*The review of The 5, 6, 7, 8’s self-titled album has been added at the bottom of this original story which first appeared on Feb. 7.
The 5, 6, 7, 8’s are a Japanese all-girl three-piece whose sound is rooted in early American rock n’ roll, surf rock, garage rock and punk. Beginning as a four-piece in Tokyo, Japan in 1986, they went through a variety of line-up changes before finally settling on their current roster in 1992. Their current line-up has Ronnie “Yoshiko” Fujiyama as their lead singer/guitarist, with Akiko Omo on bass and Sachiko as their drummer.
They have recorded seven albums, along with a whole slew of EPs. Third Man has already reissued their self-titled album, plus a live album is on the way, a blue series 45 and a single with Jack White himself on guest guitar.
Though they have always maintained a strong following in Japan, they never really broke into the American mainstream until they caught their break by appearing in Kill Bill: Vol. 1. The band was featured during the climax of the movie, playing songs barefoot in Lucy Liu’s gang hideout. After the movie appearance, their songs became very popular, including the song, “Woo Hoo” (see below) which became the theme song for Vonage commercials.
After seeing their performances, it makes sense why Jack White would sign them to the label, as their garage rock style fits extremely well with the music he’s done with The White Stripes and The Dead Weather. Their music often sounds rough but it’s roughness gives character and style to their songs and it’s clear that the band has attitude in spades, as is evident in the below video of them playing their song, “Dancing in the Avenue A”.
Enjoy the videos and stay tuned for our review of their new live album in the coming weeks!
Everything about The 5, 6, 7, 8’s seems like it’s from an era long gone. From the “Stereo Sound” tag at the top of the album to the “STOP!! Before Playing This Record Be Certain Your Health Is Good” warning on the back, everything seems vintage and that’s before you even begin listening to the music.
Third Man Records, founded by Jack White, has recently re-issued this album which was originally released in 1993. Being that the band didn’t catch their break by appearing in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 until a decade later, the album was largely unknown at its initial release except in their home country, Japan, where they have always maintained a strong following. Though many members have come and gone over the years, lead singer Yoshiko “Ronnie” Fujiyama and drummer Sashiko Fujiyama (who are sisters) have always remained the band’s constants. Though the band has never had a hard time finding solid bassists, the band’s main draw is Sashiko’s impressive drumming and Yoshiko’s entertaining attitude and vocals.
This album sounds fantastic today and it is not just because of the great re-mastering done by Third Man Records. The rock revival of the early ’00’s, due in no small part to the founder of their record label, has completely changed the landscape of how this album is heard. Listening to this album in 1994 at the height of the grunge era would make a person deaf to the lead singer’s (Yoshiko) great vocals, who chooses style-over-substance and lyrics that choose light-hearted fun over suburban gloom. They wouldn’t hear the great garage rock sound that the band captures so well. With this in mind, it’s not difficult to see why a re-issue was a smart move.
The album opens with “Harlem Nocturne” which has a slow, brooding energy to it but the album really gets going with “Oriental Rock,” an energetic song that rocks hard but somehow manages to stay danceable. Yoshiko handles the microphone like a real pro, giving it everything she has and throwing in “Oh Yeah!” after almost every phrase. Her voice is so visceral on the track, one has to think that her voice was incredibly hoarse the next day. Iggy would be proud. It then moves into “I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield” with a cool groove on bass and drums, which is a nice choice to put after the veracity of “Oriental Rock.”
The middle half of the record starts to wear a little thin and one begins to feel like they’ve heard just about everything that the band has to offer. But the closer, “Scream” again reminds the listener that lead singer Yoshiko has as much energy and attitude as any other singer alive. She attacks the microphone like a woman possessed, varying her pitches from high haunted screams to low demonic growls, all while the band hits on a killer groove that augments the darkness of the vocals. It’s a great closer that proves to everyone that the band has much more to offer than first glances would show.