Friday, June 09, 2006

Japanese Sunday - Taps, Taps, Lights Out CD Review

Over the last couple of months there has been an ever increasing amount of coverage for post-rock, instrumental, and avant garde bands on Decoy Music. Some of you, no doubt, have no clue where to start when diving into the slew of bands in the expansive and all encompassing genre of “post-rock”. Hell, I have no clue where to go half of the time when looking for post-rock offerings that will actually interest me. What makes it really hard for people to get into post-rock is that there are very few gateway bands, bands that are sort of post-rock, sort of another genre. Without a good assortment of gateway bands, it can be daunting to get into a new genre. That’s where Japanese Sunday comes in. They have definite post-rock leanings, but are also very heavily situated in the post-hardcore and shoegazer worlds (and they have vocals to boot!).

This release is one of the few to drop in the last year or so that successfully marries post-rock with another semi-related genre without it sounding forced. The ease with which the members of the band transition from instrumental set pieces to a wall of sound post-hardcore wave is a rarity that makes this CD a true standout.

By far the best example of a successful traversal of genres, at least in recent memory, is the three song combination from the middle of Taps, Taps, Lights Out. “The Genius of Annoyminity” starts out with a introspective indie rock noodling, but over time it builds to a flat out wall of distorted, almost straight up doom metal, noise rock. As the final remnants of the song fade out, “First Shot Fired on a Blue A.M.” comes to life. It is a brief two and a half minutes, but in that time you are given a glimpse into the healthy appreciation the band has for the forefathers of the instrumental genre, which then leads in seamlessly to the shoegazing and thoughtful “Proxy”.

The vast majority of this release is made up of these seamless transitions, such as the aforementioned example. This gear shifting ability is what will allow this band to appeal to a much larger audience that the currently small, yet strong, post-rock circles.

No band is without flaws, however, and Japanese Sunday can’t avoid having a couple of pitfalls. Even with their ability musically combine the likes of Hum, Mogwai, and Dinosaur, Jr. the vocals don’t always come across as well. Albeit there is nothing outright wrong with the vocals, but at times there are some very weak moments. During the middle passage of “Kagaku”, for example, there is a very forced feel to each line sung, which grates on the ears. There are other less gratuitous examples throughout, but none of the others detract too greatly from the overall musical beauty of this release.

Bridging the gap is a hard thing to do. Most attempts never come to fruition and many outright fail. This effort, however, is one of the few that succeeds. If post-rock can find more bands like Japanese Sunday to pull more and more listeners in, the possibility of it changing from an underground scene into a burgeoning, semi-popular genre will definitely be more plausible.

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