Friday, May 13, 2016

‘Mad Tiger’: a colorful look at madcap punk band

So what do you call a band in which the bassist, sporting flame-red hair and red-dyed beard, dresses up as a big red squid in the shape of a guitar (that is, a squid with a fret-board and guitar strings) and unicycles across the stage, while the lead guitarist, a bright yellow-attired figure with a winglike sunburst hair style, is hurled at bowling pins, bowling-ball-style?

Wild and crazy?
That, for sure.

Actually, it’s named Peelander-Z, a color-coded Japanese punk-rock foursome that blazed through the New York club scene in the 2000s and 2000-and-teens before sputtering and dissolving. (Though it has since reconstituted itself.)

The documentary “Mad Tiger” catches the group at the height of its zaniness and then captures its crackup.

The band’s mission statement is enunciated early on by its founder, Kengo Hioki: “In America, there are many good, talented bands. There’s no way we could compete. We had to compete in some other way than through music. So we had to be extreme.”

A painter for 10 years before starting Peelander-Z, Hioki envisioned a band in which each member would dress in a bright color — yellow, red, pink, green and later purple — and stay in character onstage and off. The vibe would be madcap and happy. The music would be secondary.

But happy is not easy. “Make you happy is very hard to do,” he says in English so heavily accented that English subtitles are needed.

Director-cinematographers Jonathan Yi and Michael Haertlein show the red-hued bassist Kotaro Tsukada growing restive at having his offstage life directed by his longtime friend Hioki, and he leaves to try to become a bar owner. Later, the green drummer Akihiko Naruse departs as well.
Hioki is hurt, angered and finally philosophical.

Combining rowdy concert footage and revealing offstage interactions of the band members, “Mad Tiger” is a well-executed portrait of a band coming apart at the seams.

Andersen, Soren. "'Mad Tiger': A Colorful Look at Madcap Punk Band." The Seattle Times. 12 May 2016. Web. 13 May 2016.