An Cafe

Goku Tama Rock Cafe

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An Cafe is one of those Japanese bands that mixes the obsession with melody typical of traditional Japanese rock with the speed and drive of Western alternative music -- file them with Merry or Sambomaster. The group still dwells very much within the J-rock paradigm, following in the wake of UVERworld and Alpha Nine: Goku Tama Rock Cafe has got the same "oh my god I'm late" kind of tempos, a youthful vocalist who tends to overarticulate the words, trading naturalness for clarity -- and yes, it's quite melodic. But in this particular case the melody lines seem to come not from Whitesnake's box of forgotten hits or Bryan Adams ballads, but from Pixies and Social Distortion: the guitars are given a rock & roll drive that isn't rockabilly, but creates a similar positive, bouncy, and electrified mood. The excitement, however, is spoiled by An Cafe's tendency to sound rushed -- the vocalist spits out his lines like a man in a tongue-twister contest, the drums tend to get as relentless and annoying as an alarm clock, and the riffs blur into one sweetened Stray Cats jam -- even more so, since the band doesn't care much for good licks, content to gallop through typical chord progressions with as much gusto as possible. But gusto doesn't work without focus, and An Cafe remain jacks of all trades, but masters of none. They're not heavy enough to be metal, not really that melodic -- at least not convincingly so -- and they lack the guitar flow of real Japanese alt-rock big names like Fujifabric and the Pillows. The misstep is tiny, as "Kakusei Heroism" demonstrates: the track gets a little breathing space, a strong lead guitar in the vein of Billy Idol, an updated '80s solo, and comes out as a winner. But for the most part Goku Tama Rock Cafe is too much rock & roll ado about nothing.

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