Diode City

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The 1998 record Diode City, the third for Japanese rockers Supersnazz, presents a change for the band. Not only is the once all-girl group now a girl group with male drummer -- Shoe, who formerly did drumming duties for Teengenerate has replaced Skinny Minny -- but this is a more poppy and playful album than their 1993 debut Superstupid!, with a cleaner sound and vocals, and lyrics that are more comprehensible. The band has also improved as songwriters and musicians, crafting songs for this album that have more layers of texture and greater complexity. But while it's hard to fault a band for getting better, some of their former tough energy is lost, like a street punk who learns to fight and doesn't need to hide behind his sneer anymore because he knows he can hold his own now. The band still takes the innocence and sound of American rock & roll from the 1950s and '60s as their foundation, and energizes with their own dose of pop-punk attitude. The album opens with "Words of Love," a sappy but infectious love song like those from the American Bandstand days, whose catchy rhythm ricochets into a fiery guitar solo. Kanako's guitar has a cool, slinky spy theme sound in "Diode City" and a surf flavor on "Tell No Tale." Their cover of "I Wonder," previously recorded by the Ronettes and the Crystals, retains the crooning backing harmonies, but Spike's vocals have some of the atonal zest of Poly Styrene from X-Ray Spex. The best songs, "Too Fast" and "17-18," have the band's old verve, teetering on the edge of disaster and offering listeners a rush of adrenaline when the band screeches to a halt at the end. These moments make Diode City a fun album, but Superstupid! has not been shaken from its classic status.

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