Though little-known in America prior to 2000, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant formed in Japan back in 1991 and began playing raucous garage rock & roll inspired by the Stooges, Thee Headcoats, the Who, and MC5. Futoshi Abe's thrashy guitar riffs propel the fast-paced, hard-hitting tunes over the driving rhythms of Kouji Ueno's thick bass grooves and Kazuyuki Kuhara's heavy backbeat. Yusuke Chiba's mod, raspy vocals, alternately sung and screamed out mostly in Japanese, hold the whole thing together with a rough-as-rock-gets swagger.
Initially, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant's sound was derived from British punk and blues. The band recorded their first EP, Wonder Style, in 1995. They soon followed up with their debut album, Cult Grass Stars, recorded in London with Radiohead engineer Chris Brown and released in Japan in March of 1996. Not a band to waste time, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant kicked out the jams on their second full-length, High Time, in November of 1996. The album smashed onto the Japanese charts at number 13, and the band immediately hit the road for a 21-date, sold-out tour across Japan.
Chicken Zombies, their third album, came out in 1997. The following summer, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant landed a spot playing to 50,000 fans at the Fuji Rock Festival in Tokyo, along with artists such as Primal Scream, Garbage, Sonic Youth, Ian Brown, and Beck. In 1998, this Japanese rock & roll cult phenomenon went on their World Psycho Blues Tour and played to arenas all over Japan.
Thee Michelle Gun Elephant's breakthrough album, Gear Blues, was released in Japan in 1998. In 2000, the record became the band's first U.S. release, solidifying their now unique and idiosyncratic sound that they call "Japanese Monster R&B." Like Iggy Pop, and Chiba, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant combine melodic anthems with a truly hard wall of sonic distress. Thee Michelle Gun Elephant's fifth album, Casanova Snake, soon followed in Japan and due to the overwhelming impact of Gear Blues in America, Collection, a compilation of the band's best work, was released in 2001. ~ Charles Spano