Japanese albums such as these are generally released by cheerful solo teen artists with "Mika" or "Nana" in the name, not by full-fledged female rock bands. But then, the number of girls doesn't matter -- and certainly doesn't hurt -- as long as they deliver, which they do, although admittedly they are not the first to play this kind of sunny, commercially smart guitar music. But with pop/rock, it's not about what, it's about how, and with Chatmonchy, it is with vigor, enthusiasm, and -- most importantly -- a dose of catchiness, which is all too often lost in the haze of sentimentality that shrouds J-pop hopefuls trying to score on the Oricon. There's no special trick to Chatmonchy: a cheerful pipsqueak of a vocalist, simple guitar textures, a little variation of tempo (you get speedy numbers and semi-ballads), and a ubiquitous positive mood -- Kokuhaku is one bubbly, "summer holiday" happy album. It's not demanding, and has its share of forgettable filler, but some tunes, such as the opening "8cm No Pinwheel" and "Yodan" (which could have been done by Fujifabric or Pillows), do stick around. That should be credited to Chatmonchy's indie past: the girls know how to rock and are not afraid to do it. Kokuhaku doesn't have any monster hooks, but the youthful power Chatmonchy brim with and their ear for sweet melody amount to catchiness; even their missteps can be nice -- "Love Is Soup" is every bit as silly as the name suggests, but its chorus sticks in the memory once and forever. Chatmonchy may be playing in a crowded field, but on Kokuhaku, they do it better than many contestants on bigger promo budgets.
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