Elephant Kashimashi

Noboreru Taiyo

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Noboreru Taiyo is a fairly typical J-rock album, off to a promising start only to recede into compositional mediocrity. Of course, this pattern is not limited to J-rock, being encountered in pop/rock records worldwide, but in this case the promising part isn't really pop: the opening track is a bluesy powerhouse on par with any classic out of the Black Crowes catalog. Hiroji Miyamoto is a natural blues singer, and Elephant Kashimashi lay down that slide guitar groove like they've all grown up in the Deep South on a diet of Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Allman Brothers Band. However, what follows is standard J-pop guitar fare: sweet but hookless guitar textures, synth-string washes, and a general unmemorable atmosphere. This stab at mass appeal does little to make Elephant Kashimashi stand out, because there's a horde of Japanese bands that play the same kind of sunny, romantic, and unobtrusive rock, and some of them have much more strings, while others employ chirpy teen girls on vocals instead of grown-up raspy rocker dudes. Not that Miyamoto's vocals can't fit here -- he's able to tune into this pop sound; neither does the band really abdicate from its bluesy roots, because it's not like the style is incompatible with J-rock per se -- Bump of Chicken and Radwimps have effectively proved otherwise. But while those groups have both pop hooks and a bluesy groove, on Noboreru Taiyo the two styles seem to cancel each other out, resulting in a mix of J-pop love ballads and cathartic bluesy epics relying on sheer bombast to succeed -- which they don't, because no record outside of Justin Broadrick's output can be cathartic from start to finish and not bore the listener. Some lively bits surface later on, the most notable being the blatant Led Zeppelin ripoff "Okamisan," but it's not enough to make Noboreru Taiyo as interesting as it could be if the band hadn't decided to play it safe.

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