Hata Motohiro

Documentary

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AllMusic Review by

The opening tunes of Documentary could make anyone remotely familiar with J-pop suspect the worst, as they are saccharine-filled ballads with a lot of melody, zero originality, and a generally overdone sound mercilessly milked by the likes of Kobukuro and legions of their ripoffs. The songs by themselves aren't that bad, but the jubilant blandness adds insult to injury, as does the fact that each song sounds like every second entry on the Oricon charts. However, as Documentary progresses, it turns out that Hata Motohiro can actually crank out some songs worth paying attention to. Sure, Eric Clapton and Sting would recognize snippets of "It Was Probably Me" in "Saru Mitai Ni Kiss Wo Suru," but when it comes to pop, there are far worse goals to set one's sights on. No song really breaks the J-rock mold, as Motohiro utilizes stuff like old-time synths, big choruses of yesteryear, '70s soft rock guitar lines, strings and, most prominently, folksy guitar strumming, but all it takes to elevate the music from background noise to something more is a little willingness to go beyond a safe, done-to-death melody -- add a little drive, some groove ("Saru Mitai Ni Kiss Wo Suru" also sports some nice chill rapping), or just some non-trivial stylistic twists (e.g., "Selva," with its elements of bossa nova). Sure, the record is still too long by half and packed with filler, but it sounds like Radwimps in its best moments and like Yui on the lesser standouts, which makes it an above-average piece of work that may not take the Western world by storm, but amounts to something definitely more interesting than the majority of tame J-folk-rock snoozefests.