20th Century Tokyo Princess
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20th Century Tokyo Princess

Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Band Rock Punk

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Wednesday, September 9th was a night spent at the Mad Hatter club in Covington, KY. All things considered, it's a pretty lousy venue, even though I've had loads of good times in the 5+ years of its existence. I was super excited because 20th Century Tokyo Princess, the BEST BAND IN CINCINNATI, was playing. At first, anxious feelings filled my head because I'd checked their Myspace page and the dude who sang and played guitar when they melted my face earlier this summer was erased from the record books. Quite a few people showed up because I'd told them that 20th Century Tokyo Princess was the BEST BAND IN CINCINNATI, so the atmosphere seemed a bit tense, at least in my head.

None of that mattered when the band started roaring, however. As a lean, mean three piece, the band cranked out a primitive, sloppy, noisy, ugly, dirty, LOUD set of rock n' roll that pretty much destroyed anything else Cincinnati has to offer. Gone is the slight Wilco-isms of their recorded demos, and the squalling '60s garage vibe just overpowers. Instead of the bass, Ted Clark now plays a low end, fuzzed to fuck guitar that compliments Chris Jones' feedback-drenched leads. The Velvet Underground influence is still there, as is the cymbal-less tribal drums, but it's the 1966 Velvets, making a godawful racket in an East Village bar while the hipsters run out screaming. They kicked up a joyful and pissed off noise that is easily the most punk rock thing I've seen in years. All anxieties were gone, for sure. Still, the BEST BAND IN CINCINNATI.

20th Century Tokyo Princess @Mad Hatter 09/08/09
Photo: Joe Lamb Photography

- Zach Braun's "Random Old Records"


20th Century Tokyo Princess started up next, and launched into a stream of steady-thumping bluesy rock. The drummer played without any cymbals, the bass player thumped persistent eighth note down strokes, and the guitarist ripped through song after song of yelping garage rock, sometimes stomping on a fat wah pedal to turn his guitar’s overdriven strumming into a fuzz squall. Between singing baritone verses and pounding chords, guitarist Chris Jones tossed off a few oddball comments with 50’s rocker bravado (“What is it about the water here that makes the people sooooo sweet?!”). The songs stuck pretty close to their guitar rock template, and Jones’s guitar playing and Jon Spencer-esque deep vibrato made me half expect him to shout out “Blues Explosion!” between song breaks, but the trio’s jangling rock definitely kept the crowd dancing and excited. - Each Note Secure (John Crowell)


So, I’m in this band that has been playing in Cincinnati, OH pretty consistently for about half a year or so, and we’ve played with so many incredible bands that I often find it profoundly difficult to pinpoint exactly which one is my favorite. And for some reason, it’s very important for me to know this information. So believe me when I tell you that finally answering this question last Saturday completes me. Yes, I am this shallow.

Anyhoozits, we opened this uber-awesome show in the Southgate House ballroom, and I can safely say that 20th Century Tokyo Princess are my favorite band in Cincinnati. Probably the oldest band that played that night (which also included the Guitars and Harlequins, both of which are absurdly incredible), 20CTP play the most streamlined and focused set of garage/blues/rock jams I’ve ever heard. Like, they’re focused to the point where they only really have one song (arguably two because one of them is swung). Their drummer plays the standard rock beat on two floor toms and literally nothing else, no cymbals er kick drum er nothin (though he does play behind a massive, gorgeous vintage kick drum just for show). Guy just Meg White-ed his way through every song. Their bassist confined himself to two or three notes per song, and shimmied back and forth between them in constant 8th-note downstrokes through a beautifully scratch-fuzzed amp. With a very similar tone, their singer-guitarist played these cool, taught blues chords, sort of an impressionistic balance between “riffage” and “chordage” colored with very well-placed high note wha-drenched outbursts.

They played for about thirty-five minutes, and I never got bored. In fact I was utterly mesmerized, hypnotized even, for the duration of their set. Writing this now and looking over all the math, I really don’t know how it adds up. On paper, it sounds like something I would likely avoid, but good lord, they dialed me into their system. Perhaps it was their confidence in their music, the fact that they can play ten songs in a row that are more or less indistinguishable and never doubt that each one is perfect and that their set as a whole is perfect. Perhaps it was their cool dusty garage-dude charm, the cool way they hardly moved and mildly bobbed along, the dead-pan asides between songs (“These are all true stories, by the way” and my favorite, “Do you guys here like girls? I don’t.”) They are the absolute epitome of “no nonsense rock,” a term I will now take care not to throw around so irresponsibly after seeing this band. There’s just something about seeing a band so utterly resolute, efficient, and simplified that just glues you right where you stand and commands your jaw to drop in awe and reverence.

Right, so, 20th Century Tokyo Princess are currently my favorite band in Cincinnati. And lucky me, I get to open for them again in March. Hooooooooooly hell, am I excited.

-m

- anonymous blog


Discography

A few tracks appear here:
http://www.myspace.com/20thcenturytokyoprincess

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Bio

20th Century Tokyo Princess plays a shambolic and nervous brand of vintage sounding rock. Not bluesy enough to be identified with garage. Not technically refined enough to be identified with indie. No cymbals. No bass drum. The individual notes and words don't matter...only the urgency and the desperation. We are on our own.