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Friday, June 26, 2015

Boris: New Album

BORIS: NEW ALBUM (2011)

1) Flare; 2) Hope; 3) Party Boy; 4) Black Original; 5) Pardon; 6) Spoon; 7) Jackson Head; 8) Dark Guitar; 9) Tu, La La; 10) Looprider.

A band like Boris is not programmed to sell out, but it is programmed to shock, and what could be more shocking than selling out? There's a paradox for you. For almost three years, the former­ly prolific band kept quiet in the shadows, then blasted back into existence with a vengeance — three records in a row — and the first one of those was... a J-Pop album.

Okay, so it's a Boris-style J-Pop album, which means that it will be noisier and heavier than the average product on the market. But all the ingredients are there — energetic dance rhythms, elec­tronic robot loops, simplistic and repetitive earworm-type chord sequences, and over-excited, over-exuberant vocals, including, for the first time ever (or, at least, for the first time in such prominent lead quality), Wata herself providing the lead on several songs. Yes they can. In fact, they prove they can even come up with a few nagging vocal hooks, though, as in all such cases, the emotional meaning of these hooks is so dubious that eventually you begin to suspect that their only grappling power comes from being repeated so many times.

Seeing as how I already hate J-pop and K-pop with a vengeance (it's a long story on which we shall dwell in more detail somewhere else some day), and how my tolerance level for Boris is already quite low, the first reaction to New Album on my part was abysmal — a band with a very specific, very limited sort of talent intentionally going in the direction of utmost dreck? It's, like, drilling your thumbs down all the way into the floor or something. Later on, it dawned on me that the album may, and probably should, be taken as a cute musical joke — that the very idea of an underground psychodrone band switching to a near-degenerate style cannot be anything but a diligent exercise in post-modern synthesis. That made things easier, but still, there's only so much distance one can cover with sardonic «joining of the unjoinable» without annoying the crap out of the listener. At least, the listener who has not yet become an adept of the Temple of Kawaii.

Speaking of earworms, ʽParty Boyʼ, pre-released before the album, most definitely has a catchy techno chorus; shows that Wata has a nice, soft singing voice; and has a very interesting and totally unpredictable instrumental break, where, all of a sudden, they decide to play a slightly dis­sonant piano melody, clashing against the chugging beat. Alas, this is insufficient for me to be able to call it a «good song» — any good song has to have some sense of purpose, and ʽParty Boyʼ just baffles me. Other than being danceable, is it a love song? Is it a parody? Is it a psyche­delic experience? Is it sad? Is it joyful? Is it sarcastic? Is it earthly? Otherworldly? The lyrics, referring to «strobe lights», «mysterious nights», and «riding on the stardust», seem to suggest a club atmosphere that is metamorphing into some transcendental experience, but the melody and arrangement are way too sparse and formulaic to truly blow you away — after all, Boris are not known for being experienced masters of electronic arrangements.

The «darker» tunes here, like ʽBlack Originalʼ, work better, with cold, distorted electronic vocals that mesh aggressively with guitar and keyboard overdubs in what sounds like an endless sea of police sirens and warning signs. But they are relatively few. More often, we get odd tributes to old school synth-pop (ʽJackson Headʼ), straightahead fast pop (ʽFlareʼ) or dream-pop (ʽHopeʼ) songs, and something that probably owes its existence to classic shoegaze (ʽSpoonʼ), only sped up to a tempo that no legitimate shoegazer would probably endorse. All of them feel decidedly secondary, unsure of themselves, unclear as to their purpose, too dance-oriented to feel magical, yet too self-consciously artsy to pass for pure dance fodder. And even despite the relative loveli­ness of Wata's tone, the other singer is still crappy, and Wata herself conveys no sense of depth beyond the glam-artificial tenderness.

Finding myself completely disinterested in coming up with things to say about these songs, I'll just say that it is probably sort of a «fun» page in Boris history, and it will certainly leave the ave­rage Boris fan thinking about a thing or two — yet I will still take regular straight-faced techno, shoe­gaze, or electro-pop over this incoherent mess, and I have a hard time realizing why somebody with a good knowledge of these genres would want to give New Album more than one passing listen with a smirk on his face. Or perhaps this is simply a case of me being completely out of touch with modern übercoolness.

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