Melt-Banana 13 Hedgehogs (MxBx Singles 1994-1999)

With a seven-inch discography that remains unrivalled (never mind their numerous compilation cuts and full-lengths), Japan’s spastic noiseniks Melt-Banana have finally amassed a collection of tracks from the first five years of the band. Realising just how difficult it is to track down every single forty-five, the band have really done their fans a big favour with this tasty treat. 13 Hedgehogs is a whopping 56 tracks covering 11 seven-inches, one five-inch and a ten-inch (complete with credits and artwork from each one on the inner sleeve). Though not all tracks are exclusive (i.e. the slightly extended and under-produced version of "Ketchup-Mess,” live versions of "Mind Thief” and "P-Pop-Slop”), the mere volume of music included on this one disc is enough to satisfy even the rare hardcore devotee that has every track here. Mostly an assortment of their convulsive, rapid fire thrash punk, it’s not all YaSuKo/Yako and her fiery poodle bark joined by laser-beam firing guitars and a frenzied rhythm section. "No Doubt” shows unusually quiet and mellow restraint, while "Bird-Like Monkey In A Cave, Singing In Drops” may just be the strangest moment of their career with its dolphin squeaks and droning white noise. Though it may be an exhaustive starting point for those unfamiliar with these Japanese wonders (1998’s Charlie is your best bet), 13 Hedgehogs is an utterly vital compilation and a dream come true for any MxBx fan. (A-Zap)