Monkey Majik

Monkey Majik Best: 10 Years & Forever

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Monkey Majik can be both a delightful pop band and an utterly irritating proposition, and they take equal pride in showing off both facets of their sound on this 2010 career retrospective. At their best, they write dynamic, simple, and catchy pop hits (a rarity on the Japanese scene mired in bland, faceless ballads and over-arranged rock tunes with no sense of direction): memorable, sometimes irony-tinged songs such as "Around the World" that only benefit from a solid bluesy groove mixed with disco overtones and even more so from the fact that they sound like no one in particular (though, since it's pop, there is no escaping a vague déjà vu feeling). But at their worst, they embrace the very qualities they are capable of eschewing, reveling in slow balladry that may be melodic and sunny, but is also only slightly more memorable than a weekly grocery shopping trip. They can bridge the two approaches, as they do on "Forever," which is elevated from mediocrity by a catchy beat and some nicely placed rapping, but still, the record has one too many antiseptic plodding songs trying unnecessarily hard to conform to lowest Oricon standards. Interestingly enough, by far the best cuts on 10 Years & Forever are the remastered tunes from the band's early days tacked at the end of the record -- three optimistic emo-fests that mix feeble dissonant vocals and raw, under-produced guitars with strings and sappy melodies, or simply get by on acoustic strumming, but pack more energy and honest emotion than the rest of the album combined. MM have traded this approach for chart success, but it looks like those were the days they themselves find hard to forget.

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