After years of intense, unorthodox performance spectacles, Japanther’s legend in the art punk circle overshadows any individual album. Their recorded material over the past few years, though, has tended toward bright, fuzzy, and welcoming, a far less difficult sort of music than the art punk genre tag would suggest. That continues on Instant Money Magic, the prolific duo’s 12th LP in 13 years, an album that leaves a bit of mess as it overflows with positive vibes.
Only three of the 14 tracks here last longer than two minutes; unlike the recently released punk record by OFF!, though, this isn’t all gnashing teeth and rapid rhythms. The sub-two-minute “Wiggman” feels twice its length, a twice repeated 60 Minutes-style description of graffiti taking up a quarter of its time before lurching into an elephant stomp that can’t move past the life-leeched intro. “Breb Your Revel” follows a similar blueprint, a sports radio conversation leading into a mid-tempo fuzz.
Ian Vanek and Matt Reilly know their way around a grinning, head-bobbing hook, though, and seem to supply a few jubilant examples on each record. “Sometimes I’m sorta glad that I’m alive,” they exclaim on “All We Got Is Each Other”. The song’s a cover of the violin-sporting outfit Ghost Mice, but the gleeful punk messiness turns up the wide-eyed realist optimism. Sweaty positivity drips off of the repetitions of the title of “Do It (Don’t Try)”. The good vibes continue on in “Dreams Come True”, promising that your best bet comes “When you wish on laser beams/ Hip-hop based on drum machines,” though cats, baseball, and a shoe are options, too.
Portions of Instant Money Magic sag, an unfortunate trait for a punk album. Its inclusions of found sound samples clunk more often than not, belying their skilled artistic tendencies. Thankfully, a few radio-ready, punk-indebted pop songs inject enough life into the proceedings to keep the album on the rails. And that’s enough for Japanther. These dudes release albums to air out their childlike, messy, giddy punk spirit, and they’ll continue to do so, even if they drop a few meandering tracks into the mix.
Essential Tracks: “All We Got Is Each Other”, “Do It (Don’t Try)”, and “Dreams Come True”