This Month In J-Rock: October 2008November 27, 2008
Happy Thanksgiving! Thanks for taking the time out of your holiday to visit this little blog. I’m majorly late on this month’s column. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to write. In the end I had to cut a few releases to review but I still left them in the poll. Last month’s poll was a tie between OLIVIA’s Trinka Trinka and Zazen Boys’ Zazen Boys 4. Three votes each. Kind of sad. But anyway, I brought back the rating system:
Asian Kung-Fu Generation- Fujisawa loser
Once again, the new AKFG single is outshined by it’s b-side. “Hello Hello” is a duet with Rachel Haden of The Rentals who originally performed the song. It’s a treat to hear Masafumi Goto sing in English, without stumbling over the words, with the sexy Haden. I wouldn’t mind hearing more of these collaborations in the future. “Fujisawa Loser” isn’t bad but doesn’t bring anything new to their indie rock table. The PV for it is hilariously bizarre, though. (1/2*)
Doping Panda- majestic dancer feat. VERBAL (m-flo)
This is Doping Panda’s second collaboration with the hip hop group m-flo. “Majestic Dancer” is your standard Doping Panda single with VERBAL’s rapping inserted in the middle of song. The b-side “chi chi pa pa” returns to the more laid back style on their earlier albums with a slight R&B flavor. The single ends in “Mugendai Dance Time,” a pointless 30 minute track that mashes together several songs from Doping Panda’s career with a robotic voice chanting “Mugendai Dance Time” in-between. I’m not quite sure why this was included. (1/2*)
Art-School- Illmatic Baby
Art-School shows a major shift in direction with the release of “Illmatic Baby.” These guys have clearly listened to Metro Station’s “Shake It” on repeat. “Illmatic Baby” dances it up with the broken English chorus “Shake hip, clap your hands, move your body,” with each phrase being echoed. I don’t know what these guys were thinking. However, it has definitely grown on me after watching their laughable PV for it. The remaining five songs transfer back to Art-School’s softer style. The second song and “Broken White” are great but the others are too slow for my taste. (1/2*)
The Feather Side- Scenes From a Lull in the Rain
The Feather Side is a piano driven indie rock band. They list Mae as an influence, so it suddenly becomes clear why the album cover reminds me of Destination Beautiful. Unfortunately, they are not as good as Mae. Their English is horrible and they come off as whiny emo kids. “Am 4.19,” the only song in Japanese, is the best song on here and ends in a nice instrumental. (-)
Combining punk and hardcore, Holstein is similar to 9mm Parabellum Bullet or Nature Living. Their English is bad but much more bearable than The Feather Side’s. “Farewell to Our Memories” starts off this EP with a bang followed by “Funeral March” which isn’t nearly as depressing as it sounds. After a short interlude, they come back with the fast “Rene Descartes” followed by the slow building 7-minute title track “Teleology.” Holstein has potential to be the next big emo/scremo act of Japan. (*)
The Predators- Kiba wo Misero
In case you missed my Artist Spotlight, The Predators is the side project of Sawao Yamanaka of the pillows, JIRO of GLAY, and Shinpei Nakayama of STRAIGHTENER. If you listened to The Predators and the pillows side by side, I doubt you’d be able to tell the difference between the two. “Rock N’ Roll Lay Down” and “Shoot the Moon” are insanely catchy while the other tracks are fairly aggressive. “C.R.S. (Come on Ramones)” is an odd-ball song, even though this is apparently a Ramones tribute, much of the bass lines sound identical to Nirvana’s “Smell Like Teen Spirit.” This is only The Predators second EP. Although Sawao Yamanaka has done little to distinguish it from his main project, they are still a great listen. (*)
9mm Parabellum Bullet- Vampire
This is 9mm’s second full-length album including the invigorating single “Wanderland,” the theme song from the anime REAL DRIVE. It seems that their sound has grown faster but more melodic at the same time. “Vampiregirl” is brooding in the verses but has a great pop chorus. “Hide & Seek” is my new favorite 9mm song. The drumming is some of the fastest I’ve heard and the screaming some of the best I’ve heard this year. It’s followed up by the second best song on the album, “The Revenge of Surf Queen,” a three-minute instrumental that has a modest but not overbearing surf-sound. The album ends with “Living Dying Message” that culminates in intense screaming. This is a very solid album, better than their debut, Termination. (*)
The Captains- I Love GS (US Release)
It is evident by now that The Captains love group sounds. It is their mission to keep the spirit of group sounds in the hearts and minds of the Japanese people. Thankfully, Tokyo no Records is bringing the group sounds to America. Group sounds was a style of music popular during the 60s in Japan similar to The Beatles. Members of the band were expected to dress in identical, stylish outfits. I Love GS is a 10-song cover album of classic GS songs by bands such as The Spiders and Blue Comets. “Tunnel to Heaven” appeared on Tokyo no Records’ Last Group Sounds release but all the other tracks are new. Unfortunately, I’m just not feeling this album as much as Last Group Sounds. Just like their outfits, most of the songs sound identical, which is probably the reason why GS died. (-)
Comeback My Daughters- EXPerience
Unarguably the most misleading album cover of the month. If you expected heavy techno tracks after seeing disco girl on the cover, you would be wrong. Comeback My Daughters is a folk rock band on Pizza of Death Records. Not that that’s a bad thing. This is the second best album of the month. The band sings entirely in English, most of which is understandable. “Hot Chinkee,” “Vice & Vice,” and “Eternal Cheep” are my favorite songs and”Bored Rigid” which includes a nice banjo. With this release, they are officially on my list of best indie bands. (*)
Deerhoof- Offend Maggie (US RELEASE)
Based in San Francisco, Offend Maggie is Deerhoof’s 12th full-length album. Unlike last year’s more aggressive and punk sounding Friendship Opportunity, Offend Maggie centers more on instrumentation and melody. Led by female vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki, lyrics are switched from English to Japanese frequently but always sound cute. My favorite track is “Basket Ball Get Your Grove Back” with its repetive lyrics “Go go champions! Be be champions!” Lyrics are almost always silly like that. Deerhoof is well respected in the American indie scene. It puzzles me how similar bands like Luminous Orange or Mass of the Fermenting Dregs have not been able to gain attention in America. Probably because they’re 100% Japanese. (1/2*)
Various Artists- METAL-IKKA (Tribute to Metallica)
Let’s face it, the only reason I listened to this was because of BEAT CRUSADERS and Polysics. I couldn’t care less for Metallica. But I do love my Japanese tribute albums. Out of all the tracks on this album, the only songs I’ve heard the original for were “Sad But True,” “St. Anger,” and “Fuel.” BEAT CRUSADERS’ cover is “One” is great. The muffled rapping and Toru Hidaka’s low grumbles are amusing. Polysics’ “Enter Sandman” is much more industrial than any of their other songs but is great to drive to. 2side1BRAIN’s cover of “St. Anger” is an amusing punk/emo cover that will surely piss off Metallica fans. 9mm Parabellum Bullet’s “Motorbreath” sounds like an authentic 9mm song and Razor’s Edge’s “Creeping Death” has a fun ska vibe. Unfortunately, none of the other bands on this compilation do much with the original material. Some are a little punkier but are still metal songs. Just like all tribute albums, METAL-IKKA proved to be half good-half bad. (1/2*)
PICK OF THE MONTH
VOLA & THE ORIENTAL MACHINE- Halan’na-ca Darkside
It’s debatable whether this is an EP or album, since half of the 9 tracks are interludes, but this is still my favorite VOLA release. Halan’na starts off with a dancey intro with loud bass then merges into “self-defense” which in turn merges into “An imatation’s superstar.” Just like last album’s “Mexico Pub,” “An imatation’s superstar” is near flawless. It starts with shaking drums and the vocals are spot on. After another interlude, “soft genocide” starts up which is my second favorite track. “Double Standard” and “Internal Division” are great too. The interludes really merged this album together as a cohesive whole and it’s hard to not listen to this straight through.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR NEXT MONTH
Acidman- I Stand Free: New single release.
Ami Suzuki- Supreme Show: Double dose of Nakata this month! Contains all the Ami singles and b-sides released since DOLCE. Should be a more dance driven album.
avengers in sci-fi- SCIENCE ROCK: Sophomore effort by the electro-rockers. Also, my second most anticipated for the month.
capsule- More! More! More!: What can I say. From the album previews this might be damn near flawless.
Dir en grey- Uroboros: New album from the metal gods.
dustbox- Blooming Harvest: Recommended for fans of ELLEGARDEN.
Envy/Thursday- Split: I will save this for next month after all
Gackt- Jesus: I’m getting a HYDE feeling from this…
HALCALI- Long Kiss Goodbye: They are adorable. New single, recently released as the end theme for Naruto Shippuden.
Oceanlane- Look Inside the Mirror: New single from the British sounding rockers. Still don’t understand how they’re not worldwide sensations by now.
Spangle call Lilli line- Purple: I’ve become such a fan of this band after ISOLATION, unfortunately that was after I wrote This Month in J-Rock: September.
the telephones- Love Disco: As a Christian, I take offense at the album art they are using for this. That and I have heard the song on myspace and it’s not disco at all.