What's flumpool!?

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Flumpool became J-rock media darlings even before the release of their debut full-length, which went platinum in their home country and lived up to expectations, being an exemplary, even flawless Japanese commercial rock album. Whether this is good or boring is up to the individual listener. The group builds on major-key guitar melodies, everyman vocals, and dynamic tempos somewhat on the dancey side, shrouding the songs in layers of guitar textures, background keyboards, and synthetic strings until every tune seems larger-than-life despite having a simple ‘80s alt rock core. These are the standard tricks of Japanese pop, of course, but the music can also be traced back to the Pixies -- considering that this is to Pixies what post-grunge was to Alice in Chains: an elaborate mainstream adaptation of the sound that used to be, well, "alternative." This is not to say What's flumpool!? is a bad record -- far from it; in fact, its mix of J-pop's hopeful sentimentality and college rock dynamics is so clever that not even the almost 80-minute duration can make it a drag. There are no bubblegum hits, but tunes like "MW Dear Mr.& Ms.Picaresque" are fun on the first listen and stay fun on the third one. However, one big issue with the disc is that this stuff is simply overdone. The answer to "what's flumpool?" is most easily answered in terms related to other bands -- look for Flumpool pretty far north of the saccharine pop of Remioromen, close to Bump of Chicken's mix of J-pop and blues, definitely in sight of Pillows and Base Ball Bear, edging closer to Sakanaction in the dance moments -- but there's very little that is idiosyncratic to this particular act. The music is good enough that this on-the-sleeve derivativeness can be forgiven, but all in all, Flumpool's debut is both a great and an unremarkable album. (And by the way, "flumpool" is "four lump pool"; not much of a mystery there, really).

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