Rock N’ Roll Ice Cream

Rating: 2.5/5.0

Label: Menlo Park

Rock N’ Roll Ice Cream is so clearly an L.A. album, it almost comes off a little hokey – like some sort of bizarre inside joke only applicable to the kids who are regulars at the Smell. Japanther play on what sounds like a shabby, dumpster-dove collection of basses, guitars and drums and the lyrics, (when you can hear them through the tape-hiss snowstorm) are about girls, youth, surfing and how awesome it is to live in Los Angeles. It’s not necessarily a new concept for the scene, but while their contemporaries (No Age, Abe Vigoda) have some sense of rooted artistic virtue, Japanther just focus on delivering a fun, fast-paced show where the kids can jump around.

According to their probably-rounded-down Wikipedia article, Ice Cream is their 18th release – and for those of us keeping score, that averages out to two releases a year for nine years. It seems at this point Japanther have sort of given up on creating music for anyone but their small, yet endlessly dedicated fanbase – and there is definitely something admirable about that. But when you wash away that potentially diluting factor and focus on the basic, technical aspects of the music, you’re left with a 10-song, 27-minute album that leaves a lot to be desired.

It’s odd how something as disconnected from the mainstream as lo-fi can sound so familiar. Songs like “She’s the One” and “Surfin’ Coffin” are colored with the absolute primaries of punk rock; their only claims to uniqueness being that they were recorded on scuzzy equipment and that they have the vague novelty of using the word ‘awesome’ mid-track. Think Bossanova-era Pixies, but a hell of a lot less substantial. Japanther seem to subscribe to the misguided philosophy that anything normal, be it vanilla white-guy rap, girl groups, or pop punk bile, is immediately interesting if shat through a bleared frequency; they are practitioners of this oft-heralded DIY philosophy at its most superficial levels.

I have to imagine the band is ‘pretty good live,’ if you manage to divorce yourself from the plain, uninvolved nature of their music. If anything, it is clear that Rock N’ Roll Ice Cream was laid to tape with a lot of energy. But there are just so many better bands actually from the L.A. scene, it makes it a hard sell.

by Luke Winkie
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