Various Artists

Japanese Homegrown, Vol. 2

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Think of Japanese rock and either the extreme noise rock of the Boredoms/Keiji Haino axis or the sugary-sweet ironic dance-pop of Pizzicato Five and Cornelius probably comes to mind first. The indie bands on the second volume of the Japanese Homegrown series of compilations tend to hew closer to the former than the latter but, although elements of noise rock creep into a few songs (mostly in the form of guitar feedback and assaultive synth sounds that flit in and out of the arrangements), everything here is considerably more traditional and accessible than, say, Merzbow. Which is not to say that this music's bad, although as usual with compilations of this type, some are much better than others. The clear standouts are the Pugs' "Bust Pasta," a hypnotic synth rock groove interrupted by dub-style noise interludes and leavened by Honey K's lulling voice, and the ironic anti-consumerist diatribe "Happy Shopper" by Audio Active. Some of the other tracks sound basically like boring Japanese-language versions of Korn or Nine Inch Nails, artists who were pretty dull on their own. However, for every piece of tiresome rap-rock like Melonman's "Sheep Don't Push Me," there's a track like Shonen Knife's live 1991 rendition of the winningly Ramones-like "Lazybone" or Melt Banana's trippy "Chicken Headed Raccoon Dog," so Japanese Homegrown, Vol. 2 is worth a listen.

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