Penny Black Music: 5-6-7-8s at Dirty Water Club 4 June 04
All-girl rock ‘n’ rollers the 5,6,7,8’s were pretty much guaranteed to sell out north London’s small Dirty Water Club off the back of their appearance in Tarantino’s gore-fest tribute to old B-movies, 'Kill Bill'. The Japanese rockers have been around for a while, but it seems to have taken a cameo in an over-the-top homage to a faded genre to get them noticed. This is kind of appropriate.
All-female rock chicks in matching outfits belting out rock ‘n’ roll number aren’t exactly a new phenomenon but the 5,6,7,8’s really show how it should be done. While the Schal la las have all the attititude and suggestive eye-brow raising and the Priscillas have some quality punked-up, garage rock, the 5,6,7,8’s really pull it all together.
Superficially it might seem quite easy to put three people in identical costumes and have them belt out 60's tinged rock. Let's face it – most rock ‘n’ roll isn’t really musically complex. It would be quite easy then to dismiss Ronnie (guitar/vocals), Sachiko (drums) and Yama (bass) as a gimmicky novelty as they come on stage in matching silver-tinsel dresses and black boots. Certainly a lot of the crowd seem to be here for ‘those Japanese girls from Kill Bill’.
But this is doing the 5,6,7,8’s something of a disservice. They are actually a very good surf-garage band. Okay, you can’t really work out what they’re talking about as they power through a bunch of familar chords , but this is only in part because they’re not singing in English. Actually they were on occasion – the words aren’t really that important, it’s all about having a good time.
And a good time is certainly had by all. The band gleefully thrash away at their instrument as the crowd enthusiastically shout ‘Konichiwa’. Classic staples are trashed out with tongues firmly based in cheek.
But despite the knowing winks and the ironic overtones there is a true rock aesthetic at work here and an the band put an energy into their songs that takes the set beyond the amusing pastiche it might have been. The result is a great rockin’ night and the fact that the 5,6,7,8’s are a Japanese garage band becomes just an added point of interest rather than the main feature.
It’s a tired cliché to suggest that the Japanese take western ideas and do them better; but with music it’s often true. Think of Thee Michelle Gunn Elephant’s punk or DJ Krush’s downtempo beats. They may too be an over-the-top homage to a faded genre, but you would need to be a particularly miserable person to leave a 5,6,7,8’s gig without a smile.