4 out of 5
Produced by: Kenya Yamamoto
On their way to the sprawling, beautiful mish-mash of thrash and funk and psych and rock that was Parasitic People, Super Junky Monkey dropped their first proper album Screw Up, which prefigured most of that, if slightly more affected by (perhaps) a bid for American accessibility, or admiration for some of the nation’s musical trends, via a much heavier Red Hot Chili Peppers influence across a few tracks.
But before we get a whiff of that – which essentially happens with the simplistic, boppy Buckin’ the Bolts, about as 90s a song as it can get – Screw Up is metal madness, Mutsumi shrieking and chanting all over the first couple tracks, with thick slabs of percussion from Matsudaahh!! and absolute shredding interplay from guitarist Keikos and bassist Shinobu, delivering perfect examples of the mad caustic but poppy brew which SJM owned like no other. And it’s not as though Buckin’ is a bad track – it’s catchy as heck, but that’s the rub: there’s are a few songs here (Popobar; Where’re the Good Times) that drop the attitude for something a little silly feeling, and while each of these examples tends to also swerve somewhere interesting, the songs stand apart and break up jaw-dropping attack experienced elsewhere on the disc. Bands don’t need to be Only One Thing, of course, but SJM are otherwise so intense that it’s quite a spell to be broken when they’re suddenly doing chanty singalong choruses and boom-bap funky basslines.
These breaks are easily forgiven, though: balancing the more concise thrash of Cabbage with the epic vibe of Parasitic People, most of the other tracks on Screw Up are all-timers – the grinding, straight-ahead tirade on Deicide; the genre hopping psych of We’re The Mother; closer Shower going through multiple buildups only to somehow manage to get more and more intense each time…
I feel like the funky low-end of those single-esque tracks are what people tend to remember about SJM, and I get that, since those songs are really easy to get stuck in your head. But the broader part of their work was so much more impressive to me, and really used that RHCP influence as a springboard into harder and weirder territories. As led by Mutsumi’s passionate delivery, it’s still, to this day, a unique sound, underlined with the joyful enthusiasm everyone brings to every song.