Japanese Noodles Wiggle at Café du Nord!

The date: February 7. The lineup: Goh Nakamura, Invisible Cities, The Stereo Future and Noodles. The Place: Café du Nord, San Francisco. The Decision: Mediocre.

I read the write-up for this show in Flavorpill, and it really had me excited to see the show. It went a little something like this:

Japanese all-girl band Noodles did a song for a Coca-Cola commercial in 1995, and appropriately, the group’s meandering, fuzzed-out pop is as sweet as corn syrup. Seattle’s the Stereo Future opened with an equally saccharine and catchy set that incorporated electronic bleeps and playfully nonsensical lyrics. Also on the bill was singer/songwriter Goh Nakamura, performing new solo material before joining his sometimes band mates in Invisible Cities (voted Best Indie-Pop Band in the 2005 San Francisco Bay Guardian Readers’ Poll). “Better brush your teeth after the show, or you'll get a cavity.” (JMG)

I love crazy Japanese music, especially bands such as eX-girl and Pizzicato Five, so I expected Noodles to be a lot like them. They weren’t. They weren’t at all meandering. They were maybe a little fuzzed-out. But sweet as corn syrup? Not really. They were more than a little too hardcore for that. Just three of them, Noodles tried to win me over. They were adorably cute, especially the lead singer/guitarist, who had sparkles in her hair. They were energetic as hell. But they were rather flat. By that I mean that they sounded like every other indie pop band, with little new to offer. Maybe they are popular for their lyrics, but I couldn’t understand word one of them. Maybe guys who have Asian fetishes love the band, which would explain the majority of the crowd. Maybe I just expected too much from them, having seen the fine theatrics eX-girl and Pizzicato Five put on, theatrics noticeably missing from the Noodles show. Indeed it was just a straight-up rock out, and I didn’t care much for them. I guess you could say they’re the Sleater-Kinney of the Japanese set. That’s the best comparison I can come up with. But they really weren’t worth the price of admission or the dinner I had – which just so happened to feature udon noodles and didn’t disappoint.

Meanwhile, the Stereo Future, hailing from the Pacific Northwest, were just plain annoying. Technically very competent, they nevertheless fought hard with one another for attention and fame. Each member, the two guitarists, the bassist, and the drummer, seemed to think he was better than the others, so the results were disjointed. Of course, the lyrics were nonsensical, which I think added to my distaste for the band. They sounded a lot like the Mars Volta to me, only without the sophistication MV affords. And I’m not even a big fan of Mars Volta. But I would have rather seen them than the Stereo Future, that’s for sure. When the one guitarist whipped out the computer and started working with it, the band really grated on my nerves. And, faithful readers, I got another migraine! Believe it or not! This is a band that needs to have some direction, let its talents blend together, not compete with one another. Then maybe they’ll have something going for them.

I actually liked Invisible Cities, a homegrown band. I’m not surprised by the accolades they received – they were tight and inventive. The five of them, four of whom changed instruments with one another quite cleverly, showed a range of talent I’ve not seen in a while: one woman, four guys, all of whom seemed devoted to her, especially when she was playing bass and singing. She also played harmonica, something I’ve not seen lately either. Keyboards made it into a couple of songs, the woman playing them first, then the acoustic guitarist, who later traded that in for an electric one. As with the Stereo Future, one of the guitarists played with a computer, but not to distraction. I liked their last song a lot, a cute little number that went, “A little song about nothing / to make you feel less alone.” In all, they were the most solid act. If you ask me, the lineup should have been switched around.

Oh. Goh Nakamura. I almost forgot. He performed a few solo acoustic songs to warm the house up. He was cute. Enough said.

Overall, I preferred my udon noodles to the band, Noodles, and wished I’d only stuck around for Invisible Cities, a band I hope to see again soon.

- Diana Slampyak

Diana Slampyak is a regular contributor to Turntable & Blue Light.