Before anyone gets carried away, this is a review of the prolific, shape shifting and iconic Japanese band rather than the feckless toadying British Foreign Secretary BoJo.
Named after a Melvins track, Boris have been releasing albums for 20 years. Their output varies hugely in direction. They’ve released experimental alt rock (“Amplifier Worship” and “Akuma No Uta”), slowly morphing instrumental music (“Flood”), J-pop (“New Album”) and metal (“Heavy Rocks”). They are keen collaborators, working with with artists as diverse as Japanese improv artist Keijo Haino (“Black: Implication Flooding”), guitarist Michio Kurihara (“Rainbow”), noise artist Merzbow (“Megatone”), American Doom Metallists Sunn O))) (“Altar”) (so much parenthesis, so little time) and even the Cult’s Ian Astbury (“BXI”).
One day I’ll get around to writing a primer for their music but for now, let’s stick with matters in hand.
2016 marks the 10th anniversary of their LP “Pink”.
Originally released in 2005 on the Japanese Diwphalanx label, it got a wider release a year later via the American Southern Lord label. Southern Lord is run by Greg Anderson, of Sunn O))), who collaborated with the band on “Altar” in the same year as “Pink” was released. I’ve got the Southern Lord CD version, which includes William Blake’s images of Satan from his interpretation of Milton’s “Paradise Lost”.
“Pink” marked something of a transition for Boris, taking them from the longer more experimental tracks into something marginally more accessible. Whilst it still contains the 10 minute plus epics that they had started their career by performing, it also contains some punky blasts of energy.
Ten years on and we’ve got the obligatory bonus track re-release (this time on the Sargeant House label) and the played through as an LP tribute tour. This is the fourth time that I’ve seen them live and I was curious as to how they would approach playing just a single LP.
The answer was with a sense of fun. Whilst Boris’s music goes far beyond the metal genre, they do embrace the somewhat nonsensical antics that accompany that scene. Atsuo, their drummer, is the cheerleader in chief, giving it devils horns and even crowd surfing. His gurning and pouting is a constantly amusing and between banging his huge gong, he conducts the crowd, exhorting them to shout louder. All good clean fun in this pantomime season. He previously provided vocals for the band and old front man habits clearly die hard.
His bandmates compliment him wonderfully. In front of a bank of Orange amplifiers, Wata conjured waves of sound from her Les Paul Gibson, dressed in a floaty A-line dress, looking like she was heading to Fortnum and Mason for afternoon tea with her aunt. She completely inverts the idea of a heavy metal axe hero(ine).
Takeshi stood opposite, coolly dressed in black and wielding a twin neck guitar and bass. Between he and Wata, they opened the evening with a slow burning “Blackout” before heading into the more straight ahead Stooges/Motorhead of the title track and “Woman On The Screen”.
As the set progressed, the band stretched out, using a great light show and tons of dry ice to great effect. Crowds can be somewhat reticent in London, being too cool for school. Boris’s crowd lapped up the whole spectacle, supporting Atsuo when he decided his to take his excursion into the crowd.
It had been a while since I had listened to Boris in earnest but last night’s blast was hugely invigorating. The album format served them, giving them the opportunity to stretch out but within a known structure.
One more final shoutout to the band and their merchandise table. This is the way that stuff should be sold at gigs. They had a selection of their CDs and LPs, many of which hadn’t been released in the UK. Some real rarities for their fans to get their hands.
But the highlight of the merch was the band’s own custom made “Pink” guitar fuzz pedal. What an inventive piece of product to flog, a snip at £200.
Now if they would just give “Flood” the same treatment…….