Dragon Ash

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With DJ Bots not yet a member, but with a heavy big beat influence exerted over the whole band, Dragon Ash's second album builds on the ideas of Mustang!, dropping a lot of the pure punk for experiments in samples, drum loops, and forcing squares into round holes. Points of reference are Check Your Head-era Beastie Boys, "Loser"-era Beck, and the mix and match sensibilities of Jane's Addiction, but would any of those groups stop their groove in the middle of the song for a sweet, melancholic acoustic break (as on "Cherub Rock")? Kenji Furuya sings a majority of the songs here in English, not that you could make out the words without a lyric sheet -- what he does say is empowering, directed at the disaffected youth of Japan. What one realizes through listening to Dragon Ash is how many unspoken rules of Western rock are blatantly ignored (if acknowledged at all). In no way a sophomore slump.

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