Home > TheRest > Thee Michelle Gun Elephant – Gear Blues

Thee Michelle Gun Elephant – Gear Blues

Alive Records, 2000

This ain’t no Japanese boy pop group, maaaan.  Look at those guys.  I think they’re Yakuza.  Well, they may not want to chop off your finger or give you some kind of samurai blade to the head, but they definitely give off a pretty vicious vibe by simply standing there and blending in with the black background.  If I met this crew standing on the street in Osaka somewhere I would probably have barely enough guts to ask the third guy from the left what the four of ’em are about.  If he says anything other than rock n roll, I bolt.  However, I was pretty sure that is exactly who these guys were when I snagged them for a few coins.  That is also exactly what I got as well, even if it it all still ended up with the group shouting at me as if I’m trespassing on their turf.

Thee Michelle Gun Elephant (TMGE) are the garage rock band of Japan, or at least they were ten years ago.  Their look is their card of credibility, for anybody who likely went to one of their shows got it in the face with raw noise and little comprehension of lyrics.  Unlike their pop punk counterparts in Shonen Knife, TMGE are all guitars and drums and in your face.  I have no idea what they’re singing because it’s in Japanese, but I probably would have a hard enough time with it anyway given that there’s little consideration for pronunciation.  What TMGE do well is acceleration and sound, and that is very evident on “Smokin’ Billy”.  The verses mostly consist of the steady pace of drums and the screeching of the lead vocalist, only to crash into some serious guitars (and eventual solo) on the chorus.  “Free Devil Jam” is a great surf-tinged tune that, in my honest opinion, could have been an even better track if the singer was left out of it.

The moodily swinging “Hotel Bronco” does have the band trying to be somewhat funny with only the phrase “son of a bitch” as its periodic lyrics, which perhaps is more amusing over there.  I guess they weren’t banking on the fact that some Americans might just think it’s dumb.   Despite this hiccup, one of the best songs on the record could easily be its last.  “Danny Go” just rolls along like a train and perhaps sounds so much better than the other tracks because the vocalist doesn’t get too carried away with himself.  I guess that, even if the songs aren’t in English, the vocalist can still get annoying.  Thankfully, this nearly five minute track at the end of the record shows what the band can do if they focus a little more on the instruments.

Check these guys out on Last.fm:  Japanese rock out!

Thee Michelle Gun Elephant lasted a few more years before calling it quits in 2003.  In their twelve years of existence I’m sure they fostered a movement in Japan that inspired the creation of heavier rock bands that contradict the more popular Japanese pop groups.  Even though the Elephant are no longer together, it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on your local club listings to see if an international tour is coming through and with that, perhaps the next foreign rock band whose lyrics you won’t (and don’t need to) understand.

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