The Pillows

Ooparts

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Ooparts ("Out-of-place artifacts," for those not into crypto-archaeology) breaks no new ground for the Pillows, but it's one of the better entries in their catalog. It's the same laconic blend of Pixies and rockabilly with a positive attitude: the vocals are as nerdy and attractive as ever, and the guitars churn roughly the same type of simple riffs that Frank Black first unleashed over 20 years ago -- but this time around, it's more inspired than the band's previous outings. Ooparts is the Pillows' sixteenth album, and considering that they've never really changed their style, but stayed as prolific as required per J-rock workaholic standards, stagnation was imminent at some point. But while the previous album, Pied Piper, had all the feeling of a band going through the motions, on Ooparts, the Pillows sound like they are rediscovering how to make a speedy and optimistic track or a midtempo rocker with a nostalgic mood, and enjoying the hell out of it in the process. The album's brevity contributes to its success: Japanese rockers are often guilty of droning on in the studio after they've run out of good songs, and this doesn't just go for teen pop/rock bands (think Fujifabric), but Ooparts clocks in at under 40 minutes and is completely filler-free. But then, the Pillows never were the ones to play long, so duration doesn't guarantee quality in their case; the important thing is whether they have good songs to fill up the slots on the album, and the answer in case of Ooparts is "oh yes."

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