Damon Baxter, the man behind Deadly Avenger, has made his name in the film industry through trailer scores, which means condensing the atmosphere of a movie to roughly 90 seconds. So, it’s always been a surprise that when presented with a full LP, I’ve felt his albums weren’t nearly as fully-realized as the short bursts of music in those previews.
That changes with I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan, the newest of his score work and an ode to kaiju films.
Monster-movie-inspired electronic bangers? Yes. Of course. Why would I not want to hear this? Ever since Justice sampled “Gojira Tai Mosura” for “Genesis,” I’ve been amazed by the way the heavy brass of the Toho kaiju pictures have exactly the right heft and bounce for dance music. And Justice — the French electronic duo — is actually a good reference point for what Baxter is doing here. It’s big and bold, with a garage-rock fuzz to the main tracks, as opposed to the glistening Moroder pop sheen of Daft Punk.
Deadly Avenger immediately goes big with the pulverizing back-to-back combo of “Destroyer of Planets” and “Kill All Kaiju,” and it just builds from there. Meanwhile, the “skits” on the album are more like interludes, and while the tracks are short, they allow everything to chill way out. They’ll remind you of the more subdued elements of the Dust Brothers’ work on the Fight Club score — along the lines of “Jack’s Smirking Revenge” or “Commissioner Castration” — where the music gets a little spaced-out and echoey, as opposed to the harder-hitting main cuts. They’re a chance to reflect, rather than react.
While there’s an undeniable element of film score love going on, what makes I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan work for multiple listens is the fact that it’s not simply an imaginary score of sorts, but a legit electronic album. In other words, it’s danceable. Like, horror disco is a thing, but monster bangers — inspired by monsters? C’mon, folks, let’s hit the dance floor.
“Dorothy’s Fortress,” especially, has a synth-pop vibe that’s absolutely aching for a cooing voice over the top of it, singing about how the vocalist’s heart has to be protected from the rampaging beast that is love. The latter tracks — most of side B, really — have a woozy, bent sound to the synths which render things further and further off-kilter as they continue, until “The Death of Ishiro” sees the whole album melt and disintegrate, as if nobody’s able to stay on their feet after a lengthy battle.
Take Deadly Avenger’s I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan and crank the knob until it twists off. You still won’t hear any flaws. It’s richly deep, and those first couple of tracks roar out of the speakers like a kaiju ready for battle. The panning in “Destroyer of Planets” only makes the inevitable drop into the song proper that much more impactful, and it’s a great example of the fact that this is an LP which can rock a set of headphones just as thoroughly as it can attack your speakers.
The artwork is amazing. Luke Insect has also been pretty hit-or-miss for me, but this packaging blows everything else he’s done out of the park. Sure, the pink-in-clear vinyl is gorgeous and eye-catching, but the giant claw on the front and back covers, along with the scales on the included art print/tracklisting? I’m swooning. The color scheme — red, hot pink, neon green — all scream ‘80s pop, and I am positively in love with how I Am Godzilla looks. Even the download card is designed to fit in. That’s how put-together this release is.
I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan is available on vinyl from Bandcamp.