Of all the artists in Japan's thriving noise-music community, the Boredoms undoubtedly had the most fun. Although their maniacally extreme cacophony was by no means accessible listening, it was underpinned by a gleeful sense of humor that helped them find a limited (but still surprisingly wide) audience among alternative rockers. A typical Boredoms track might feature massively distorted guitars, squealing synths, any number of odd found-object noisemakers, or studio-manipulation effects; conventional song structures are thrown out the window in favor of abrupt, whiplash-inducing changes of direction. With Sonic Youth and Nirvana counting themselves among the Boredoms' fans, the group actually signed major-label deals during the early '90s, both in Japan and the U.S., and played the Lollapalooza main stage. Although the Boredoms' American deal eventually fell through, they continued to record steadily in Japan, progressing into a sort of trance-inducing, psychedelia-tinged experimental rock indebted to the '70s Krautrock movement.
The Boredoms were formed in early 1986 in Osaka, Japan, by vocalist Yamatsuka Eye (who later went by Yamantaka Eye, then Yamataka Eye, and sometimes just eYe). Eye had been a member of the noise-rock band the Hanatarash, as had drummer Taketani; the rest of the original lineup featured guitarist Tabata Mara and bassist Hosoi. It quickly disintegrated; first, Taketani was let go in favor of Yoshikawa Toyohito, then Hosoi was replaced by Hira (sometimes Hilah), and finally Mara -- who quit to join Zeni Geva -- was replaced by Yamamoto Seiichi (aka Yama-Motor). Thus constituted, the Boredoms recorded their debut three-song EP, Anal by Anal, in 1986; their first full-length, Osozeran No Stooges Kyo ("The Stooges Craze in Osozeran"), followed in 1988, with both records later collected on Onanie Bomb Meets the Sex Pistols. Yoshimi Yokota (aka Yoshimi P-WE) became the band's new drummer and first female member in 1988; Yoshikawa switched to percussion and quit the following year, replaced first by Hasegawa Chu and then by ATR. Following Eye's work with John Zorn's avant-garde Naked City ensemble, the Boredoms' second album, Soul Discharge, was issued in the U.S. by Shimmy Disc in 1990; though some found them pointlessly abrasive, overall the record's crazed attack made them a hip name to drop in underground circles. The buzz surrounding the Boredoms culminated in major-label deals with Warner Japan and Reprise in the U.S., the first fruits of which were 1993's Pop Tatari, for which Yoshikawa returned as co-lead vocalist and synthesizer player. The follow-up Chocolate Synthesizer was released in the U.S. in 1995 (a year later than Japan), and the band supported it by playing a string of main stage dates on that year's Lollapalooza tour.
Lollapalooza marked the peak of the Boredoms' visibility in America, which began to cool down afterwards. Yoshikawa left again, and the band took some time to release a new LP, instead busying themselves with numerous side projects and issuing a series of EPs, dubbed Super Roots, that often appeared only in Japan. Reprise wound up dropping them, at which point the small Birdman label began to pick up some of their releases for domestic distribution. Fortified with a third drummer/percussionist in EDA, 1998 brought the EP Super Go!!!!! and the full-length Super Ae, which heralded the group's increasing psychedelic/Krautrock influence. The same year, the band recorded a split single with 77 -- the "performing" alias of their manager's infant son. 2000 saw the beginning of a series of remix albums titled Rebore; individual volumes featured U.N.K.L.E., Ken Ishii, DJ Krush, and Eye himself. Eye's increasing interest in electronica was reflected on the band's next official full-length album, the trippy Vision Creation Newsun, released in the U.S. on Birdman in 2001. Things were quiet for some time after the release of Vision Creation Newsun and rumors began circulating that the Boredoms had broken up. A smaller version of the group reconvened and played some shows as the Voordoms in 2003, giving further fire to the break up hearsay. In 2005, however, the Boredoms returned with the U.S. release of Seadrum/House of Sun.
1993’s Super Roots just might be strangest of the group’s entire catalogue. It comes off assaultive but playful; a well-executed hit carried out by infant assassins with toy musical weapons. These mostly percussive, acoustic tracks rely almost solely on the performers’ heads, hands, and mouths to generate a restless, clanging racket. All over the record you’ll hear snatches of bodily functions, metal percussion, Eye screaming as if he’s being flogged, various band members beating the tar out of electric guitar and rock drums, mile-a-minute auctioneer vocalisms and barbaric percussive assaults, alien-nerd daisy chain chants, and the sound of getting electrically sick in the bathroom. It’s easily the most entertainingly difficult music they ever made.
SUPER ROOTS 3 The first of their long-form pieces, Super Roots 3's “Hard Trance Away (Karaoke of Cosmos)” rages forth with a full half-hour’s worth of unimpeded, breakneck, two-chord thrash. Key changes seem to occur at intervals, and vocal wailing blesses the last 10 or 15 seconds’ worth of music, before cutting off and ending in three whole minutes of silence. If the first Super Roots was maddening in its frantic attention deficits, Super Roots 3 quells the frustration with linear, single-minded aggression.
SUPER ROOTS 5 Divesting itself of anything rhythmic, Super Roots 5 consists of one 64-minute freakout called "GO!!!!!," and is perhaps the centerpiece of the entire Super Roots series. “GO!!!!!” is sublime, sublimated crash for the end times, a mélange of churning guitar, electronics, crashing cymbals and bowed percussion. The track is endlessly inventive and in its subtle shifting and unflagging intensity; it’s a warm, maximalist rock spin on Japan’s then-burgeoning "power electronics" scene; a massive, molten copper disc absorbing all of the power of the sun. It's this piece that most connects to their future psych/trance/drone-based efforts such as 1999’s Vision Creation Newsun or 2004’s Seadrum/House of Sun.
SUPER ROOTS 6 The 17 numbered tracks of the album Super Roots 6 were issued in 1996 and was the only title in the Super Roots series to see a release in the US, although it has been out of print for years. Aside from a harsh noise buffer in opener "01," some slicing cymbal in "13," and some squeaking ape stomp in "14," Super Roots 6 is the gentlest of any Boredoms release, a collection of static and minimally manipulated beats, sometimes juxtaposed with world music loop overlays. It seems to have been been created in a new headspace: meditative, self-aware, and pregnant with breaks and beats yet to be unearthed by the cratediggers of the world.
SUPER ROOTS 7 This EP might sound familiar to Mekons fans; ostensibly, it’s an extended cover of the group’s second single, “Where Were You?” The gods and goddesses of the rave had their way with the Boredoms by its 1998 release date, particularly in its exuberant, 20-minute “Boriginal” mix (numerologically helping to celebrate the Mekons’ 20-year anniversary as an active band by proxy). Both this version and the two Eye-sanctioned remixes that bookend it lock into the mekano-heartbeat of Krautrock and embrace synthesizers more fully than any previous releases. These are joyous chords that ring out with precision and abandon alike, when warranted.
SUPER ROOTS 8 This EP finds the group tackling the theme to the Japanese TV show "Jungle Taitei." It would seem that they took the title literally, as the otherwise majestic track is sliced into thousands of pieces by 250 BPM beyond-gabber drum programming. Yann Tomita’s blissed out “Laughter Robot’s Hemp Mix” helps to bring the track back to earth, with spacy, phased percussion and heavy electronic dub passages. It’s the only selection in the entire collection touched by outside influence, a trend that would surface again with the Rebore series of remixes that followed the Super Roots recordings.