Since their conception back in '89, The 18.104.22.168's have spent their time doing to '50s rock and roll what The Darkness have spent the last year doing to '80s metal; something spectacular.
Armed with their authentic backcombed beehive hairdos, a dubious command of the English language and an unquenchable passion for trash'n'roll, The 22.214.171.124's romp, whoop, smooch and scream their way through no less than 27 tracks on their latest album, a fantastic collection of their early singles.
For those of us not previously initiated into the dark, seedy world of Tokyo's underground garage-rock scene, the first exposure to this tempestuous trio is likely to have occurred in the cinema. The now famed Woo Hoo song brought massive recognition to this otherwise small-scale group after their appearance in Tarantino's Kill Bill: Volume 1, and is quite possibly the most infectious song (if it can be called that) you're likely to hear this year. Imagine a strange fusion of the musicals Grease, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Buddy Holly Story performed by three cutesy Japanese girls who fluctuate effortlessly between chic lounge instrumentals and screaming garage punk outbursts and you're, well, not even close really.
Bomb The Rocks - Early Days Singles opens with the cataclysmic rock-stomp Bomb The Twist, bursting out of your stereo with such raw, unrefined enthusiasm that even the most inert listener will soon be tapping their toes with a bemusing compulsion.
Modern musical critique has no framework for categorising songs like Smiley Willy and Blue Radio, so we have no choice but to listen and enjoy them for the bizarre yet ingenious creations that they are. To say that they are in a league of their own is something of an understatement; these gals are on an entirely different planet (a fact categorically proved on the insanely amusing track My Boyfriend From Outer Space).
What gives these crazy chicks a special sentiment for me is that I consider the '50s to be the true birthplace of modern music. It is tragically underrated, under-played and under-imitated. With so much of our current music emanating from the rehashed memories of aging rockers stuck in a perpetual time warp from the '70s, it's a breath of fresh air to hear some good old rock 'n' roll with an intensely original edge.
Of course, The 126.96.36.199's do have the occasional foray into the 60s, and tracks such as Jane In The Jungle, Road Runner and Pinball Party sound like they've graduated straight from the Pulp Fiction school of retro cool.
If the first 13 tracks flirt playfully with trashy tributes to a long-lost era, the last 14 take us down slightly darker alleys, although no less intense and no more sane. She Was A Mau Mau grates with heavily distorted guitars and vocals, toying menacingly with the band's inner-punk side. Hot Generation sounds like a drunken bag-lady has wandered off the streets and hijacked the microphone at a karaoke bar.
The rest of the album basically goes downhill from here on in. But don't get me wrong - going down hill isn't always a bad thing, it all depends how you do it. Remember the dizzying exhilaration and nauseating rush of rolling down a hill as a kid? Well, imagine that sensation as a musical experience. There are still some sublime moments such as the wonderfully chic Bond Girl and the gloriously moochy opening to Jet Coaster, but eventually you come to the end of the ride with Blue Radio, in which you see yourself rolling the last few yards in slow motion as the world spins lazily around you. As you lie there staring into space, you think to yourself, "I can't wait to do that again!" as you reach with shaking fingers for the remote.
:: Tom West