Fifth-NewHeavy/Sixteencoins/Yoshigoo/Narrow Neck Apes/Creamcan

Para-dice, Osaka, Japan - 19 January 2018

"An explosion in a locked room*"

Headliners Fifth-NewHeavy were the reason to attend this evening. Tucked away in a basement of a shotengai (covered shopping arcade) just off Temma Station, it's fair to say the tiny Para-dice live house in Osaka wasn't the most illustrious of venues to catch the main act. They regularly play to larger audiences. The last time I saw them (also in Osaka) the venue was more in keeping with their muscular performances - best appreciated on a reasonably-sized stage.

But, as always, I try to arrive in time to catch all the support acts - because you never know what may lie therein.

First of whom were a young twenties male and female two-piece under the name Creamcan. Frustratingly, I arrived after they'd started their set. From what I could make out they were managing to make a very big sound just out of a guitar and drum kit. He on the guitar. She on the drums.

Perhaps particularly because she has youth on her side, in spite of her compact size and build she belted the living daylights out of her kit. And it wasn't just smashing noise either. There was a lot of dexterity involved alongside remarkable power.

Style wise, (like a lot of underground acts I've seen live in Japan) they play around with what we can (very) loosely collate under the heading of 'alternative rock/pop'. Much like their food, Japanese music is, to my Western ears at least, a never ending juxtaposition of elements. Back home (UK) we wouldn't think, let alone dare, to put such diverse genres into one creative pot. But, here in Japan, it's practically a template for the underground music scene.

In spite of their power, there was something endearing about Creamcan, that would draw me back to see them again.

Yoshigoo live Para-dice, Osaka      Sixteencoins live Para-dice Osaka   Fifth-NewHeavy live Para-dice Osaka

Photos: L-R Yoshigoo, Sixteencoins, Fifth-NewHeavy

Narrow Neck Apes were the 'teen-band' of the night. And by that, I refer to their probable audience of adoring females. An all-male (again youthful) four piece built around the staple bass, rhythm and lead guitars and drums. In their frontman, we have our first potential idol of the night. With his neatly coiffured hair - part 50s Americana, part slick Japanese biker hybrid - he looked like he ought to be famous.

Their opening song was pretty conventional melodic rock and didn't much excite. Naturally, with my English head on, I was expecting their set to be thirty minutes of similar sounding songs to the opener. But
what followed was more interesting and unpredictable. There's a definite American alt-rock influence in there that comes across and the lead vocalist's voice was not only well-suited to their material but hinted at wider capabilities given time to develop.

Third to take to the tiny stage was Yoshigoo. The solo singer/songwriter field is one that is overpopulated with sub-par talent. Only a handful of genuinely memorable artists every decade manage to make their mark in any truly meaningful way. So, from my perspective, it was Yoshigoo that perhaps had the most stacked against him.

Although largely not my thing, talent is talent in whatever guise it appears. Yoshigoo clearly has talent. Given his range of influences (60s and 70s British pop bands in particular), it's understandable that he dreams of playing in the UK. If anyone in London or Manchester is looking to book new Japanese solo singer-songwriter support acts (it might happen!), they won't go wrong by starting here. And his style would be well-received in the pubs and small clubs of the UK.

Fifth-NewHeavy live Para-dice Osaka      Fifth-NewHeavy live Para-dice Osaka

Photos: L-R Fifth-NewHeavy (Tomo), Fifth-NewHeavy (Max)

Sixteencoins, or Sixteen Coins or Six Teen Coins (I saw it presented in all three variations on this one evening) were the playful wise-crackers of the night. Not knowing it was him, I saw the bass guitarist in the audience during the previous support acts. Tall and slim, his long black hair slicked back and wearing thick black-rimmed glasses. On first glance I was unsure of 'their' gender. Once on stage and after the band smashed out their first number, his ponytail was unleashed, the hair got tossed extensively. Meanwhile, the singer appeared be joking as much as singing.

I really have little time for 'comedy' music acts. It's a marriage that very rarely works on any real quality level in my view. However, Sixteencoins (we'll go with the single word spelling - its seems the preferred) just about managed to strike a decent balance between the two, largely thanks to some very inventive song structures (ie not much like most conventional songs!) and committed delivery.

Not being able to speak Japanese, all the jokes were lost on me. And yet I found myself smiling during their set. They went down as the best of the four bands so far - and seemed to have a modest following. I suspect they're fairly seasoned performers - they certainly came across as such. How long Sixteencoins will be around though is anybody's guess.

Finally, up were headliners Fifth-NewHeavy. Out, mid-tour, promoting their latest (second) album entitled Sicks. I first came across front man Yoshis when he was leading his former band rhivs - who I really liked for their creativity. (Saw them live a couple of times too here in Japan). With Fifth-NewHeavy there's less up front synths than there was in the rhivs material (I'd like to hear more) but the musical vision seems clearer and certainly sounds more focused.

A friend who was at the gig described Fifth-NewHeavy's performance afterwards as like being an explosion in a locked room*. Frankly, I can't think of a better metaphor - so I'm just going to stick with that!

Fifth-NewHeavy live Para-dice Osaka    Fifth-NewHeavy live Para-dice Osaka

Photos: L-R Fifth-NewHeavy (Kazuma), Fifth-NewHeavy (Yoshis)

For that is the experience of seeing such unrestrained energy on stage. All three guitarists weilding their instruments in a gloriously dangerous manner throughout. The sheer volume in such a small place has a lot to do with the impact (the footage I shot of the band often distorting). Although entirely in keeping with the band's style it was a touch oppressive at times.

One aspect of Fifth-NewHeavy's sound that I am especially partial to live are the monstrous sounds generated by Kazuma's bass guitar. I've always been a sucker for a driving bass guitar and that tradition is maintained here in outstanding fashion. A couple of technical hitches (including a mic that stubbornly refused to operate midway through one song) do not deter lead vocalist Yoshis - nor do they apparently affect his demeanour. He just deals with them and professionally continues to power ahead. He's a charismatic and committed frontman. It's no surprise that he's not just dripping with sweat after the show, but positively flowing with it.

A couple of days after this gig, it was announced that they'd been signed by UK label Native Records. (Once home to notable scene names like Nine Inch Nails, Cabaret Voltaire's Richard H. Kirk before they were tempted away by better deals). This should provide the band with much more global exposure, particularly in North American, the UK and Europe. All regions where, with the right kind of marketing push, Fifth-NewHeavy ought to be well received.
(Overall 7/10 - Fifth-NewHeavy 8/10)

Review: Rob Dyer (* with credit to Ayumi Kasatani for the metaphor!)

Fifth-NewHeavy Photos:
Yuki Kimura
Yoshigoo, Sixteencoins Photos: Ayumi Kasatani