In the world of science, DMBQ is a toxic compound that produces the root-like structure of a parasitic plant that absorbs food from its host. But in the world of rock ’n’ roll, DMBQ is an entirely different but equally voracious hybrid. The Tokyo-based band (aka Dynamite Masters Blues Quartet) has been infesting the Japanese underground since 1988 with a strange and potent combination of experimental noise, metal, psychedelia and dirty rock. After several albums on major Japanese labels, DMBQ recently signed with America’s Estrus Records and last month released their U.S. debut, The Essential Sounds From the Far East. These “essential sounds” are composed of broad strokes swiped from familiar genres, but the feel of the finished canvas is entirely new.
It seems unfair nowadays to talk about music as a function of country of origin. Still, DMBQ is partly interesting because the band stands apart from most Japanese trends—and always has. Missoula’s independent music scene is probably most familiar with Japan’s Guitar Wolf, and no discussion of Japanese rock would be complete without mentioning them. Before Guitar Wolf there was Shonen Knife and then The 188.8.131.52’s, who recently reemerged in the film Kill Bill Vol. 1. These bands may not have anything glaringly in common (other than faint echoes of the 1950s), but all three share independent roots and a home nation, and their retro musical styles, though engaging, aren’t terribly surprising.
That’s where DMBQ stands apart: It is surprising. When you hear the dark, driving riffs of Black Sabbath or the improvisational punk of Television, you don’t naturally expect that they’re coming from the land of Hello Kitty. DMBQ is a Frankenstein of American rock elements, and even if you know where they came from, it’s impossible to tell where they might stagger off to next.
On their current tour, DMBQ is promoting the new album and dragging along frontman and lead guitarist Shinji Masuko’s reputation for onstage chaos. The rest of the band has been known to “massacre the stage,” as their press kit warns.
Better the stage than the audience, who’ll have to show up to find out what, if anything, got lost in that translation.
DMBQ plays The Elk’s Lodge Thursday, April 14, with Federation X, My Pal Ghosty, Sasshole and Volumen. The show starts at 8 PM, and tickets cost $7 in advance and $9 the day of the show.