Tokyo Jihen


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One thing to be said for Shiina Ringo, the mastermind behind Tokyo Jihen, is that she's never content to stay in one place. She had a successful solo career and then founded the band; went on with her solo career afterwards but didn't abandon Tokyo Jihen; and, for Variety, stepped aside from the songwriting duties and let her bandmates write their own material. There are good and bad sides to this particular experiment: the bad being that the results don't quite gel into a cohesive whole, and the good being that Variety is no worse off for that. The goal was obviously to stick to the band's trademark jazzy pop, but that didn't completely work out -- it's definitely Tokyo Jihen's most rocking album to date, with a lot of funky basswork, some streamlined riffs as in "Box of Goldfish," and even a gem of midtempo hard rock in "Vengeance." But beside that, there are Angela Aki-styled ballads ("Backstage"), oompah-oompah polkas ("My Way"), and, yes, jazz-rock that doesn't get completely lost in these stylistic wanderings. In places it feels more like a compilation than the work of a single band, but Ringo's voice holds it together, and essentially Variety lives up to its title in a good way -- more so, in fact, considering how many J-rock bands sound the same from the first to the last note and could perhaps take a leaf out of Tokyo Jihen's book.

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