gsj1977"s Profile Page

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Bitter acoustic &Small songs vol.1, pygmy with bitter ends, ototoi records

One of the best things about shopping for records in Japan is browsing through the bands' names. Go over to the imported section in a Japanese record shop and you'll find a plethora of bands called The ____s – The Strokes, The Datsuns, The Libertines, The Sex Pistols, The White Stripes, The Ugly Talentless Cunts (OK, I made that last one up but surely that's the name Razorlight should be going under). Back in the Japanese indie section you're blessed with Limited Express (has gone?), nhhmbase, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant and the chef cooks me to name just a few. Not only are the names fantastic, but you can spend ages wondering what kind of music the band play and what the hell they were trying to say when they named themselves. pygmy with bitter ends. What does it mean and where did it come from? Are they a group of midgets with bad hair? What kind of music do they make? You can pretty much bet your life savings that any band called The _____s will be a group of four pasty white boys with guitars and skinny ties playing shabby New Wave-lite. pygmy with bitter ends isn't such a give away. Perhaps they take free-jazz and gabba techno, mash them up together and front the ensuing discord with a loungey singer who models himself on Leonard Cohen but ends up sounding like a drunken salaryman karaoke-ing Sinatra to death.

Fortunately (unfortunately? you decide) pygmy with bitter ends are nothing so extreme. Bitter acoustic & Small songs vol.1 is the band's second full album and although it takes in a variety of styles and genres it's basically a collection of shiny pop songs. Cartoon-theme-in-waiting GET ON THE BUS!! throws us straight into the band's technicolour pop world and manages to sound like all the following artists at at least one point; early James, The Chemical Brothers, Isaac Hayes (Shaft soundtrack), Pizzicato Five, Talking Heads, and Cornelius. It's quite an accomplishment for a song that's barely three and a half minutes long. 窓際ススクールガール (Modogiwa Sukuurugaaru) is a slice of indie guitar pop that wouldn't seem out of place on a Wannadies album. This feeling of being back in the mid-90s continues on the next track ニートソース (Niitosousu), which sounds a little like an Oasis B-side back when they were good. The comparison ends there though as the lyrics tackle the social problem of the increasing number of NEETs (people not in employment, education or training) rather than the joys of the white line. マザー (Mazaa) takes us even further back in time, its simple acoustic guitar melody and “na-na-na-na” coda a throwback to The Beatles.

After a strong start things start to go awry in the middle of the album. モモンガのバラード (Momonga no Baraado) is as twee as the title suggests and is the kind of syrupy ballad you'd expect from a bunch of J-Poppers like Chemistry. デンデン ドンドン (Denden Dondon) opens with strident guitars that promise to get things back on track and ends with a great chorus where vocalist Noribooooone pleads for “Just one cup of life”. No, I haven't got the faintest idea what he's banging on about either but it sounds great. Unfortunately this return to form is brief as the minute long ママのギター (Mama no Gitaa) is little more than filler, and the next song 縁側の父 (Engawa no Chichi) drifts back into the schmalz of モモンガのバラード.

The inclusion of a ten-year-old demo track, 冬の落し物 (Fuyu no Otoshimono) seems to be a pointless endeavour. Perhaps the band thought it would demonstrate how far they've come in that time, but it doesn't and it brings very little to the record. Album closer 私は街灯 (Watashi wa Gaitou) restores some of the earlier lustre as the band finally pull out a slow song that doesn't sound like by-the-numbers J-Pop. It's a slow-burner that starts out with just lead vocals and a quietly strummed guitar before blooming into a lush, orchestral ballad that occasionally sounds reminiscent of Automatic For The People-era R.E.M.

Bitter acoustic & Small songs vol.1 starts well but there's too much filler - something you shouldn't be able to say about an album that's only thirty five minutes long. When they do click, pygmy with bitter ends make some fantastic pop songs and I'm sure they've got a truly great album in them. Perhaps vol.1 was just a warm-up. Either way, I'll be keeping an eye out for the next volume and listening to the good half of this album.