State Children “Bomb Shelter for Moneymaking!” flexi (More 04)
State Children’s one-sided black flexi, recorded in October 1984, is one of the most obscure records on this list of noise-core gems. It is almost certainly the most expensive on the collectors’ market today. Six years ago, almost no one outside Japan knew of this record. In the intervening years, a few collectors and zinesters (including me), as well as bands like Atrocious Madness and Lebenden Toten have increased the legendary status of the record. Earlier this year, a bootleg compilation LP including the flexi appeared; around the same time, it was announced in Japan that an authorized reissue of the flexi was planned. Earlier this month, a rip of the band’s extremely rare demo “Do You Support the Invation of Gurenada?” appeared for download on an MP3 blog. (On a trip to Japan in 2002, I saw the demo cassette sitting on a shelf at Record Boy in Tokyo, but the proprietors balked when I asked if I could look at it.)
In one sense, I can understand the desirability of this flexi. It includes some of the most charming broken English available on a Japanese record of the ‘80s. The stark sleeve artwork looks great (though the very flimsy paper stock makes a mint copy difficult to find). It certainly is rare. And the music is some of the most bonkers noise-core ever, surpassing Gai in the “extremely basic” department, with a blinding noise guitar sound and the vocals of an insane person. But these qualities unite in a sound that does not strike me as particularly easy to listen to, and the average collector, seeking a rare record with raging tunes, would probably be disappointed by the “acquired taste” this music engenders.
The record begins with an explosion, followed by sirens and a voice announcing what seem to be evacuation orders in Japanese. Thin, high-pitched feedback rises from beneath the sirens. A very basic bass line quickly begins, accompanied by the rantings of a gang of lunatics, who shreik, caterwaul, moo, and grunt for 20 seconds or so. I get the feeling they are trying to express how utterly insane nuclear war is. Or maybe that paying $500 for this flexi is even more insane than nuclear war.
Once the music actually starts, it’s a fairly tawdry affair. Throat-wrenching, mic-swallowing screams, mosquito-buzz guitar, and bargain-basement bass and drums. I’d say that drummer Zero got his name when the other band members calculated how many time changes his abilities could accommodate. That guitar sound is even more noisy/fuzzy/WTF than Confuse’s or Gai’s. It is more like ambiance than actual riffing. I defy anyone to discern the chord changes. Only the bass seems to change notes once in a while. Really, it must be heard to be believed because despite all the noise, the “songs” are memorable. No one would confuse State Children with Confuse or Gudon.
State Children, unlike many Japanese hardcore bands if the era, seemed actually to espouse political beliefs. Their pacifist sentiment comes across as more than just sloganeering, though one would be hard-pressed to say that their music spreads the message well. Still, they seem more political than Gai or even Confuse. A short write-up of the band from before the flexi was released, along with lyrics to one song, and a note from bassist Death (one English word: “Lydon”) appeared in the first issue of a Japanese fanzine called 100 Club. This zine is clearly antiwar and includes an article on various nuclear disarmament campaigns around the world. I can’t read Japanese, but the piece on the ‘Children seems to indicate a few bits of trivia: there were at least two drummers during the year and three months the band existed (from formationed ‘til clashed); the existence of two tapes is mentioned; the flexi’s original planned title was “Fighting for Power Politics”; and they took influence from Discharge, Crass, and Disorder (duh).
The bootleg LP “Tunes for Fucker - Vol. 1,” in addition to State Children, includes Deadless Muss “Rise Against” 8" flexi, Janky “s/t” flexi, and A. T. Det “Last Child Has No Power” 7". The latter is one of my favorite Japanese records, perfectly capturing the occult metalpunk sound of Zouo and GISM, but more burly in its metallic sound, without some of the silliness of those bands. It sounds evil, and the inside of its sleeve includes a particularly gruesome morgue picture of a pregnant woman’s torso sliced open. A. T. Det were labelmates of State Children (the label’s only other releases were the mediocre Headless flexi and the oi-ish Aggressive Dogs first flexi); the label head Takeshi Fukushima (and bassist of Headless) is still involved in hardcore, most famously as the bassist of Rocky and the Sweden. Oddly, even though A. T. Det’s 7" was More 03, the bootleg lists it as having been released in 1985 and State Children’s flexi in 1984. Well, why let facts get in the way of a lucrative bootlegging operation? I’m actually inclined to believe that both records didn’t make it into circulation until early 1985. Also, the back of the flexi’s sleeve clearly says “Contorol Mama,” not “Control Mama.” Overall, the bootleg, which uses the front cover of State Children’s flexi for its own front cover, is of decent quality. All sleeve and label art is replicated. The sound quality is not measurably worse than the originals, but it is not better either, with the whooshing noise in the background of this flexi audible. Two aspects bother me: first, why compile these four records together? They don’t sound anything like each other. Perhaps the idea is to give a listener a cross-section of ‘80s Japanese hardcore. That is a reasonable, if unattainable, goal, but it doesn’t make for a very cohesive listening experience. The next volume of this compilation series, which just came out and which I have yet to see, includes Tranquilizer flexi (coming soon to Shit-Fi’s noise-core top ten list), G-Spot flexi, Manbiki Chocolate 8" flexi, and Zouo 7", again all over the map sound-wise. More importantly, though, this bootleg strikes me as particularly audacious, considering it marks the music © Tunes for Fucker Records 2007. Covering the bootlegger’s ass, I presume. As I’ve said before, MP3 downloads have made vinyl bootlegs nearly obsolete, especially when they include no bonus information or artwork, like this one. Furthermore, today’s hardcore punk bootleg market is sophisticated, using shell companies, money-laundering, and other techniques of criminal conspiracy that make one wonder how long until a bootlegged band drops a dime to the FBI (or Interpol) and a RICO prosecution ensues. I feel we have strayed far from the original, commendable goals of bootleg compilations like Killed by Death, Bloodstains, or Killed by Hardcore, into the realm of pure profit, far removed from punk’s ideals.
As for “Do You Support US the Invation of Gurenada?” (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), this demo should enter the pantheon of shit-fi classics, in the most basic sense of the term. It’s terribly recorded, lo-fi cavedwelling rubbish-bin core. Its brethren include RAPT, Imagen, Sekunda, Ruido de Rabia, Eat Shit, etc. Many short songs are included for proper destruction of all brain cells. Unlike the flexi, the incandescent noise guitar is missing from this recording, which may be due to poor recording techniques just not being able to capture the screech. It sounds a bit like it was recorded from inside a taxiing jet while the band played on the wing. Again, this must be heard to be believed, but I doubt many listeners, even the most ardent of shit-fi connoisseurs, will make it all the way through in one sitting. Still, I’d like to hear an original copy of the tape to be sure the lack of fidelity (and mega-tape-hiss attack) is not attributable to poor dubbing and conversion to the digital format. Maybe next time I’m in Tokyo, Beck-san will be more easygoing about letting me check out the demo for myself (pretty, pretty, pretty please!).
In conclusion, I am unsure if the bootleg LP has caused plans for a legitimate reissue to be shelved, but I hope not. A proper job, complete with rare photos, additional information, and the demo (or demos, if State Children really had two) included, would be invaluable, and it would be nice to know that the band received some recompense for their efforts. I doubt they received much at the time, as the scarcity of this record, even in comparison to the other More Records releases, indicates that it didn’t sell very well. Shame really. If I ran the world, State Children would have a gilded flexi hanging on their wall and the Nobel Prize, Ryder Cup, and about a dozen Tonys in their trophy case.