I Love Unicorn (Fan Best)

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2008 and 2009 saw a rebirth of sorts for Unicorn, possibly the most venerable (and historically trend-setting) of Japanese rock bands. With a couple of new albums following a reunion tour, the band found itself back on the Oricon charts. What better time, then, to release a new greatest-hits compilation? What strikes the listener here is the massive movement across stylistic ranges that the group was capable of over the years. There are early pop/rock pieces that hint at the new wave and punk origins of the group with songs like "Hige to Boin," anchored by tight instrumental sections and Tamio Okuda's brash vocals. There are simple, fun pieces of rock & roll based in surf rock and sock hops. There are industrial-verging-on-new wave pieces that incorporate all of the synthesizer goodness the band had at its disposal while bridging the way to modern J-pop and dance. There are softer rock pieces that could have been swiped from the Chicago catalog. This band can brood, it can lilt, it can simply rock, and the fan-selected compilation makes sure it covers all the bases. Existing fans (and those who only jumped on the bandwagon for Okuda as a solo act) will of course be pleased, but this sort of album also makes an outstanding introduction for incoming listeners to get acquainted with the full range of Unicorn's sound and get a hint of the reason behind their popularity. The secret? They may have a punk core, but they craft their songs and execute them carefully, infusing smaller emotions and joy where Japanese music had previously focused on melodrama and grandeur instead.