Maher Shalal Hash Baz “Live 1984-85”
Tori Kudo’s band Maher Shalal Hash Baz should, in a just world, be as well known as peers High Rise and Keiji Haino, but alas the music is perhaps even more abstract and less concrete than the latter’s Fushitsusha. One can hope, though, that the recent PSF release Live 1984-85 may open the ears of some, and may help shed some light on Kudo’s peculiar place in the ebb and flow of Tokyo’s psychedelic underground. The CD’s cover is a historic marvel — someone still had a flyer for the first show included here, in 1984 at Kid Ailack Hall, with High Rise and Kosokuya. Oh, how I would love to have been there that night.
As this recording indicates, MSHB owed a clear debt to the Velvet Underground, particularly evident in Kudo’s guitar playing. The arrangements and instrumentation (including horns), however, twist the music a bit sideways, into a unique place that combines Japan’s group sounds, beat poetry, hazy shambolic rock, and equal parts avant-garde impressionism. The music stumbles in places, and in other ways demonstrates people still finding their way with each other, but it’s almost as if those elements are supposed to be there. If they weren’t, something would feel wrong, whereas with the rawness intact, things are as they should be.
If you’re at all curious about Tokyo’s 80s underground, let alone a fan of Kosokuya, Haino, Miminokoto, LSD-March and others, you owe it to yourself to pick this up. You’ll also enjoy the rambling, disjointed memoir written by Kudo included in the CD.