Osaka Popstar - Osaka Popstar And The American Legends Of Punk (Cover Artwork)

Osaka Popstar

Osaka Popstar And The American Legends Of Punk (2006)

Misfits Records

Supergroups are often a mixed bag in terms of quality. For every Me First and The Gimme Gimmes or OFF!, there's a ton of underwhelming groups that seem like good ideas in theory, but simply fail to deliver upon the massive expectations laid upon them by the general public (Audioslave, Velvet Revolver, A Perfect Circle, etc.) For the most part, Osaka Popstar boasts a truly awe-inspiring lineup, with their credentials consisting of ex-Ramones drummer Marky Ramone, ex-Black Flag guitarist Dez Cadena, Misfits bassist Jerry Only and Voidoids guitarist Ivan Julian. Rounding out the lineup was the little-known John Cafiero, whose credentials mostly consisted of producing music videos for the Misfits post-Danzig lineup, a Ramones documentary, and with the Insane Clown Posse's direct-to-video film Big Money Hustlas. Needless to say, his high-pitched vocals and relatively inexperienced voice does little to enhance the record in any way, and he doesn't quite seem to fit in amongst the seasoned veterans in the band. The groups one and only album, Osaka Popstar And The American Legends Of Punk is one of the great oddities of punk rock: A 27 minute album, mostly consisting of covers, released in 2006 that features the man who drummed on Road To Ruin and the guy who played guitar on Damaged performing songs about Cap'n Crunch, insects and shaolin monkeys. You can't make this shit up.

Osaka Popstar And The American Legends Of Punk belie its own album title. The bands renditions of the Astro Boy and Sailor Moon theme songs are the kind of Otaku fodder you'd expect from a covers band at SakuraCon, not something you'd expect seasons punk rock veterans to releasing. The fact that the album was released via Jerry Only's vanity label Misfits Records should tell you everything you need to know about the quality control on this album. Most of the songs on Osaka Popstar And The American Legends Of Punk sound fairly generic and run of the mill, even by pop punk standards. The closest comparison I can think of would be the kind of uptempo stock music that you'd hear on some late-90's Saturday morning cartoon. Songs like "Shaolin Monkeys" and "Where's The Cap'n?" are the kind of cringeworthy, bubblegum pop punk tunes that not even Ben Weasel would be able to stomach. In the hands of an unknown band you could forgive them, but given the resume of these bands members and their status in punk rock's overall legacy, it's quite hard to take most of these songs with a straight face. Perhaps the most confusing song choice of all would be the opening track "Wicked World", a cover of an obscure song from outsider musician Daniel Johnston. It's not a bad cover by any means, but from an album which trades itself on being a collaborative effort from several well known punk rock musicians, along with an obviously Japanese-inspired name and song choices, it's a bit baffling to say the least.

The covers don't stop there, sadly. The traditional folk song "Man Of Constant Sorrow" gets a good once-over by Osaka Popstar. Coming right after the Astro Boy and Sailor Moon covers, it makes you wonder if the band just got bored of their anime marathons and flipped the channel over to O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Covers of old X-Ray Spex and Voidoids songs such as "I Live Off You" and "Blank Generation" give off the feeling that Osaka Popstar simply ran out of ideas midway through the album. The Voidoids covers are even stranger, considering both Ivan Julian and Marky Ramone initially built their names on these songs, you'd think they'd want to think outside the box a little. The musicianship is competent at best and the band members are all clearly treading familiar territory with this record. The production is incredibly underwhelming as well, the guitars feel flat and lifeless and the drums sound processed to within an inch of their life. Whether it's a combination of age or just a terrible mixing job, you get the feeling that the band members aren't playing to within their full potential. At the end of the day, the whole record just feels rushed and unfinished, with plenty of good ideas but no real substance.

Osaka Popstar And The American Legends Of Punk had the potential to be a great album, but it was squandered on middle-of-the-road covers and head scratching song choices. If the group had simply stuck to a set concept or theme, such as covers of anime theme songs, the album would fare much better. Unfortunately, it just comes off as a mixed bag which does nothing to display the talent of the bandmembers and seems like a vanity project for John Cafiero. Even the band's name itself has barely anything to do with the album, with only two of the songs here having anything tangentially to do with Japan. It works well as a novelty album, but there's nothing overly substantial to take away from the experience. Unlike like the Misfits own Project 1950, which felt like a genuinely passionate set of covers performed by a band happy to do them, Osaka Popstar And The American Legends Of Punk just feels like a cheap cash-in, designed to get several punk rock veterans on one album in order to trade off of their respective legacies. I'd only recommend listening to this album for the sheer curiosity of it all, unless you really get a kick out of the Sailor Moon theme being reinterpreted by a bunch of middle aged men.