Neither Midnight Juggernauts nor Foals will be challenging Tommy Lee Jones for his spot on the ubiquitous Suntory Boss billboards anytime soon, but make no mistake, both synapses-shredding groups are getting ookii in Japan.
It’s a very bright 6 p.m. in downtown Osaka, but when we climb upstairs to Level Four of The Loft, Club Quattro is humming (snap) with young Foals fans clutching CDs and posters by their heroes. There’s a sprinkled contingent of Midnight Juggernauts devotees ready to get their game on too, but Foals recent exposure has them atop the bill.
The 7.10 “juggernauts” is a more appropriate descriptor ce soir, as Melbourne’s ascending grave-rave trio hit the stage bathed in purple light and fire straight into the falsetto-friendly ‘Ending of an Era’. Next, they trigger the Eno-aping ‘Your Flight is Now Boarding’ sample from ‘Into the Galaxy’, the track Justice rightly called Song of the Year in 2007.
Vincent Juggernaut, Andy Juggernaut and Daniel Stricker have a much crisper sound tonight than at their Farewell Australia show at The Forum two months ago. Club Quattro’s tight, booming acoustics are akin to Cargo in Shoreditch or Prince of Wales in St Kilda…or the nameless club I once went to in Barcelona in 2004 which was putting on a night called ‘Fucked’ (Answers on a free postcard.) In short, the Juggies are in sterling form. Vincent is clearly gaining more Jagger swagger with every show, shimmying to his keyboard and making the crowd feel each nuance using spirit fingers. Andy changes bass for ‘Shadows’, expanding the speakers by about half a mile as that lollying riff sashays into our shoulders via our ears and causes hiplash for as far as the thigh can see.
Stricker stands atop his kickdrum and starts playing the ceiling, causing a clap-along The Rapture would smirk at...then turn a shade of green (envy), then white (fear, the Juggies are successors to their Effortless Hipsters Throne™, no doubt).
Two dolphin-grinning Japanese guys, Terry and Rose, headbang with vigour, stopping only to let me buy them rounds of beer and shout, “We’ll never forget: VERY GREAT!” The Juggies tell us they’ll be back in two months time to “play a festival”. Konichiwa bitches, that means Fuji Rock.
Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis has that slowburn intensity you want in a frontman – he sings side-on, ruffling his three-day growth against his mike. Defiant, difficult and downright dashing, Yannis must see me scrawl down that last superlative (read: saving as a draft in my text messages) as he vaults off stage left, circumnavigates the venue behind the crowd, eyes down, forehead creased, arriving on the other side of stage just in time to chime in with Walter Gervers razored guitar lines. Gervers is quite a sight, too, hobbling onto stage on a crutch and spending most of the show looking eager to get up and rock, but having to stay seated…until halfway through their set when Jesus Walks!* Gervers starts bouncing on one foot, causing the crowd to do exactly the same. A we’re-so-wheel-of-fortunate atmosphere fill the room. “Walter’s broken his toe so we must really be enjoying ourselves for him to get up”, quips Yannis.
To quote Nick Southall, “Music is about tension and release”. Foals trump card is their sense of urgency on ‘Cassius, Balloons’ (7481 horny plays on MySpace yesterday) and an unnamed newbie they play in encore – after a mere 42 seconds offstage – that has us bruising our chins. “It’s unfinished”, Yannis continues over the din of clapping and whooping. Club Quattro catches its breath for a moment, a blue balloon bobs around the ceiling, then Foals scorch their math-rock M.O. with ‘Mathletics’ cantankerously growing from a scratched Battles-esque intro into a lurching call-to-harms. Terry and Rose are losing their shit. They teach me an appropriate Japanese word to use at moments like this: “Yabai!”
It means “wow” and it applies to both Foals and the 7.10 Juggernauts.
*The Jesus comparison is more fitting for Dave Ma, Foals official photographer/rockumenter/mutual muse. Check their MySpace for the Foals Suck videos of their American invasion. YABAI!