An Cafe

Harajuku Dance Rock

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Harajuku Dance Rock was prepared for An Cafe's North American/European tour, and does a good job of presenting the band's sound -- which may seem a bit of a paradox, because, in a nutshell, An Cafe aim for chaos and succeed. Normally, chaos isn't easy to summarize, but in this case, it's very pop savvy, and there's a system to the madness, which, in fact, can even grow tiresome once you get the gist of it. The band's most immediate feature is their franticness -- they sound even more hurried than a typical punk unit -- which is limiting, but not as exhausting as it could be, because Harajuku Dance Rock is pretty brief, and, more importantly, it brims with influences: An Cafe jump from quasi-metal and industrial chugging to piano-led choirs, classic rock & roll, and Eurodance without batting an eyelid. A steady guitar buzz underneath it all serves to remind the audience -- and perhaps the band itself -- that it is still a rock unit, but the riffs are buried deep under piling solos, synths, and big choruses. The million-dollar question is, however, if this mash-up of styles has a point, and here the answers may vary: on one hand, the band can catch the occasional good hook, and when it doesn't, it tries to compensate for this by pummeling the listener with a relentless rock assault. On the other hand, bandmembers are still unable to avoid problems plaguing bands of this kind, such as Merry and Orange Range: the pop parts are often too cheesy -- the opening track sounds like a kid show tune, and An Cafe should really cut down on the Europe/Backstreet Boys keys -- while the energy is often unfocused, mainly due to the genre-hopping. Still, the catchiness prevails, and that makes Harajuku Dance Rock a fun, if kitschy, ride.

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