Osaka Popstar - Osaka Popstar & the American Legends of Punk
Release Date: May 23, 2006
Record Label: Misfits Records/Rykodisc
"Sin is a wonderful disease,” notes John Cafiero, the self-indulgent frontman of Osaka Popstar. Tabbed as the producer of a handful of Misfits singles and records that would never scratch the surface of the band’s former self, Cafiero’s accomplishment in the creation of Osaka Popstar can be looked at one of two ways. Some will call him a genius for creating a pop punk “supergroup” full of some of the legends of punk (the album’s name is actually Osaka Popstar & the Legends of Punk, after all). Others will wonder why Cafiero cobbled together a group of guys with receding hairlines who ultimately will need Viagra to keep up their trademark swagger on tour. Boasting some of the biggest names in the late 70’s punk scene, the band features Black Flag’s Dez Cadena on guitar, The Misfits’ Jerry Only on bass, and the venerable Marky Ramone behind the drum kit. However, does this band’s sinful existence live up to all the potential?
Releasing the first song on the album as the single takes balls, even from this cast of characters. As we all know, usually the first part of an album is strongest, and bands do not enjoy risking everything on one endeavor. Oh yeah, the band did not even write it. Austin folk-cult hero Daniel Johnston penned “Wicked World”, although it wouldn’t be a stretch to see Cafiero and his merry men sitting around the kitchen table writing this one. Possibly the most serious song on the album, “Wicked World” is a solid start to Osaka Popstar & the American Legends of Punk. Unfortunately, the abominable “Astro Boy” has to follow. Heavy on the washed-out rhythm section and the distorted vocals from Cafiero, this song is skippable every single time. It is funny the first time or two through the CD, but it will remind you excessively of those crappily mixed, watery songs you can hear all over Purevolume (although that’s partly because of poor compression on the stream, but I digress). Aside from the occasionally waterlogged sound, parts of this album play really well. Osaka Popstar’s rendition of “Man of Constant Sorrow” comes off as the antithesis of the bluegrass original and is one of the album’s standouts (as well as being the lengthiest offering). Two of our greatest phobias, “Insects” and “Monsters”, aren’t even free from Cafiero’s tongue-in-cheek discourse. Both showcase Marky Ramone at his finest, the former a straight-ahead punk track and the latter featuring piano and even more lyrical nonsense in the vein of The Aquabats. If that wasn’t enough, the album closes with a gem about Cap’n Crunch (“Where’s the Cap’n?”) and another fist-pumping track about those enigmatic Shaolin Monkeys.
Everything about this band seems like a horrible joke gone a bit awry. Kind of like no one told Cafiero this was a bizarre idea just to see what train wreck would come of it; and honestly, the result does not completely derail itself. Musically, this album is excellent in most parts. The drumming is reminiscent of all the great Ramones tracks, proving Marky’s still got it. Guitar and bass combinations are tight yet fluid enough to have a mind of their own, drawing comparisons to an edgier version of MxPx’s 2005 album, Panic musically. Vocally, Cafiero wants to be Tim Armstrong at his finest, but just cannot pull it off. He is easily the weakest part of this disc, although he can take credit for being the brains of the operation. I have never given a 10 for artwork, but given the excellent anime cartoons that fill the booklet provide the themes for the bands' music videos, this grade is well deserved. I just wish the music could have been a bit more serious so that we might fully realize Osaka Popstar’s true potential. All Osaka Popstar & the American Legends of Punk have proven to us with their debut that Sailor Moon is every self-respecting guy’s dream girl.