Datetenryu (1971)

"Progressive punk" might seem like an oxymoron of the most moronic kind, but once you get down to the brass tacks nitty gritty of it all the concept really ain't as strange as one might think. Take the genre of "krautrock" (at its best) f'rinstance, a perfect example of what happens when you mix up late-sixties Amerigan garage band concepts with Karlheinz Stockhausen (and don't tell me that there weren't a whole buncha late-sixties U. S. of Ayers who were tossing about their Stooges with King Crimson coming up with some rather smart sounds of their own!), and hey, once you get past the Blondies and Talking Heads in En Why See you'd notice that groups like Kongress (late-sixties punk meets krautrock) and even the Shirts at least on the LIVE AT CBGB'S album sounded more like some sixties punksters who discovered early-FM free form radio and decided to do a little mix and match of their own! Yeah I know that progressive is pretty much a dirty word in rock music and considering the many early/mid-seventies turdbombs progrock left us it sure deserves the image that it has, but at least with some good end results in the offering why should I complain, or at least complain that loud?

Now it ain't like I'm gonna run straight to the hip Cee-Dee supermarket and buy up a whole slew of progressive rock discs like Chuck Eddy did during his I'M GONNA PISS OFF ALL THE SQUARE PUNKS AND CHAMPION CORPORATE MAINSTREAM ROCK days when he was caught proudly sporting a copy of TALES FROM THE TOPOGRAPHIC OCEAN, but the next time I hear that people like Chuck Dukowski were spinnin' some Yes with their Sabbath and Stooges back in the shoulda-known-better-by-now seventies maybe I won't do as much flinching as I would have even a good ten years back!

Which brings us to Datetenryu. This Japanese group, probably best known for giving the world bassist Hiroshi Nar (he also of Les Rallizes Denudes, Zuno Keisatsu and Jokers fame amongst others), exemplifies the concept of progpunk almost as well as all of those krautsters and Amerigan punks into the German Expressionism game put togedder! And sheesh, what else could I say about a group that perhaps even goes further than all those Europeons in mixing and matching their musical influences, for Datetenryu actually remind me of the perfect cross between the early-seventies pomp progressive rock of Emerson Lake and Palmer and the mid-sixties Amerigan thud of ? and the Mysterians! Yes, if you can imagine the sweeping parlor trick keyboard stylings of Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman being played on a cheap portable organ (interspersed with some crunchy cheeze chording) while the rest of the band seems straight outta suburban garage 1966 then you'll get an idea, albeit slight, of what Datetenryu have in store for you on this not-so-easy-to-find archival digup.

And whatever Datetenryu do, it sure ain't anything that Manticore records would have been willing to sign up during those great days of import bin hunting! Thankfully the portable organ sound helps the proceedings, and without the use of 1001 keyboards powered by the sun there thankfully are no sylvan images of damsels in distress or fairy British fantasy gunk being conjured up here! In fact, Nar's screaming vocals also sound closer to the 1966 mid-Amerigan throat scrape than they do to the sweet dulcet tones of Jon Anderson's castrati and that certainly is a plus in my book of rock & roll being written soon.

The only group that I think comes close to what Datetenryu are up to here is Ainigma, whose DILUVIUM album seemed to straddle a similar English prog meets Amerigan punk style. Interesting true, and admittedly nothing I will be spinning on a nightly basis the same way I'll play a recently-unearthed Denudes live side ad infinitum (to coin a cliche), but still something like 1971 with Nar's over-the-top screaming vocals and those arpeggios and classical swipes that come off as clunky as anything on BACK FROM THE GRAVE have me wondering what else might be in store in the world of undiscovered Japanese underground rock. And did I tell you that Datetenryu even have their own Kyu Sakamoto moment which seems to be about as par for the course as any Japanese protopunk aggregate that might come to mind???

Christopher Stigliano

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