Straightener

Nexus

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    9
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AllMusic Review by

Straightener's previous album, Linear, hinted at an experimental direction for the band, but it seems that guitarist Horie and bassist Hinata satisfied their more ambitious musical urges in their brilliant side project Fullarmor. However, Nexus is still a rich, melodic, and moving album, so what's more to ask? Straightener always had a trademark sound, differentiating them from the flamboyant clone army of lesser J-rock bands, and their distinct approach is in full force on Nexus, being developed better than ever (and it was pretty well developed for some years already). The group's foundations lie in alternative rock, and not the watered-down variety used to describe anything with guitars: the razor edges of Straightener's guitar textures can be traced to Shellac, and the prominent bass work suggests a less funky Primus. But all of this is filtered through the Japanese fondness for melody, and that adds a warmer, more humane dimension to the music, which could otherwise come across as cold and calculating. Multi-layered but intense and gripping, Nexus is anything but cold, showing perhaps how Sunny Day Real Estate could have sounded if they had been high-level music professionals instead of genius amateurs. The emo spirit is, indeed, present on the album, but it's the older kind of emo -- complex music for complex feelings, not disposable odes to teenage moping. Besides, while Nexus is slightly mellower than Straightener's previous releases, the piano leads of "Chou No Yume" and "Innocent" and the quiet charm of "Lightning" are balanced by harder riffs and dynamic tempos that dominate on the record, never letting the band's emotional message drain the songs of energy. Of energy Nexus has no shortage, and while the album sounds a bit too complex to rule the Oricon charts, in a world where unicorns exist and wars don't, Straightener would have had a high chance of being touted as J-rock's best output of the 2000s, or close enough to make no matter.