[21st May 2013]
[Good Fight Entertainment]
02. 1000 Miles
03. Pink Rolex
06. Polyrhythm Winter
08. Eighty Six
Japanese culture, or at least the parts of it that get exported through music and film, seems to be characterised by extremes. On one hand, it is dark, twisted and foreboding (see Sigh, Merzbow or the Ring trilogy) or it is so relentlessly twee that it makes your gums bleed (Hello Kitty and countless hours of bubblegum pop). So I was interested to see where on the spectrum Fact fell with their fourth album Burundanga.
At home, these guys are pretty big news, with their albums penetrating the top ten of the national charts. They do appear to be making some inroads into Western markets – but I’d certainly never heard of them before taking delivery of Burundanga, and it is worth noting that the album has already been out in Japan for a year. But it does appear that some form of international career is possible for Eij, Hiro, Kazuki, Takahiro, Tomohiro and, um, Adam. I reckon one of those guys might be from out of town.
Their press release promises quite a lot – stating this is a genre-hopping affair taking in influences from rock, metal, skate-punk, electronica and even post-rock. With quirky fellow countrymen like Boris, Melt Banana and Mad Capsule Markets slamming disparate genres together, I have to admit I had high hopes.
Sadly, I could not have been more wrong.
Let’s be clear – this is not an adventure across all points of the alternative music spectrum. This is a pop punk album in the grip of a severe identity crisis.
In the most literal sense, there are segments on the album that would fit every one of those listed genres. But each one feels calibrated to be just long enough to warrant a mention in that very same press release, almost like ticking items off a checklist, before returning straight back to perky riffing that makes Sum 41 sound edgy, and yet another gang vocal chorus.
As a case in point, the introduction to “1000 Miles” ticks all the right boxes, in abstract, to be called ‘post-rock’, due to its use of big chords and those reverb-drenched shards of guitar noise so beloved by the likes of Explosions In The Sky; but it is delivered with such thumping artlessness and is discarded with almost indecent haste after less than a minute that its very existence is baffling and pointless.
Then there is “Pink Rolex“, which commits an almost heretical crime with its ham-fisted over-deployment of Autotune. There are few more sure-fire ways of turning me off any band than the use of that hateful studio trickery. And “Mimic” puts in 10 seconds of deathcore before abruptly signing off with a ‘just kidding’ moment.
For some unfathomable reason, they have a track called “Polyrhythm Winter“, when the band clearly wouldn’t know a polyrhythm if it took a shit in their slippers.
To be scrupulously fair, there are moments on the album that are so infectiously enthusiastic that they did get my jaded and cynical toe tapping. And, despite my best endeavours, “FOSS” became a most pervasive earworm. Even with the rather clunky shoe-horning of other genres into the tunes, at its core it is a competent, catchy and largely inoffensive offering.
If I had a young sibling that listened to this kind of transiently popular, anonymous and squeaky-clean haircuts-with-guitars pop-punkery, then I would probably give it to them for a bit of variety and to broaden their horizons a bit. Burundanga is a fairly low risk way for young fans to dabble in other genres, much as one might test out thrill-seeking by going on a rollercoaster at Legoland.
For that reason, I won’t call Burundanga completely terrible. But if anyone tries to make me listen to it again, I will cheerfully set fire to their Pokemon card collection.