Back in the day, I would buy a lot from Asian Man Records, and there are a great many Japanese bands on that label’s roster. I was mildly interested in Potshot, because they looked like fun, and then out of nowhere Mike Park threw ‘Til I Die and Pots and Shots into a couple of mailorder packages I ordered. Thank you Mike! They're a great band, so it's about time someone gave them a review.
Potshot’s take on ska-punk is reasonably normal, but with the energy cranked up to 11. Though on later records they calmed down a bit (perhaps due to line-up changes), this, their debut, is like a hyperactive child, running about like mad, babbling and jumping on the furniture. To some, this is fun, or perhaps endearing, but to ska-punk/children detractors (this analogy’s getting messy) it’s just annoying. I like the sound, though others may not. Besides the energy, what also sets the record apart is singer Ryoji Ariga’s nasal, incomprehensible voice, and the production, which is ever so slightly lo-fi and brings out the horns really well, making them sound brassy and bold, as opposed to restrained and tinny.
One of the best examples of their sound is “Mexico,” which begins with a quick, infectious bassline, then goes through stages of mad skanking and straight ahead pop-punk thrashing. There’s a hard rock-sounding breakdown (aided by slap bass, which actually works really well), and the tune ends in a funk jam. Incomprehensible vocals are yelped over, with delightfully accented “Hey! Hey! Hey!” gang vocals. Nothing else on the album is as good or as crazy as this song, but there are other highlights: “Radio,” which is fun pop-punk-with-horns fare; “In Hi-Fi,” a ska-punk instrumental which doesn’t leave out the punk; “Not Worth Your While, But Worth My Life,” which has a more serious tone, with a really good horn intro; and their cover of “Tears of a Clown,” which is about five times faster than Smokey Robinson’s version, completely batshit and totally brilliant.
Obviously, bands that sing in English but don’t come from English-speaking nations often have language difficulties, which are reflected in the lyrics. Though Potshot aren’t the worst for this sort of thing, there are lines like “Can’t help the hunger / Can’t make the world peace / May mean nothing to you / As long as I try worth my life.” Not all the lyrics are so unfortunate, but as they’re usually almost impossible to make out anyway due to Ryoji’s voice, it doesn’t actually matter that much.
For ska-punk fans, particularly those who are young (without wanting to sound patronizing, I got into this when I was 15 or so, and it feels like a logical step from Reel Big Fish for those getting into the genre), this is a great record. Some may utterly despise it, but not I; for me it’s a barrel of laughs, and maybe it will be for some of you too.