With a pro surfer as their lead singer and a drummer who used to be a designer for the surf gear brand Hurley, it's no surprise that Japanese Motors' music is all about surfing, drinking, parties, and girls (not necessarily in that order). At its best, Japanese Motors embodies that lifestyle so completely that it transports listeners into the band's laid-back, sun-drenched world. The album kicks off with "Single Fins & Safety Pins," the perfect distillation of the band's sound world: over lapping waves and keening seagulls, Alex Knost's vocals are half Richard Hell's deadpan cool and half surfer boy drawl, while the rest of the band's handclaps, hooks, and backing vocals pay homage to the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, and all the other California surf rock bands that came before them. "Single Fins & Safety Pins" is so undeniably charming that the rest of Japanese Motors doesn't quite live up to that high standard. Japanese Motors are a party band and this is definitely a party album -- in fact, it often sounds more like a rowdy live album than something recorded in a studio. This off the cuff, have-another-beer feel helps lanky rockers like the Strokesy "Coors Lite" and "Spendin' Days," which features the great line "Too hippie to be a punk/Too punk to be a hippie," and the drunken lament "Regrets a Paradise" captures the romantic confusion that Japanese Motors' easygoing lifestyle isn't immune to. However, "B.N.E." and "Crooked Gun" shamble where they should be razor-sharp, and though this album shows that Japanese Motors are on to something good, they'd be a lot better if they tried just a little harder -- not too hard, of course, since spoiling their fun would spoil their work, too.
Japanese Motors Review
by Heather Phares