The highly anticipated third album from British aural dramatists Japanese Fighting Fish is uncaged this week, a release which not only confirms that there is no other proposal like the London based quartet but shows the band hitting another plateau in their breath-taking sound and invention. There are few with the musical craft and adventure to match an imagination as daring as it is inimitable but Japanese Fighting Fish have it all in abundance and in full enthralling flow within Swimming with Piranhas.
Formed in Leeds in 2009, Japanese Fighting Fish had a great many hooked, including us, by the release of debut album Just Before We Go MAD two years later. A release experimenting with South American rhythms as raw vocals and dirty guitars played, its compelling success was eclipsed by its successor, the punk infused Day Bombs of 2011. Releases and years have seen the band draw comparisons to the likes of Faith No More, System of a Down, QOTSA, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Primus, and Frank Zappa, but as evidenced once more by their latest triumph, Japanese Fighting Fish really do stand alone in character and sound. Mastered by Tim Young (Massive Attack, The Clash, Sex Pistols, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Elbow, and The Beatles ‘Love’ Album), Swimming with Piranhas is the band at its most eclectic yet and offering a collection of funk infested, theatrical exploits; quite simply rock and roll with the devilry and boldness of creative insanity.
Inspired in title by the real life wild experiences of vocalist Karlost Thompson and drummer Al Sweetman whilst staying in Ecuador with a Quechan tribe where they took a dip in the Amazon River, Swimming with Piranhas has ears and imagination swiftly gripped with its opening title track. A lone spicy groove teases first, it soon joined by broader sonic sighs and boisterous rhythms as the song increasingly expands into a hip swinging, rhythmically riveting magnet. Once the familiar, ever expressive and captivating tones of Karlost complete the line-up of creative cast, the imagination is taken on a beguiling off kilter ride. With kinetic beats and baroque scented organ shaped theatre adding to the ever shifting gait and mood of the encounter, the opener is sheer captivating as fiery and infectious as it is thought provoking and a great sign of things to come.
The excellent start continues and hits another level with Egyptian Sunrise, the song a sultry tango of exotic mystique upon the driving throaty bassline of Matt McGuinness and the swinging bait of Sweetman. Impossible to resist getting physically involved, the song leads the body a merry dance with the imagination caught up in the creative tones and lyrical incitement of Karlost. Also swathed in the equally suggestive invention of Gareth Frederik Ellmer’s guitar, the song is a mouth-watering exploit soon matched in creative theatre by Provocative Cat. Funky with Parisian hues, the song flirts and dances with ears as the bass masterfully groans and Karlost paints the imagination like a vaudevillian showman.
New single For Queen Marilyn comes next, sauntering in on a raw riff and rumbling beats as vocals spread their instinctive drama and ascending energy. Soon its rapacious rock ‘n’ roll is ablaze with intensity amidst a hearty roar, switching between calm and volatile waters before making way for Close The Gate. An encounter which seems to mellow as it reaches climactic moments and erupts when you expect it to slip into alluring calms, the unpredictable song is a twisted treat but one soon outshone by previous single U Ain’t Gonna Win This. An exploration of split personalities also making a “homage to boxing greats like Ali, and Rocky “, the song is a fleet footed shuffle with another deeply contagious gurning bassline from McGuinness courting the vocal waltz of Karlost and band. Taking addiction to a fresh level, the track mixes sweltering melodies and grungy textures with sonic guitar splatters and a virulent carnival-esque bounce.
Hard To Resist is a matching enslavement of body and appetite, its lazy yet snarling bass swing and gripping croon just two of the irresistible elements in what must be the next single. The track is glorious, reminding of little know eighties band, Zanti Misfitz as it throws its creative temptation around. A slip into a deranged XTC like pasture only adds to the fun and increasing seduction too.
Another funk sculpted adventure follows in the shape of I Got Time; its Red Hot Chili Peppers like romp infused with a Talking Heads like prowess, while On A Fall sonically shimmers as the eager beats of Sweetman fuel the pulsating balladry of voice and Ellmer’s resonating guitar enterprise. Increasingly more provocative and gripping with every listen, the track is yet another thrilling twist in the varying style and sound within Swimming with Piranhas.
The album is brought to an equally exciting and inventive close by firstly Dr. No-Sense and its noir spiced and increasingly bedlamic intensity. It is followed by the similarly deranged but skilfully reined imagination and creative resourcefulness of I Caught You Wandering for a bewitching end to another superb offering from Japanese Fighting Fish. Swimming with Piranhas takes the band and their one of a kind proposition to a whole new plateau, not just for them but for the British rock scene. Why Japanese Fighting Fish is not a name on so many more eager lips already is a bit of a mystery, now they might just be with this beast of a proposal doing the persuading.
Swimming with Piranhas is released 17th June across most online stores.
Pete RingMaster 17/06/2016
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