I’m not sure if Diplo and Switch ever listened to Japanther, but musically, Japanther is the punk brother to reggae’s cartoon commando, Major Lazer. The Major rides a rocket powered hoverboard, fights zombies and vampires, has a lot of sex, and attends a lot of parties. So why are they brothers? It’s not hard to imagine both Ian Vanek and Matt Reilly on hoverboards and subsequently playing at a party where Major Lazer was getting some in the next room.
The duo are from Brooklyn, but when you hear about their shows with synchronized swimmers, their endless tours, and their baffling ode to River Phoenix, you’d think they hailed from Dan Deacon’s Wham City (Baltimore). It’s lo-fi pop, it’s got hints of shitgaze in there, and there are plenty of wailing vocals.
But although they’re often described as an “experimental” or “noise” band, it’s still punk rock. Dissect the message and the sound as much as you want. Ultimately, there’s a “fuck you” in there somewhere for somebody, be it the principal or the cops.
Japanther – “River Phoenix” (from Skuffed Up My Huffy)
Here are their five, albeit with a couple of editorial amendments (sorry guys).
1) Tom Petty – “Even The Losers” (live in Holland track) – “Because he totally kills it.” (Ed. note: Couldn’t find live track, so here’s the studio cut from Damn The Torpedoes.)
2) The Jaynetts – “Sally Go ‘Round The Roses” (from Sally Go ‘Round The Roses) – “Because it’s Bronx surf ghost girl group soul.”
3) Bob Seger – “Night Moves” (from Night Moves) – “Because we’re all trying to lose those awkward teenage blues.”
4) Digable Planets – “NY Is Red Hot” (from Reachin’: A New Refutation Of Time And Space) – “Because that album is a hip hop masterpiece.”
5) The Ventures – “The Spider” – “Surf rock instrumental Gods.” (Ed. note: Couldn’t find this one either, but here’s a surf instrumental called “The Spider” by The Verbtones.)