Kiiiiiii quietly open their set
Photo by Graham Webster

u.t. & lakin' hip hop
Photo by Graham Webster

To be honest, Kiiiiiii's harsh sound and alienating theatrics should be rightfully contained in art galleries, but for some odd reason, they are one of the most loved bands currently in Tokyo's live-house circuit. Most Japanese amateur bands are intolerably clinical - perfect guitar solos and rhythm sections in songs rehearsed a thousand times before any live debut. In this very serious and earnest environment, Utako's childish screaming and Reiko's chaotic drumming eschews all that slick and boring Perfectionism for a pure heart of rock n' roll in a battered and bruised body. The drumming is sometimes off, and the vocal harmonies often resolve in painful ways, but we can ignore all of that because Kiiiiiii mean something to people. Their show-stopping hip hop'd rendition of "We Are the World" is not technically good, but it bottles up forgotten nostalgia, great performance, and a plea for world peace into a four-minute moment. Their songs are naive and simple, yet melodic and meaningful. At the end of the polka/waltz "P.H.O.B." when Utako and Reiko sing in close harmony,

To tell the truth, I don't remember about you
I want to forget at all
We were so young
We were so stupid, you know.
And you were not my boyfriend.

I get a little teary-eyed. And when they blitzkrieg into the speed-punk chant "Be Honest" ("Be honest/Be honest/Be honest/Be honest/Good girls like Kiiiiiii have to be honest!"), I jump up and down and pledge that even though I'm not a girl, I too will be honest. Kiiiiiii makes pre-adolescent morality seem downright sexy.

In December, Kiiiiiii exhibited a 9-meter artwork comprised of one hundred colorful felt pieces at the Hiromi Yoshii gallery, and at the opening, they played a set next door at a small bar - on the top of the bar counter á la Coyote Ugly. Reiko played her tiny, child-sized mini-drums next to the stage, while Utako jerked herself around the 2-ft. wide counter in a pink helmet and knee pads for protection. They had to constantly crouch to avoid hitting the beams on the ceiling and slither around carefully as not to fall off the stage, but even in this impossible environment, Kiiiiiii managed to electrify the crowds. This "crazy little thing called the Kiiiiiii" is bigger than they even know - as if someone tore down their bedroom wall, and the world is watching with uproarious applause.

About the Author: W. David Marx (Marxy) is a freelance writer and graduate student living in Tokyo, Japan. His debut album - Kyoshu Nostalgia - was released by New York City's Beekeeper Records earlier this month. Marxy writes a blog on Japanese popular culture at

AURAL Kiiiiiii

VISUAL Kiiiiiii