There are plenty of Twin Cities underground rock fans who missed maniacal noise-punk duo the Birthday Suits while they were on hiatus for a year and a half, but the band’s frontman apparently isn’t one of them.
“I was living in Tokyo, so I had enough to think about and keep me occupied,” Hideo Takahashi said with a nonchalant shrug. By contrast, the gangly, shrill-voiced singer/guitarist is spastic and easily excitable on stage, sometimes dangerously so.
Takahashi split for his homeland in 2013, two decades after landing in Minneapolis as a high school exchange student. Mostly he just wanted to reconnect with his parents in Tokyo. His Minnesotan wife, Danielle, came along and put her teaching certificate to use as an English instructor.
Before Takahashi skipped continents, he hammered out another Birthday Suits record with drummer Matthew Kazama, who stayed put, started a family and kept playing with the likes of Kid Dakota and Aby Wolf’s Wild Wing.
What very well could have been the Birthday Suits’ swan song has turned into a rallying point for the first of probably many shows for the duo, since Takahashi permanently returned to the Twin Cities last month. Saturday’s release party at the Turf Club is also doubling as the band’s 10th anniversary. Never mind the 1 ½-year gap. (The band did play one gig last September when Takahashi returned briefly, but that was it.)
Laughing that he hasn’t heard back about the album from the ever-renewing staff at the University of Minnesota’s Radio K, the singer/guitarist quipped, “We have to get back to work. The kids here don’t know us anymore.”
Takahashi and Kazama met through mutual friends in the late ’90s and soon became bandmates in the similarly noisy (but not necessarily louder) all-Japanese-American quintet Sweet J.A.P. Downsizing to a duo not only solved the “too many chefs in the kitchen” problem, Takahashi said, it also opened up more musical possibilities and gave Kazama the spotlight he deserves.
“He’s fun to watch, but you couldn’t see him; there were too many guys standing in front of him,” said the guitarist, who got turned on to punk rock after arriving at Washburn High School. The punk kids were the ones who didn’t treat the foreigner like a freak.
Kazama — who grew up near Hiroshima but was born in Hawaii — had family friends living in Minnesota who sold him on moving here after high school. The drummer was more of a metalhead when he started playing but said, “I was always looking for something faster and harder.”
The Birthday Suits are still pushing those boundaries on their latest effort, “Spin the Bottle: Adult Party,” arriving via Southern California punk imprint Recess Records. They recorded the nine-song collection in their usual fast, walloping fashion at a rehearsal space where the Blind Shake’s Mike Blaha helmed the sessions. Most of the songs clock in at 2 to 3 minutes and waste no time in getting to a fervent, frantic place.
While Takahashi’s lyrics are often hard to understand because of his still-thick accent and hyper delivery, it’s easy to get the gist of “Golden Week,” an ironically cheery tune that references a weeklong holiday in Japan. Asked about their childhoods there, the bandmates nodded in agreement, “Everybody in Japan in the ’80s was middle-class.”
Another highlight is “Minneapolis,” a hard-boogeying ear-bleeder written when Takahashi knew he was about to leave town.
“It was a little tribute to living here,” he said. “I had very mixed emotions. I’ve lived here as long [as Japan] and have a lot of good friends here. It’s just as much my home.”
So there. The dude does get sentimental about some things.