Ellegarden Best (1999-2008)

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After only a relatively short time in the spotlight, Ellegarden was regarded as one of the biggest and most important punk bands in Japan. Following closely on news that the band was going on an indefinite hiatus in 2008, a best-of compilation was released. Most of the songs are delivered in English, pushing the mix further than most punk bands, but providing a different palette than many groups generally work with. The album opens right where Ellegarden's sweet spots were -- with controlled thrashing power pop à la Foo Fighters in the opening chords. "My Favorite Song" quickly finds its way toward a blink-182 style of delivery, buoyed largely by the unaccented lyrics of lead singer Takeshi Hosomi (who spent time working in the U.S.). As the album carries on, the sound moves to some more directly blink-inspired pieces, such as "Make a Wish," with its singsong delivery and manic drumming courtesy of Hirotaka Takahashi. "Red Hot" puts together a slightly more complex structure, verging on the '90s ska invasion in the U.S.. While many of the songs can blur together as variations of a basic prototype, it's an excellent prototype. And for those who might detract on those grounds, there are glimmers of additional abilities -- an acoustic refrain in "Mr. Feather," a more soulful ballad intermixed into "Niji." Fans of the band may be disappointed at the lack of album tracks, but the compilation makes an excellent introduction to one of Japanese punk's driving forces.

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