Base Ball Bear

Jyunanasai

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Base Ball Bear successfully bridge the gap between mainstream J-rock and that part of the Japanese scene inspired by Modest Mouse and post-punk revivalists -- a more vibrant corner of the world than the Oricon charts may lead one to believe. Base Ball Bear know how to imitate the angular sound of Western indie rock, shifting between the clean metallic timbre and the slightly distorted guitar work with apparent ease; however, they use it to craft traditional pop songs. This means you get hooks instead of textures, rhythms that are either U2 helicopter drone or something distinctly dancey (the opening track even has totally un-ironic handclaps in it), and song structures that follow the traditional verse-chorus format -- no trippy noodling on Jyunanasai. The result definitely falls into the mainstream camp, but even though this approach is lightweight, it yields much more entertaining results than an umpteenth Interpol replica that's neither adventurous (being a replica) nor really catchy. For one thing, Base Ball Bear actually cover a good chunk of musical ground on the album, especially in its latter half, after they've cranked out enough pop hits to appease the audience and score in the charts. "Kizuite Hoshii" has a reggae verse, "Manatsu No Joken" is a post-punk clone of Kiss' "I Was Made for Lovin' You," and "Kyosokyoku" unfolds from a relaxed blues to a larger-than-life rock chorus. There's also a good deal of noisy straightforward pop on Jyunanasai that's half Franz Ferdinand, half Brilliant Green, and catchiness all the way through. This won't be enough for a demanding indie rock fan, especially with a snobby side, but the college rock twist allows Base Ball Bear to skirt all the trite melodies that plague J-rock and create a great and unpretentious power pop album.

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