Asian Kung-Fu Generation

Surf Bungaku Kamakura

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A semi-collection of B-sides, Surf Bungaku Kamakura is Asian Kung-Fu Generation's third big release in 2008, arriving after their fourth studio full-length, World World World, and the Mada Minu Ashita Ni EP. Surf Bungaku Kamakura can't be written off as just another attempt to mooch some easy cash from fans, however, because fresh songs dominate here -- and the opener, "Fujisawa Loser," which was released as a single, is a great enough song to give even a mediocre album high commercial expectations. But the quality of this track doesn't mean that there are no issues with the album as a whole. There are no drastic changes of musical direction on the release (this sort of thing being virtually nonexistent in J-rock anyway): it's the same Weezer-cum-pop-punk stream of guitar textures, presided over by the strong indie rock singing of Masafumi Gotou. Yet this time the sound is much rawer; there's a lot of punk and not enough Weezer -- somewhat similar to how AKFG did things in their pre-debut LP days. The problem is, it was exactly the smooth and nonlinear way in which the band arranged its impressive collection of guitar hooks that made AKFG so good, and now, "Fujisawa Loser" aside, you'd be hard-pressed to catch that flow between the joyous but aimless jangly stomp that shows some similarity to J-punks like Hi-Standard. Punk is well and good per se, but it takes a lot of energy and recklessness to deliver it convincingly, and Asian Kung-Fu Generation were always too much irony-drenched indie nerds to pound on three simple chords like there's no tomorrow. So, if AKFG had simply collected all the good material of 2008 onto one CD, they could have produced the best album of their career. But to piece together that hypothetic album, one has to wade through some forgettable filler -- half of Surf Bungaku Kamakura included.

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