Shortcuts—The Boredoms’ Super Roots

By Seth Mayer

Sometimes the greatest compliment for a piece of music is to call it cinematic. Cinematic music is the kind that steadily builds, driving directly toward a satisfying conclusion for the listener.

The Boredoms do not make cinematic music. It’s far too tactile and amorphous for that. A song that begins sounding like a strange, repetitive electronic track degenerates into diffuse static. Ethereal noise becomes pulsating rhythms. Screaming becomes percussion.

The Japanese noise rock band has been around since 1986 and is rereleasing Super Roots, a series of earlier records, some of which are coming out in this country for the first time. The Super Roots series is an interesting way to get a grip on the Boredoms’ varying styles and development.

In some of the earlier CDs from the series, the screaming, spastic tracks somehow remain very listenable. Songs like “Machine 3,” for example, are fierce and rapid, yet almost funny. The 46-second “Pitch at Bunch on Itch” sounds like the bass line of “Lollipop” accompanied by someone having their toenails pulled out. The Boredoms seem to be toying with a weird kind of minimalism in these earlier songs.

The songs get longer in length as the band develops, and Boredoms records today lack that early, condensed intensity. They make up for it, however, in their more recent sonic wanderings, which seem to owe more to Krautrock than the influence of punk. Instead of under-a-minute flashes of energy, these tracks unfurl slowly, often repaying repeat listens.

The song “2” develops as it goes on; strange space sounds seem to emanate out of a driving, central track loop. It’s easy to write off songs like “2” as repetitive, but, like most Boredoms songs, if it comes on at just the right moment, the song couldn’t be more perfect.

Super Roots is a good introduction to the Boredoms’ characteristically diverse sound. It can almost be guaranteed that you’ll hate some of it, at least on first listen, but given the chance, some of the weird sounds of the Boredoms will certainly play on your computer over and over again.