The Birthday

Night on Fool

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Although the biggest chunk of the 2000s J-rock scene is based on either punk or goth music, a number of bands picked the alternative route of updating classic rock & roll. Sometimes the results come out sloppy and unfocused (Merry), but other acts, such as the Predators or, in this case, Birthday, hit the nail square on the head. Night on Fool actually does have some relation to punk and garage rock, mainly in the hoarse sound emerging from Yusuke Chiba's throat, as well as the sparse and raw guitar sound, but the real foundation of the band's music is rockabilly. Its classic riffs and rhythm patterns find their way into all songs on the album, but this is no Stray Cats clone: the mood is quiet and subdued instead of reckless, and sometimes even sports a psychedelic vibe -- think Hawkwind's ability to drone on a simple rock riff, only without the synths and the drug-induced weirdness. There are also plenty of licks from Deep Purple's arsenal, but Birthday eschew all the pomp and self-importance that plague classic hard rock. What's left is a solid and organic piece of work that mixes several old styles and comes off sounding fresh, mainly because there's no single dominant influence present. The trick is similar to what stoner rock did in the mid-'90s, although Night on Fool is sonically closer to grunge, only without the angst (if that can be imagined). There are some typical J-rock problems -- the songs aren't terribly varied, and the second half of the record is generally weaker than the first, with the dirty rockabilly filling in for the lack of more inventive stuff. But they're still good enough to make Night on Fool a first-rate fusion of rock & roll, psychedelia, and garage rock done by a band that knows how to take the best of every style involved and deliver it in a spirited and professional way.

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