Teengenerate – Live at Shelter

These are the liner notes of the Teengenerate “Live at Shelter” disc that’s been reissued to coincide with the big doin’s and such around the reunion and movie. It is a killer slice of super-fast raw rock and roll that I highly recommend and, no, I don’t get a commission or anything. It’s the band at their best right before they disintegrated in a blaze of punk rock glory…

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In March 2014, Teengenerate documentary “Get Action” hit the Tokyo late show circuit. Each night, indie theater lobbies were packed with fans eagerly waiting to see the movie. It was like there was a live show waiting to happen.

Twenty years after the band was around, just how much influence did they have? It’s hard to say, but you could glean some idea of it from the previous year’s reunion shows. The Tokyo show’s 250 tickets sold out less than an hour after going on sale. That may not sound like a huge number, but for those of us in this small underground Tokyo rock scene, it is. We’ve never seen a show sell out like that before.

When tickets went on sale there was a mad scramble to buy them. In addition to fans from back in the day starving to see their fave band rock again, there were also those who came to know the band in the last two decades, people who never got to see them back then, and even some rabid fans from overseas.

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My musical life in the early 90s basically revolved around Teengenerate. It was an exciting time, going to see them and the Registrators every weekend. Whenever possible, I’d drink with Fink and Fifi and blab about music. We never ran out of things to talk about. They’d regale me with their adventures overseas touring and playing with bands like Devil Dogs and New Bomb Turks, and with newer bands like the Rip-Offs flying the flag of raw R&R, it seemed like the world was on the verge of an international raw garage punk explosion.

It was frustrating that while TG was big overseas, they never got that recognition here in Japan. Why didn’t anybody know this amazing band? I wrote endlessly about it. The band went on undeterred but it wasn’t long before they broke up.

Wallabies was the only Japanese label that put them out. This meant you could only find their records on vinyl in import bins, which all of the newer CD shops didn’t have. Without domestic releases, the Japanese media wouldn’t notice them.

The band themselves didn’t seem to care too much. They had always played the way they wanted to regardless of what was the trend here, so there was no sense in getting upset about it. I think they would’ve liked the recognition, but they didn’t expect it. They were part of that 90s DIY movement. Those bands didn’t so much want to go DIY but had to out of necessity.

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After Teengenerate broke up, I got into their new bands the Tweezers, Firestarter and Raydios, and I put out their singles and albums on my label. I’m still putting out stuff by them and similar bands, even now with job and family obligations. It’s the least I can do.

Back when Teengenerate was playing, we all thought it was something huge and important. But looking at it now, it doesn’t seem like such a big thing. The band hardly had any influence outside one small part of the punk scene here.

In recent years, there are all kinds of books coming out that talk about Japanese rock in the 90s and none of them mention Teengenerate. It’s a miracle if they even mention Guitar Wolf.

Even as things go online, this doesn’t seem to have changed. If anything, it’s getting worse. It really makes you wonder. But what can you do? It’s just the trend of the times. I don’t mean for this to sound like sour grapes, but I think the people writing the history of Japanese rock and roll have a pretty superficial understanding of it.

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After the band broke up, things settled into dull routine and you got resigned to it. Then a guy named Junya Kondo came long and made a documentary about the band. He was a college kid at the time Teengenerate was playing and went on to go into film. He managed Shibuya’s Theater N and got it a reputation for specializing in rock documentaries.

I’d known Kondo for years and he would sometimes talk about making a Teengenerate movie. It started out something like, “Wouldn’t that be cool?” As the years passed, it got more serious. As the 20th anniversary of the band and the possibility of a reunion approached, the idea for the film began to really take shape.

One of the film’s core questions is: “Why did a band this cool break up without ever gaining the recognition they deserved?” That was exactly what I was thinking. With this question as a central theme, four of us – Kondo, Toshio Iijima, King Records’ Hasegawa and myself – began tossing around ideas and the movie started taking shape.

There was a grueling year of hammering away at the movie. We wanted to offer something to go along with the movie and since we couldn’t put out a new Teengenerate release, we started tossing around ideas for a CD. We talked about maybe doing a soundtrack but that didn’t work out. Crypt had just put out Get More Action, which is full of unreleased tracks, and several shops were stocking Get Action and Smash Hits in anticipation of a bump in sales.

But we didn’t feel like any of those releases served as a good intro to the band. That’s where the idea of reissuing Live At Shelter came about. It’s a good selection of songs and it sounds good, but even more it really shows the spirit of the band well. It was released in 2000 but had been out of print for a while, so it seemed like the time was right.

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Live At Shelter is a recording of the band’s 3rd to last show on December 23, 1995. They played Shinjuku Jam on December 26 and their final show at the Shelter on New Year’s Eve (by the way, there’s a video of that show where you can see college-aged Junya Kondo stage diving during the first song).

It was originally slated for a possible release on Wallabies but by then they’d stopped issuing new releases. That left it floating in the aether for a while. At some point, I gave a cassette copy of it to Fink and he said, “Why don’t you put this out?”

This was really just a basic live recording, but when I listened to it again, I realized it was something great. I put it out immediately. It was Target Earth’s first ever CD release. I took out a few songs as per the band’s request because of tuning issues and other problems, and then we mastered the DAT. During mastering, I told the engineer to take out the space between songs and make some other changes. I wanted it to be something you could listen to in a quick burst, like the Ramones’ It’s Alive.

If not for Kondo making Get Action, Live At Shelter probably wouldn’t have been reissued. I guess that, just like the movie, you could say it makes a kind of statement about the band, like, “Don’t forget this awesome band that changed everything,” or something. But really, it’s just a great blast of garage punk rock and roll. I just hope that when people hear this, they get their minds blown wide open, and then head out to the record shops and rock clubs in search of more raw rock and roll.

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There are tons of bands out there that keep rocking in the same spirit as Teengnerate, but nobody knows them. Mainstream rock and roll is created by advertising and marketing. If you listen to this, I think you’ll realize just how stale mainstream rock is.

The real beauty of discovering a cool new band is that you found it yourself, not through the internet or an advertisement. Teengenerate was a band that lived that idea. Pretty fucking cool, huh?

August 2014, Target Earth Records

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