Saturday, 12 February 2011

Sapporo Food: Grabstri UPDATED

EDIT! UPDATE AND EDIT! Grabstri closed down. Then they demolished the building too, which is a little extreme but, well, it wasn't that great really. Don't worry about the Meer Lounge people though, they opened a new place in Susukino called PEACE with really uncomfortable stools. I'll leave this post up for posterity but kill the tags. Is that ok?

Oh boy, pretty soon every trendy, somewhat bohemian bar and restaurant in Sapporo is going to be owned by the Meer Lounge dude. I wonder if he could be described as 'shadowy'? That would be cool. Hot on the heels of World Japanese Foodin' EN, that I blogged about last year, January saw the interestingly monikered Grabstri open in Kita 24 Jyo.

I'm really not trying to plug this little chain of bars too much, honestly. I was in Kita 24 Jyo and picked up a flyer for the place, then didn't know it had anything to do with Meer Lounge or EN until we went there and saw the menu. The flyer, by the way, features their slogan - "Let's Tacos", which I would hope a lot of people will find grating (the common "Let's [NOUN]" construction of Japanese ad copy tends to grate on most native English speakers) but for me just shows how inured I've become, in that it didn't bug me that much. Also I kinda fancied Tacos, which really aren't common in Japan.

Well, turns out that much like EN, Grabstri offers a contemporary Japanese take on the dish. All the food we had was great, and I'd certainly recommend the place, but I don't think their tacos are all that taco-like in anything other than basic construction. Then, I'm English! What the hell do I know about Mexican food? Only Americans know about Mexican food. Eh, Mexicans too probably.

Grabstri is a smaller, more humble looking place than EN (though it shares a few quirks of decor), less of a restaurant, more of a bar with food, but they had a pretty big menu to choose from. The tacos (soft or deep fried) are the centre-piece, but we also had these deep fried shrimp cakes that were just incredible.

It's located really centrally to Kita 24 Jyo, about a minute from the North exit of the subway, and I've marked it on the map too! Good food, perfectly good beer and a nice feel to the place, so go check it out.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Monday, 7 February 2011

Japanese Music: Shinsei Kamatte-chan

This is what you miss out on, not having Tower Records in the rest of the world any more, suckers! I went to Tower Records in Sapporo, I forget what I went for, but I was wandering around listening to pretty much everything that looked interesting and there was a pretty big display for the two new albums from Shinsei Kamatte-chan. I had no idea who that was (despite them getting an assload of press last year, I don't keep up with everything, though I've been working on feeds and readers to make keeping up with anything easier recently) but they had albums by Midori on the same display, who were great but split up recently, so I gave them a listen. And then I bought both of their new albums

I cannot remember the last time I've been sold, so completely after the first few tracks of an album. It turned out I was listening to Tsumanne ("Boring"), their major label debut, but that they'd also released an album on their original indie label on the same day at the end of 2010. TWO ALBUMS ON THE SAME DAY? It's been done many times before, but let me tell you I cannot help but eat that shit right up. It hits my 'artistic follies' sweet spot just 'so'. Also it brings their total for 2010 to three albums and a separate single, which is a more than respectable output.

Another awesome, ridiculous thing they do is hidden tracks. Their debut has an unlisted track, their single (which is two tracks, one being an instrumental of the other) has more music stuck on the end of the second track after a silent gap. Best of all 'Tsumanne' has an unlisted track that's actually THREE more songs put into one twelve-minute track. It's so stupid, but it's so great.

A lot of people seem to like to flail around trying to describe Shinsei Kamatte-chan's music, and if that's good enough for everyone else, well... anyway. They're a noisy, messy, arty, avante-ish punk pop band, with good tunes and a chaotic approach to... pretty much everything it seems. They've got a massive youth following from live-streaming, uploading shitloads of videos and generally working the internet for all they're worth. And the videos often seem to be entirely different mixes of the songs to the ones they end up releasing (like the one at the top there). The frontman doesn't give interviews, and a lot of their songs pitch-shift his vocals so much that I really did assume that they had a female singer too at first.

Wow, this sounds like an utter puff-piece so far. But, I mean, they're not the best thing ever in the world. Just calling their albums 'Tsumanne' ("Boring") and 'Minna Shine' ("Everyone Fuck Off And Die" as wonderfully translated it) makes me want to not like them, even though it's almost important to have somebody taking that approach to things. I can see why their first album, 'Tomodachi Koroshite Made' was so popular: it's catchy and aggressive and crazy and fun. But when they lean on the piano for songs it makes me think of Midori - but less-so (the single is probably the worst offender for that I suppose). I think it's a good album, so's their other indie record 'Minna Shine', but I don't love either of those records.

I fucking LOVE 'Tsumanne'. For me, musically it's like a quantum leap forwards. It sounds like nothing else, despite bringing to mind a load of music I like. There's still shreds of that simple, snotty punk sound, bits of Midori, but it's drunk, woozy, smothered with deranged, over-chorused vocals and stranger melodies than before. Oh, ok, when I first put it on and was blown away I thought - Holy shit, it's the punk-rock Yapoos I've been waiting for. And now, jrawk says (in the review linked above) that they've been hanging around with Togawa Jun of Yapoos? Makes perfect fucking sense. Then, the best thing is that in the end after living with it - it doesn't sound like Yapoos. It's entirely its own thing, but it has that same, weirdly other-worldy vibe to it. Maybe it ate a bunch of Yapoos vinyl before it turned up to the party, I don't know, but I do love it.

And for all I know whatever they do next will be completely different and that will be awesome too. They're a great fucking band and I think I've been paying too much attention to pop music recently. Time to pick up another free zine and check out every band in it again I guess. Also, check out all the albums on jrawk's best of 2010.