echnically, the Boredoms don’t exist. They broke up in 1998 after the Fuji Rock festival. Eye, the dreadlocked nutjob-cum-visionary-cum-nutjob who had started the band 12 years earlier, declared their set perfect. Their guitarist, Yamamoto, destroyed his instrument. Boredoms R.I.P, 1986-1998.
After 1998, the Boredoms became the V?rdoms like Prince had to become the symbol—ego affirmation through ego death. Name, what’s in a. Name, a rose by any other. The Boredoms and the V?rdoms are a continuum; it’s butterfly/larva semantics.
But the change in the Boredoms has been obvious. Their earliest albums, 1986’s Onanie Bomb Meets the Sex Pistols and 88’s Soul Discharge, are aural slapstick. Eye gargles, hollers, and bellows exclamations from comic books. The band wonders what it might be like to play no-wave at a carnival. They castrate the Stooges by way of blender—no hard feelings, just riffs. They borrow the ass from Funkadelic as a jump-off for a thousand glorious poop jokes. In 1994, they started producing their Super Roots series alongside their studio albums. Listening to that series is like watching an evolutionary diagram. The 64-minute jam on Super Roots 5 begat the narcotic gongs of Super Roots 6 which begat the Krautrock vamp of Super Roots 7.
So, what are the Boredoms? The Boredoms are the best drum circle in the world, and probably the only one that uses synthesizer drones. The Boredoms managed to fully realize the drive for transcendence in heavy metal is the same as the one in new age. And then they mixed them. They’re hippy-ish, like Can or Faust, but without the Teutonic moodiness and self-importance. They are always beautiful and often very loud. The Boredoms are some mystical shit. Wait, hold on.
In the haze of the early 90’s corporate bids on underground rock, the band wandered onto the Warner Brothers roster after a 1992 tour with Sonic Youth. What Sonic Youth found in the Boredoms was a doe-eyed take on punk rock uncomplicated by sex, art, or irony—the anchors we pine for as kids; the things we think make us cool or important. Pop Tatari is probably the most glorious misfire a major label has made at an alternative audience. The Boredoms actually played at Lollapalooza, drawing geriatric-worthy ire from the New York Times: “They prepared the audience for the festival's mind-opening atmosphere with incorrigible noise. Green Day, however, played accessible pop-punk songs that prepared the audience for fun.”
The Times’ reductive reaction and Sonic Youth’s unblinking idealization is evidence that on some level the Boredoms, like most Japanese culture reaching the US, had been infantilized. But the dickless hooey of early Boredoms, free from the suicide of intuition (AKA adolescence), was never aiming for a full regression into childhood. The Boredoms walk backwards and forwards at the same time.
Backwards and forwards. Here’s where I birth my grand formal pun and answer the important question from before—So, what are the Boredoms? The Boredoms are, in my estimation, sort of like an alien race in a science fiction movie. They’re obsessed with the past, which comes to mean a lot: pre-lingual intuition, a heightened capacity for wonder, traditional Japanese culture, farting—proudly. Because it is a release and because it makes a good sound. In those sci-fi scenarios, the cartoonish tribal mentalities of the aliens—the thing that helps keep them under us—is invariably swept away by the realization that their computers are so awesome. There is always some hyperbolic artifact of retro/futurism, like a walloping phallus of a laser-gun that can only be activated by a rare quartz-like stone found on the planet’s uninhabitable outskirts. And they get along better than we do. The future, then, is just the future: promising, uncharted, significantly cooler, and more feng-shui-y than you’d expect.
Several tracks in the band’s catalog consist of a series of 7’s, a number associated with good luck in traditional Japanese culture. Their current stage setup—founding member Yoshimi P-We, ATR, and Youjiro on drums, and shamanic freak Eye, all facing towards an invisible nucleus—was modeled on Bon Odori festival dances, where drummers configure in a center, encircled by an audience. Eye has opened recent shows by performing a slow dance with two white, glowing orbs connected to a computer; when shook, one orb triggers a static sound resembling waves, and the other triggers a blast of noise resembling thunder.
Their new name, the V?rdoms, is voo like comic book motion—vroom; the o’s are ungraspable infinity. But they’re also turntables—earth-bound objects. Records trap and limit sound, but the Boredoms have always done everything they could to liberate it. In 2005, they wasted good company money trying to record drums in the ocean, but the tide came in.
The crux is frustration turned into idealism. Sun Ra was born in Birmingham, Alabama; he loved the past because it was mysterious and beautiful and he loved the future because the present was full of shit. The monologue that opens Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain: “Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time, for y’all have knocked her up. I have tasted the maggots in the minds of the universe. I was not offended, for I knew I had to rise above it all or drown in my own shit.” The Boredoms were named the Boredoms because Eye said he was bored—in a present tense without promise. He has talked about how he has to go into the mountains to find good Japanese water. And yet, he stalks around cities as a hired DJ; he half-clamors with the other freaks at that big, moneyed tit of high culture, the art world. Even visionaries have to pay the bills.
(People deride the Boredoms for being a hipster jam band. There was a biology teacher at my high school that used to say, “You like Jell-o? Eat it. You want to ride your hobby horse? Go in your basement and ride your hobby horse.” I will not show shame for liking the Boredoms. Go to a Boredoms show the next time they come out of Japan and you may feel the full weight of cynicism in vain. End of story.)
There are almost no discernable lyrics on Boredoms records, but here are two: “Vision, creation, newsun” and “Our universe, B-o-r-e-d-o-m-s in the sun.” The Boredoms may be secessionists but, lucky us, they’re still here.
Mike Powell talks to Yamatsuka Eye and himself.
Tal Rosenberg cues up the band's greatest live and recorded moments.
On First Listen: Soul Discharge ‘99
Alfred Soto stumbles into the sexless noise of early Boredoms.
On First Listen: Vision Creation Newsun
Josh Love finds the band on planet drum.
The Singles Jukebox
The Stylus Staff acquaints itself with assorted Boredoms moments.
We Are Punk: Disinterested Sound as Soul Discharge
Stewart Voegtlin dives into the bore headfirst.
The Side Projects
A non-definitive romp through the best of non-Bore Bore.
Seconds: Boredoms: Super Going
Andrew Unterberger finds the Boredoms getting tense.
You, Too, Can Enjoy The Boredoms
Cooper Anderson chronicles a Bore crush blossoming into Bore love.
Mike Powell examines Yamatsuka Eye’s album cover designs.