In the face of soaring popularity that has taken it out of underground club spaces to some of the country’s most recognised venues, psychedelia or ‘psych’ has become something of a buzz term in recent times.
This brings with it pros and cons. On a positive note, some bands that would never have even caught a glimpse of the mainstream a few years ago get the exposure they deserve, but slightly more irritatingly, the term has become attached to almost anyone with a guitar who brings out an album that breaks the 45-minute barrier.
However, one band that harness the otherworldliness and unpredictable meandering of psychedelia in the most authentic way possible are Japan’s Bo Ningen. Far Out Magazine headed to the Deaf Institute in Manchester last night to catch the quartet’s explosive live show on the day they released their third album – the slightly less mysteriously titled ‘III’.
The band might look more like the wives of medieval samurais than the warriors themselves (all with waist-length hair, dress-like robes, and physique to match a name that literally translates to ‘stick men’), but the music they make could provide the soundtrack for the most heated and bloodthirsty of battles.
The evening isn’t a sellout, but those down the front look safe in the knowledge they are about to witness something spectacular.
Bo Ningen enter the venue having hot footed it over from Salford after playing a 6Music session for former Fall member Marc Riley.
The uncompromising nature of Bo Ningen’s juggernaut of rock ‘n’ roll could well draw comparisons to Mark E Smith and co’s repertoire, but the huge melting pot of noise they create feels just that little bit more like an onslaught of musical talents reacting against each other in equal measure.
In terms of the new record though, the band can be heard playing out what must be considered as some of their most calm-sounding material to date. The evening’s opener ‘Kaifuku’ is one such piece, but in relative terms it is no doubt still the most electrifying curtain-raiser the venue will play host to for some time.
There’s a sense that whether they are performing to 150 people or 50,000 (as may well be the case when they support Black Sabbath at Hyde Park in July), Bo Ningen’s theatrical stage presence would not differ one bit.
All four can be seen throwing their hair back and forth throughout an hour-long set that twists and turns through punk, grunge, prog, metal, garage and, dare we say it, pop at times. Bassist and lead singer Taigan Kawabe takes centre stage, while guitarists Yuki Tsujii and Kohhei Matsuda offer a two-pronged attack that is nothing short of mesmirising.
There’s a het-up moment when the band blow one of their amps, but Matsuda doesn’t seem too bothered, simply carrying on his part by downing his beer and proceeding to swing the emasculated guitar above his head until a rather stressed looking roadie arrives to provide a replacement.
The highlight of the night has to be an all-powerful rendition of ‘Daikasiei – Parts 2 & 3’. The audience are thrown pillar to post during a 20-minute set closer that would no doubt still be going on now if such licensing loopholes existed.
We probably won’t see them becoming part of psych’s invasion on the pop charts anytime soon, but one thing is for sure, Bo Ningen look set to continue shocking venues into life in the most unique way possible for years to come.