Tommy February 6

Strawberry Cream Soda Pop: Daydream

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Tommy February6 was Tomoko Kawase's first solo project, established when she still fronted the Brilliant Green. Fans of that band, however, are best advised to steer clear of TF6, because it's nothing like Brilliant Green's idiosyncratic alt-pop, being an exercise in classic '80s pop music. Of course, the '80s have left a mark on all of J-pop, but in most cases the music of the decade comes across as one entry in a range of influences; Strawberry Cream Soda Pop Daydream, on the other hand, is a fully conscious homage to Cyndi Lauper and Boy George. Taken for what it is, the record certainly has good qualities: TF6 has the naïve synths and plastic beats down like it's still 1983, and neither does she miss the key element -- the annoyingly catchy melodies that can get stuck in your head for the whole day if you aren't careful. In its best moments, Tommy February6 comes close to Pet Shop Boys and even Roxette -- the campier moments of both, sure, but still. However, that doesn't mean Strawberry Cream is flawless. For one thing, the homage is so faithful that it comes close to a blatant ripoff: "MaGic in youR Eyes" is uncannily close to Roxette's "Soul Deep," and "Je T'aime Je T'aime" resembles both "Voyage Voyage" and "It's a Sin." Another issue is that all the songs are too similar -- amazingly devoid of differences, in fact, especially for a best-of album: even the cover of Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" is ground by synth pop mills and stands out mainly because of the lyrics. As a result, while every single song is, indeed, catchy, together at almost 80 minutes they negate each other. Finally, the very concept of Tommy February6 is limiting: Kawase doesn't tackle any issues that dragged down synth pop and made it obsolete, such as the compositional one-dimensionality; instead, she revels in them, but that largely limits the appeal of Strawberry Cream to those looking for a nostalgia trip.