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Recalling the mayhem of Melt Banana

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Guitarist Agata, who wears a surgical mask because of a rare blood disease, played his instrument like he was smothering a fire. During the solo, he collapsed onto the floor and remained on his back, unleashing a cacophony of laser-gun noises as the drummer pounded out the furious tempo.

The blistering song ended abruptly after a minute and O squeaked a mouselike "Thank you," as she did after every aural cluster bomb that night.

Many in the crowd just stood there dumbfounded.

With a fog machine releasing thin, white clouds, the whole scene resembled an absurdist re-enactment of the Tokyo subway gas attack.

That night the band ended the show with a bizarre pop-punk version of The Beach Boys' "Surfin' USA." It sounded like Brian Wilson choking on a Hello Kitty Game Boy during one of his LSD rampages. Not your standard crowd pleaser.

I later learned that Melt Banana basically releases the same frenetic "noise-core" album over and over again, often skirting the edges of techno, metal and pop. Bigger in Europe and the United States than in their homeland, the group still regularly tours the world, hypnotizing audiences with a sound that perfectly encapsulates the sensory overload and bustling activity of Tokyo.

Like anything in its own category, most people either love it or hate it. — Brent Baldwin



Melt Banana performs with Vaz, the Wow Owls and Ultra Dolphins at Alley Katz in Richmond Friday, June 10, for an 18-and-over show that starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $7 in advance and at the door.

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