Bands come and go, but some manage to show remarkable staying power. One such group is Bo-Peep, who along with acts like Lolita No.18 and Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her are among a number of women-led Japanese alt-rock bands to have had an outsize impact on foreign fans in recent decades.
The trio celebrated its 15th year by releasing Thank You, which indomitable singer Mika Yoshimura explains is their thank-you letter to listeners for supporting the band over a decade and a half.
The album sees the band with a new (male) bassist and a fresh member of the extended family in the form of drummer Ryoko Nakano’s newborn child, who appeared as the band took an extended break following the release of its last album Vibe five years ago.
Thank You doesn’t waste any time getting straight to the goods. The opener, “Hello,” is a greasy slab of two-chord punk underpinned by Nakano’s industrial-strength drums, Yoshimura’s vocals squealing above the whole affair.
Following that is “Renso Game,” a shaggy, leering affair that shines the light on new bassist Yuki Sujaku. After years as an all-girl trio, Yoshimura explains that previous bassist Kaori “Take” Takebayashi had to exit Tokyo for her hometown. She apparently happened across Sujaku at a bar and, taken with his performance, invited him to join the band.
The third and title track takes Bo-Peep into more melodic territory, but it’s only a detour on a road of pleasantly unsettling drum and guitar riffs and chunky funk-punk. As another song insists, the basic ethos is “Let’s Go Bananas!”
But as uncompromising as their recorded music is, Bo-Peep really have to be appreciated live, where the full-force of Yoshimura’s rock god personality has enough space for expression; she’s been known to break a bone or two jumping around on stage.
The band are a favorite overseas and have performed at Austin’s vaunted South By Southwest festival twice, most recently in 2015.
Back home, they can be found haunting dive-y live houses like Heaven’s Door in Sangenjaya and Club 251 in Shimokitazawa.
Bo-Peep can be seen as poster girls for long-lived yet noncommercial Japanese rock bands who manage to exert a strong international pull while providing a stringent counterpoint to the overdose of kawaii “idol” acts that Japan’s talent factories continue to churn out. But for Yoshimura and Nakano, there is no master plan for feminist global domination. “We just continue to rock hard,” Yoshimura says about the new album, “and throw in a few pop twists.”
Roppongi Club Edge, Feb 12 and Sangenjaya Heaven’s Door, Feb 14. http://bo-peep3.com