Album Review: Otoboke Beaver – Super Champon

[Damnably; 2022]

Fun and fury transcend language, which is all to the benefit of Japanese quartet Otoboke Beaver – but more importantly to the benefit of their listeners. Or rather, those listeners who have no grasp of the Japanese language. Listeners like those (including your trusty writer here) won’t be able to fully appreciate the clever wordplay and societal significance of the song topics without the benefit of a translated lyric sheet (though the band do sing in both Japanese and English at times), but still, that hardly stops the enjoyment: Otoboke Beaver’s latest album, Super Champon, is a loud, brash, thrilling, dizzying, and supremely fun album that will leave you winded as much as it will leave you laughing.

Somehow managing to one-up the energy and intensity of their 2019 collection Itekoma Hits, Super Champon stuffs 20 tracks into 18 minutes; it doesn’t require any kind of extended time commitment, but for these 18 minutes it’s impossible to focus your attention anywhere other than on the music. The band describe their output as “genreless” and while it might have a solid anchor in punk, it could be called a bunch of other things at various moments here: math rock, metal, riot grrrl, or pop. (Indeed the word “Champon” is a Japanese noun meaning a mixture or jumble of things of different types.) To tag the music here is futile though and kind of misses the point: the breakneck speed at which the band flip switches and style is part of the enjoyment. Trying to pin them down is to not get absorbed in the fray of it all. These are assaults of noise with mantras attached, vicious takedowns with little to no fluff or wasted space.

Lead singer and guitarist Accorinrin sings, shrieks, and screams her words with the fury and delighted intent of someone ripping up a literal rulebook in front of their boss, if not someone kicking it into their face. “Dirty old fart is waiting for my reaction” and “You’re no hero shut up fuck you man-whore” go the title of two tracks here: the sentiment couldn’t be clearer. She relies on repetition of phrases to drill home her messages, repeating mantras four or five times to both make sure the point gets across, but also so the earworm is definitely pounded into your brain. On the wry and clobbering “PARDON?” she reiterates the phrase “I don’t know what you mean” with such a deliciously sardonic barb it might as well be a piece of duct tape slapped onto the mouth of anyone who has ever complained that Otoboke Beaver’s music is hindered by any kind of language barrier.

These songs are a team effort though, and the precision with which they stop and start is captivating in and of itself. Lead guitarist Yoyoyoshie and bassist Hirochan ignite around Accorinrin’s words and playing, but it’s drummer Kahokiss who is the real superstar here. Her pummelling of her kit is so full and vibrant that one could spend a run through of the album just concentrating on and appreciating her efforts alone. Her fills on excitable opening track “I am not maternal” are the kind of thing you would never think the moment needs until you hear them, but are impossible to imagine the track without thereafter; her playing on “Don’t call me mojo” could almost be called jazzy for it’s lyrical accentuation; and on “First-class side-guy” there’s so much detail moment to moment it would surely make the prospect of sheet music for the song terrifying to any kind of amatuer drummer.

It could be said Super Champon is a little front-heavy in terms of substantial moments (four of the sub-20-second tracks in the back half of the album don’t even equate to a full minute of listening), but for an album of such brevity it doesn’t matter a great deal. Super Champon is a wild ride; even after many listens it still feels impossible to anticipate its next move. Stories are swiftly told (threats of DMs being revealed, suspicions of a cheating boyfriend confirmed), defiance strongly made (Accorinrin rejecting societal expectations of bearing children on “I am not maternal”, or refusing to carry out traditional roles given to female subordinates on the twisty and ever-contorting “I won’t dish out salads”), and noise is most definitely made. It’s fun, it’s furious, and just about anyone should be able to appreciate that.