage rock. The band doesn’t so much write songs as much as they play loud as fucking possible. “Mach Club” and “Tama wo Uritobase!” make Guitar Wolf sound like Yanni in comparrison.

Supernova Vol. 1, “Uni” is a terrific snapshot of five bands asserting their creative identities, at a time when the future was all they had.

But the future eventually turns into the past, and the same disc which heralded the arrival of new talent now serves as a post of what was and what could have been.

Smile Like Dog and Yo!Go’s don’t seem to be anywhere anymore. King Brothers are still terrorizing live audiences with its manic music, while eX-Girl travels the world as ambassadors from the Planet Kero.

Number Girl split up in 2002, its members scattered among their own projects, but the band left such a bold legacy, its former label embarked on an ambitious reissue campaign in 2005.

Regardless of such changes, Supernova Vol. 1 “Uni” maintains its freshness. It’ll take another few years before this music sounds dated.