A couple of weeks ago the United Nations released a typically lengthy report that discussed some untypical observations about the rotational axis of our planet. In short, a bunch of scientists have reliable data that the typical ‘wobble’ of our planet’s axis is exponentially increasing. A result of this increased, and in increasing drift from usual axis means that the planet’s rotational pole is heading east. A result of the drift is that the ice caps are exposed to two extra hours of sun each month. This is a number that is rapidly increasing. It means that the ice caps are lubricating – becoming fluid faster than previously considered possible. Even if humanity were to immediately stop global warming it would have no impact on the melting icecaps. Humanity’s reshaping of the planet; mines, open quarries, deforestation, etc. etc. has impacted on this increased wobble. The scientists likened these seemingly small influences on the face of the planet to be like the drag created by chalk on a pool ball. As any pool hall slouch will tell you – that shit effects spin. Anyway, our planet is, relatively speaking, quickly going to morph into an entirely different environment – known ecosystems will collapse and become inhospitable for human life. Thankfully, to counter this unsettling news the Budokan Boys have an album called Dad Is Bad.
Wait, we’re not being glib. The sense of impending doom, surrealism, and wonder is something that underpins the themes of this album. The work of Budokan Boys has been described as experimental pop. That is an incorrect assessment. This is not experimental pop – this is how music should sound on a planet that drifting from its rotational axis. Danced to by a population that knows the end is nigh. In the happy moments there is bitter-sweetness. In the saddest passages there are celebrations of experience.
Title track ‘Dad is Bad’ adopts a traditional blues structure. It rolls along and shares a narrative of a father’s dark influence, and the faking of a death to scare the bad behavior out of a man. On one level there’s a weird lament of misdirected love. The father is a victim, psychotically altered by ‘the war’. On another level this is a song about the terrible shit one generation experiences at the hands of those that came before. On another level we realize ‘We’re all doomed anyway’. Blame, and/ or assignment of guilt is irrelevant, and in this sense of doom there is incredible light; a kind of all-pervading beauty. When horror looms above the brevity, and preciousness of life is revealed.
We previously spoke of Budokan Boys and the track ‘No Show’, Jeff T Byrd, and Michael Jeffrey Lee’s document of existential angst and nebulous ambition. Sitting here, in sequence with material that gets deeper, darker, and more hyperreal, that track lends weight to a worldview that is barbed, and brilliant in its approach to the petty ridiculousness of ego, and drive.
This high concept art, pretending to be pop music is enormously pleasing. There’s a punk-like humor where tradition and standards are pissed on when they inhibit and fail to help humanity. Characters smell like old rugs, or they offer themselves out for rent. ‘God Today’ is drinking under freeway underpasses. It’s all a bit bleak, it’s all a bit beautiful.
Vocal tracks are passed through bizarro treatments. Tempos are measured out on straight-from-the-box keyboard drum kits. The otherness of things is celebrated – guitars are hooked, synth beds are barbed. Straight lines between two points are drawn out, but against all quantum laws they never offer shortest distance. Production is, erm… flawless in capturing the flaws of men operating machines, and making attempts to articulate the ineffable.
Sometimes surrealism can disappear up its own asshole. Let’s talk about Dali – the ultimate marketeer. The ultimate marketeer also made bendy clocks happen. Budokan Boys have populated this entire album with bendy clocks – the mundane aspects of life are perverted so exquisitely a new sense is offered. But again, the element in marketing – calling this ‘experimental pop’ is misleading. Budokan Boys know exactly what they’re doing. Mainstream audiences may be surprised, or disenfranchised, but to the surrealist, and to the world that pays attention – this shit offers new kinds of clarity.
‘Pray pray, every day / in paradise you will gain. Even the lowest prisoner skull might house a hero’s brain’. A line from ‘Prisoner’ shows how Budokan boys draw a line that connects the light in the dark, and the dark in the light. They find balance in the weirdness. By occupying a first-person narrative in the center of these songs they plant us in the process of our own undoing. Where’s this guy being held prisoner? Is heaven a prison? Is this what we wished for? We should definitely be careful what we wish for.
The planet is dropping from it’s axis. That’s pretty weird. But y’know, we’re all going to die, so why worry about the inevitable? Budokan Boys look at the minor and the major catastrophes, the existential meanderings, and they focus in on the minutiae that brings meaning to the whole.
Dad is Bad is an album that captures the moment when we realize the concepts to which we previously subscribed are almost entirely meaningless. The freedoms of the now, and the connection with like-minded people carry the highest value. This is an album the world needs, but most likely doesn’t deserve. It’s stunning, and most of us aren’t worthy. But holy shit – it makes our wobbling path around the sun something special.
HURRY – BUY – BUDOKAN BOYS MUSIC
PHOTOGRAPH BY ERICK HAUGHSBY