Brisbane masters of musical mayhem and majesty Osaka Punch have finally released the full-length album fans have been pining for with the recent birth of Mixed Ape.
While we could go into the backstory of Osaka Punch such in-depth knowledge is futile. All you need to know is this group of four very talented individuals manages to pull almost every trick out of the musical book with each release, often creating new genres and hybrids in the process.
An eclectic mix of rock, metal, jazz, blues and funk, Osaka Punch have drip fed us singles from Mixed Ape since How We Operate first came out in 2017 with Hall Of Shame, Drones and Simulate serving as tasty portions without quite quelling the appetite.
Opening with Heat Death Ray, Mixed Ape throws up its first surprise before the froth has even started to fade on my beer with a beautifully sultry piano-led vocal intro that almost sounds like Osaka Punch might have gone serious on us in their time away from the studio, but as the harmonious backing kicks in overlapping “my heat death ray” it is also blatantly obvious that Osaka Punch have lost none of their charm and/or humour.
What started off as a nice piece of music soon fires up as Osaka Punch – Jack (vocals), Chrispy (guitar), Brenton (bass) and Blair (drums) – set about doing what only they can do musically, except better.
It’s already funky as fuck despite the underlying heaviness before Jack soothes into action, and we are swept into a Beverley Hills Cop-type vibe where the air is cool and the music even cooler.
Jack has an amazing vocal range, shifting between moments of sonic clarity to all-out aggression at will but for this track he is in croon mode, albeit with a hint of menacing ambivalence that almost warns you not to get too comfortable.
This track jigs and bounces in all the right places, part swing, part lounge bar haze, but all devilishly wicked.
A well-placed breakdown three parts through shifts the dynamics of the song significantly which is typical but never expected from these lovable larrikins.
Hall Of Shame is next up, and I know this one well enough to write a review without even listening to it, but where’s the fun in that?
Kicking in with a tasty bit of reverb Hall Of Shame gets the neck cranking instantly. Think a goose head banging and you are on the right track…
This track is a pearler, seemingly subdued but also bordering on schizophrenic intent. Chrispy produces a mass of chunky riffs to carry throughout while Jack spits and barks and heckles his way through the sordid tale. It’s catchy as fuck and possibly the closest you will get to being a “normal” song until Blair starts tapping the high hats which in turn provokes Chrispy and Brenton into a stuttering mass of intent that could go in any number of directions.
But of course, it goes in exactly the right one which is where one of the many strengths of Osaka Punch lies.
With the amount of genre blending prevalent in each of their songs it would be easy to get lost in the theatrics and seeming randomness, but somehow these guys know when to ease off and when to accelerate, making what should be almost impossible and definitely haphazard bodies of music accessible and cohesive and most of all bloody entertaining.
The familiar keys of How We Operate break the silence before a tasty bass run introduces the funk and things shift gear again (but most assuredly not for the last time).
This is one of my faves of Osaka Punch with its funky backbone and quirky lyrics taking me back to the old Johnos Blues Bar days in Cairns – which incidentally isn’t too far from where Osaka Punch first broke ice as Kidney Thieves.
If anyone can listen to this track and not move at least their pinky toe then they may as well give up listening to music. Prove me wrong.
Slink stutters to life with an odd time signature – but then to these guys it’s probably normal. Fucks me, I know nothing about music but know I love listening to it.
This has a very Blues Brothers type feel to it which is driven home by a surprise horn section that soon gives way to a more up-tempo vibe. It almost sounds like a jam before suddenly fading out, eroding its low running time of just over one minute.
To be honest, I don’t even know why Slink was put in there, but I’m glad it was because it was just the kick-start I needed leading into the back six songs of which I only know one.
Kamikaze bursts out of the gates with a solid vocal drawl from Jack before the rest of the gang take a trip back to funky town. But not in conventional fashion.
Electronics whirl as Blair settles into a disjointed but effective drum pattern that seems to drive Kamikaze as it weaves its way down a plethora of styles without settling on just one.
It’s hard to describe in words but even in moments of musical animosity Jack somehow finds ways of adding an invisible layer of calming influence despite his propensity to hurl that very notion back in your face whenever he sees fit.
Most recent single Simulate is up next, driven by an almost soulful, but definitely blues-infused guitar riff that allows Brenton to settle into groove with a wicked bass run that accentuates the serenity.
This is almost a throwback to the era of Shaft and could easily be playing as Samuel L Jackson kills some motherfucker daring to deal dope on his streets.
It has an easy-going lounge bar vibe coursing through its underbelly and for a change I find myself hoping Osaka Punch don’t stray too far from the path on this one.
Which, of course, they do, but not as drastically as they could have.
The track also allows Jack to fully show off his chops – as if we didn’t already know what he was capable of, while the guitar is enchanting and hypnotic, possibly keeping the band’s schizophrenic music psyche in check. Whatever it is, it works.
Too Old (For This Shit) is up next and is the song Jack chose in our recent interview as Osaka Punch’s representative in the new HEAVY Spotify Get The Party Started Playlist.
As with most Osaka Punch songs, the lyrics reveal something completely off-center of what you might have initially thought, but I’m not here to spoil your fun.
What I can tell you is the band have almost managed to make the pain of getting older a little more bearable with their portrayal of the decline of humanity. So thanks for that.
Then out of nowhere a massive swing section led by brass instruments shatters the dream and REALLY sets the GPS for funk/blues territory.
It is most unexpected but even more welcome, almost a misleading cabaret interlude that kickstarts an even funkier blues-drenched finale that is pure musical genius.
Another of the singles Drones is next and despite the measured intro is easily the heaviest track on Mixed Ape.
Jack showcases another of his vocal weapons here as he growls menacingly in parts before slipping back into ambiance almost too easily. Again, there’s heaps going on here, but again it all works. Which could maybe be one of the reasons it took Osaka Punch seven years to release another body of music after Death Monster Super Squad…
Halfway through shit really hits the fan as the tempo quickens on the back of urgent drumming, and it seems like the boys are back jamming again until a vocal-led breakdown ushers back in the heaviness. Touche gentlemen.
Under The Influence lays down the funk straight up courtesy of a tasty guitar riff and a measured drum pattern.
It is another rollicking package of musical disparity that refuses to follow convention, although it does manage to maintain a steady and consistent pace.
Brenton decides to go to town on his bass and throws things totally out of whack before Jack taps into his rap side with a quickly spat passage bemoaning some of the finer things in life, but when all is said and done I think Under The Influence is more about someone who ate his last chocolate chip cookie rather than the affluence of life.
Hekyll and Jive closes the album and I find myself completely at a loss when trying to anticipate what sort of song Osaka Punch have decided to leave us with.
Breathing life on the back of some ominous gusty type noises the electronics soon take center stage and I find myself retreating to the days of Breakdance 2: Electric Boogaloo (yes, I was a kid once).
It has an eery feel about it until it doesn’t, with the mixture of keys, electrics and guitars painting a mystical landscape of sonic malevolence.
We have just hit the mid-way point and I haven’t heard any vocals yet so maybe this is an instrumental? Which sounds about right because Jack is busy attacking his other love – keys – so how he would manage to infuse vocals into an already busy mix is something maybe even Osaka Punch can’t do.
Either that or they simply don’t want to.
It’s a delicate way to finish what has been a sensational journey through times past, present and future and also a poignant reminder that when it comes to Osaka Punch it seems sometimes even they don’t know where some songs are headed.
Which is but one more feather in their already impressive cap.