Kazuya Yoshii


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Kazuya Yoshii has always flirted with blues, even when sticking to traditional J-rock patterns, and so the fact that he's finally embraced his inner bluesman is likely to elicit a "well, duh" reaction. Yoshii hasn't gone all B.B. King, of course, even though the man is name-checked in "Florida" -- rather, Volt is a bluesy hard rock album that tries its best to work Aerosmith and Grand Funk Railroad, as well as the Cult and Guns N' Roses, into the contempo J-rock system of the world, and succeeds at that. The Eastern heritage is audible -- Japanese rock music is not used to swing, and so the songs are pretty streamlined, but for a hard rock record, that's a benefit, especially since Yoshii throws enough reckless abandon into the faster numbers and catches a decent groove when relaxing, as in the vintage synths-backed "Working Man." What's even more important, unlike many J-rockers, Yoshii knows not to overload the songs with arrangements and always keeps sight of a simple lead melody -- this leading to emergence of the dark matter of rock known as "catchiness." "Birumania" is a track to stick in your memory on the first listen, and the rest do about as good. Volt also offers a good deal of mood and style variety, from mellow "Snow" to some hard-n-heavy rumble and the powerful buildup of "Nopan." Besides, Yoshii shows he's not stuck in the past, giving the album an immaculate production and throwing in "Mahoutsukai Jenny," which sports a great semi-goth rock riff and a synths backdrop -- and doesn't sound out of place. If there is a problem with Volt, it's that it falls between two stools: it's not rowdy enough for a real Aerosmith devotee, but not serious enough for a more adult-minded affair; still, it's groovy, focused, and energetic, so it's not fair to carp.

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