Leader of the pack

There are photos on Guitar Wolf’s Web site of people destroying themselves, sharing sweat and pleading with Seiji, Billy, and Toru to have mercy. But the Wolf men do not, and the rock ’n’ roll continues. The Tokyo trio’s been bringing it like this since at least 1991, when the world first started hearing about “Japanese Greatest ‘Jet’ Rock ’n’ Roll Band” (courtesy of their Web site, again). Through albums with handles like Kung Fu Ramone and Planet of the Wolves, with songs called “Midnite Blood Pump,” “Toiletface” and — perhaps the best title ever — “Zaaa Zaaa Asphalt,” Guitar Wolf rolls on in a leather jacket dustball of feverish trash rock devotion, making crowds believe in their central axiom of uncut rabble noise. When they light your face on fire, you let it burn.

The band’s M.O. is elegant in its rocktastic simplicity. Step 1: Slick back hair; use spit if necessary. Step 2: Turn on amplifier; kick in cone. Step 3: Plug in electric guitar and scrape out manic, fast forward version of Gene Vincent’s “B-I-Bickey, Bi, Bo-Bo-Go” with lyrics sung in a bizarre nether-language located between English, Japanese and throat bacteria. It’s rock music burned down to its base elements; the gut-check thrill of the Ramones’ It’s Alive, the rhythmic chug of “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” It’s not right, but it’s a real cool time. Guitar Wolf is devoted to the dirty face side of ’50s rock ’n’ roll, where pulp novel covers came to life and brass knuckles crunched ribs regularly. Like the Oblivions or the Sonics, Seiji (guitar, vocals), Billy (bass) and Toru (drums) revel in shortening the distance between danger and melody, in exploding the innuendo in something like Little Richard’s “Girl Can’t Help It” (“If she smiles, the beefsteak becomes well done …”) into full-on sexual fury. Innuendo has its place — it gives early rock a slyness and lets it get away with more. It certainly served Elvis well. But Guitar Wolf has no use for suggestion, for subtlety. Their grimy assimilation of punk aggression, rockabilly ass shake, and threatening levels of thrash and volume is 200 percent all the time.

Seiji gives himself away in each note, and he demands the same commitment in return.

This is an important stance in the 21st century, when music is so many bits of data or pieces of content. Smooth-edged iPods safe up the rock, compress it all at the very same rate. And suddenly doom metal is just ones and zeroes, just like Leo Sayer. In this sense it’s Guitar Wolf that will save the modern world. In a 2003 interview with the San Francisco-based SFburning.com, Seiji gives some insight into the origins of the Guitar Wolf crusade. “What made you decide to become musicians?” the interviewer asks. “We are destined to create busting sounds on the earth.” “Have any of you had any musical training?” Answer: “The howling of wolves is our teacher.” Self-promotion, shtick, mythology — call it what you want, but don’t assume without seeing the show. Listening to the band’s 1993 live album Wolf Rock, you might think they were playing tiny instruments, or maybe they robbed a treble factory. Everything is distorted, everything screeches and tumbles. And yet, this is what the wolves taught them. This is what you hear and see — what you feel — when Guitar Wolf plays in your town. It’s crude, disgusting and completely hateration-resistant, and it’s coming to the Magic Stick. Get dirty and get saved.


Saturday, March 5, at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-9700. With the Hentchmen and Human Eye.

Johnny Loftus is a freelance writer for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]
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