Polysics, with Alex Atchley, Los Abandoned and the Gaskets

Proposal for master's thesis (rejected): Rock 'n' roll in its rawest, purest form has always been about screwing it up, getting it wrong, the excitement of spontaneity and its attendant mistakes and idiosyncrasies. In 1954, Elvis, Scotty and Bill couldn't play the country standard "Blue Moon of Kentucky" properly to save their lives, but their between-takes messing around was captured on tape by Sam Phillips and sparked a musical revolution. Within a few years, this original jolt of wired-up fuckedness had been effectively polished by music-biz bean counters into predictable Frankie-and-Annette pop product. But across the ocean, a gaggle of shaggy-haired limeys had been getting into the blues, rock and roll, C&W and other indigenous American musical forms, none of which could they have truly played with a gun pressed to their collective temple. Still, we all know that the alternately reverent and snotty (but always failed) attempts of the Stones, Kinks, Beatles, Animals, et al., were almost unbelievably exciting, and the fresh, abject wrongness of it all effectively reignited the rock 'n' roll revolution. Of course, almost immediately, yesterday's bum notes became the industry standard, and new, innovative screwups were needed.

This pattern has repeated itself again and again over the years, with various levels of self-consciousness and cross-pollination, from the Stooges to Run-D.M.C. to the riot grrrl movement and beyond, always managing to put a fresh thousand volts or so through rock 'n' roll's ragged but wrong spirit just when the miserable old dinosaur should've been gasping its last. Nowhere is this electricity more evident today than in the rebellious young punk- and garage-inspired bands that began emerging from Japan in the early '80s. Groups like the Plastics, Shonen Knife, Boredoms and Teengenerate have displayed all the unvarnished enthusiasm and none of the cultural background required to play this music "authentically," and the result has been a virulent, goofy new strain of the stuff.

One of the most joyful and spastic CDs in recent memory is Now Is the Time! by Polysics, a unisex, Devo-obsessed quartet from Tokyo with an energy level so off-the-charts you can practically hear them bouncing off the walls on the studio versions of such Bloken Engrish CrassicsTM as "Mr. Psycho Psycho" and "Coelakanth Is Android." It's anyone's guess how crazy things'll get when they play these same songs live, but let's just hope that the good folks at Super Happy Fun Land are paid up on their insurance. Hai! Hai! Rock 'n' roll!

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Scott Faingold