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February 16th, 2005 John Graham | Music Stories
 

i heart Polysics!

Six reasons to go crazy over Japan's No. 1 giddy synth-o-punk psychobots.

     
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Polysics: It's not a band, it's an infection!

From Japan it comes, a mad macrovirus born of science run amok! Deadly destructive and more contagious than a cybernetic superflu…but cute, too! Yeah, sorta like that robotic glob of perspiration and hydraulics in Tetsuo: Iron Man, only chased by attractive lab techs in matching red medi-suits. Symptoms similar to Devo, Brainiac, Six Finger Satellite and Servotron—squiggly synths, injections of guitar, twisted geekitude—are only half the coindications of the beautiful disease that is Polysics. Here are a half-dozen ways the quartet will give you a delirious heart attack, with sample song lyrics thrown in for a taste of the trans-Pacific mayhem!

1. Plastic Girls vs. Spastic Boys: Keyboardist Kayo is the fembot with the cool synthesizer sound and vocoder vocals; she could out-chill any electroclash ice queen from Berlin. Fumi, the female bassist, allows only slightly more emotion to show. But Hayashi—the band's founder, frontman, guitarist, songwriter and bespectacled Devo freak—is an endless wellspring of energy and eruption, leaping and shrieking like he's got a fountain of firecrackers up his ass and his tongue is firing sparks! I gotta be disordered! I gotta psycho! —"Disorder"

2. Lost in Translation? You Don't Know the Half of It: Hayashi technically sings in English: "Beginning English isn't all that easy," he shouts in one song. "We must work to live!" But it would take a J-pop philosopher to understand what he's really on about. Even with a cheat sheet, lyrics like "health is a great element of happiness/ that's all for today" and "I've got to be unknown place/ oh, I gotta supershocked!" become a Babelfish translation nightmare. Besides, between his Ritalin robot-dog yips and his garbled Tokyo accent, the words are virtually unintelligible anyway. So make up your own Polysics lyrics! Meaning is unimportant! Do it! Song-write now! Urge on! —"Urge On!!-Velocity 2"

3. Pac-Man Fever (x 10,000): Like many bands today, Polysics adores the quivery sound of early-'80s electronics—the Atari bleeps, blips and blizzaps of Kayo's keyboards have all the wet synthetic gush of an arcade circa 1981. But here they're so amped and trashy, those "dots" of which Pac-Man was so enamored must now be laced with ungodly illegal amounts of ephedrine. Neural overload! Yeah! Get back! Rock in 8-bit voice! —"Get Back to 8-Bit"

4. 'Fess Up—You Dig Every Japanese Band: From Melt-Banana to the Boredoms, Guitar Wolf to Gasoline, or Peelander-Z to Zeni-Geva, who was the last bad Japanese band you saw? Like so many of its musical countrymen—Puffy Ami Yumi aside—Polysics manages to be simultaneously frantic and catchy, insane and frightening and endearingly inviting all at the same time. And it doesn't give a good goddamn for your precious irony. Innocent and enthusiastic even in the midst of (practically unidentifiable) covers like "My Sharona" or "Mr. Roboto," Polysics makes it OK to love its Neu Wave truly, madly, deeply. Shame is overrated! We're through being cool! We're pinheads! Here we go now!! —"Go Ahead Now"

5. Science-Fiction Costumes = Anti-Fashion for the Timeless Nerd: To be sure, Polysics' dress code of matching coveralls and stenciled logos is stolen from Devo, and thus could be deemed retro by some. Astro jumpsuits, however, trump lame brown ringer tees and grade-school corduroys any day. And mirrored sci-fi visors versus vintage horn rims? It's not even a contest! Boo to obvious hipster retro! It's sickening! It's boring! I don't wanna carry on the past! —"Urge On!!-Velocity 2"

6. Surfing with the Alien: No, not like Joe Satriani's 1987 wankfest. Polysics' six-string samurai slashes don't waste time with prog-metal complexity. Instead, Hayashi's guitar whammajamma is aggressively minimal, the riffs curling like surf punk blasted deep into irradiated space. Think of Agent Orange trapped in the storm of Jupiter's Big Red Spot—spinning in wild tubes of distortion until the final wipeout. Wake up! Wake up, boys and girls! We present you beautiful noise! —"Wake Up, Polysics!"


Polysics plays with the Punk Group and Portland General Electro on Tuesday, Feb. 22, at Berbati's Pan, 10 SW 3rd Ave., 248-4579. 9:30 pm. $6 advance, $7 day of show. 21+.
 
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