Jason checks out Hideki Ohwada's politically-charged mahjong manga, The Legend of Koizumi.
Sound Decision Boom Goes the Dynamite
by Jonathan Mays, Jan 25th 2006
This week, a shout out to Caro-chan, who claims to have seen the Utena musical. Impressive.
Boom Boom Satellites: Full of Elevating Pleasures —Tofu Records (March 7)
Michiyuki Kawashima's nasal, hypnotic voice might be better suited to techno than rock, but I'm glad it doesn't dissuade him and partner Masayuki Nakano from straying between the two styles. Boom Boom Satellites is basically a techno group that decided they wanted to be a lot more. Appleseed's Dive For You, also on this CD, is a reminder of their techno roots, and also a good song, but if you're open to something more diverse, you will love this disc.
Let It All Come Down is the biggest shocker: gospel rock? Not quite, but it's close—think Sting. If you're a longtime BBS fan, you may wonder what happened to all the jazz influence. It's all been shoved into Echo Tail, an experimental light piano piece that dissolves into street chatter. Call it cliché, but as a sort of twist on jazz improv, I think it works.
On the less innovative side, there's stuff like Back In The Night, a classic synthesizer dance track with a heavy pop beat. The guitar and synth don't mesh as well as they probably should, but the contrast between the low hum of the synthesizer and Kawashima's uncomfortably high chanting is kind of cool. Ride On starts with a lot of promise but dosn't build much until the very end, when Kawashima pulls out one of his best tricks, the trembling electric guitar.
I think the best thing about Full of Elevating Pleasures is that, unlike somebody like m.o.v.e., Boom Boom Satellites' electronica mix doesn't lose its edge after a few playbacks. Let's hope they keep it up.
POLYSICS: Now is the Time! —Tofu Records (February 21)
"Too often glibly dismissed as Devo-inspired poseurs..." —Japan Times
Well, they kind of are. Even POLYSICS leader Hayashi freely admits that he got most of his ideas, from the retro jumpsuits to the electronic pop, from Devo. But don't get yourself caught up in this stupid, pretentious debate. It all distracts from the simple fact that Now is the time! is loaded with manic fun.
In every track, the POLYSICS mission is clear: find a catchy chord, maybe a five-second pattern, and repeat it over and over until you can't help but have the "melody" ingrained in your brain. There's a fine line between hypnosis and headaches, one they cross a few times, but generally their "technicolor pogo punk" (whatever the heck that means—try heavy guitar and squeaky synthesizer) is just odd enough to be addictive.
My favorite is probably Oh! Monaliza because it sounds like a parody of a Saturday cartoon theme, with the pace of an Irish jig and the interplay of a Flamenco guitar trio. Mr. Psycho Psycho would do well to have the former's call and response instead of Hayashi going it alone. I still like it, but space language is annoying when there's nothing to break it up.
Unless POLYSICS is already a habit of yours, I wouldn't recommend going the whole disc in one sitting. But for electronica and Devo fans alike, Now is the time! to get on board. And for me to stop making lame puns.
Utena: Angel Creation —Geneon
The Utena musicals are coming!
Maybe not, but Geneon's latest Utena disc does make me wonder if they will do it some day. If you really expected a Utena remix CD would be picked up when, only a few years ago, half of the anime was stuck in licensing hell, send a kind note to Geneon. Maybe they'll give you a free copy for your blind optimism.
All of this only makes it more difficult to say that, unless you're a hardcore JA Seazer choral rock fan, you probably don't want to buy this odd and unbelievably short CD. For starters, Utena's fight music sounds kind of ridiculous, with all those randomly dissonant chords and nonsensical chants. But the real problem is that you've heard all of these songs before on the first two Utena discs. They are only slightly altered here, and never for the better, except maybe Angel Creation, and even then it's only for the synthesizer slam in the first phrase.
See, this is tough. By and large, Utena music is awesome, and the only way we'll dig further into the pile of Japanese discs is if Angel Creation sells well. But on a purely aural level, this one's a hard sell.
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