Review Summary: The strangely named Japanese surf punk trio proves they've got the hooks and songcraft to sustain a whole album - and a really fun one, at that.
Girl bands seem to be far more commonplace in Japan than in the western hemisphere. In any urban setting in Japan, it's not unusual to see teenage girls hauling seemingly too-big musical equipment to and from band practice. This makes it somewhat difficult for any given girl band to stick out, with several high-profile and successful acts such as Go!Go!7188 and Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re defining much of the genre's sound.
Fortunately, the oddly-named trio Mass of the Fermenting Dregs does things just a little bit differently. With a sound that's solidly rooted in the dark, driving rhythms of Number Girl and a dash of surfy reverb and twang, MOTFD pack a lot more punch than the average girl group. Natsuko Miyamoto's thundering, distorted bass provides a strong contrast with her soaring, bright vocals, and her wild performances show a sort of unreserved, earnest passion that's not always commonplace in the Japanese music scene (with most artists typically standing still and staring at their shoes, or jumping around like wild banshees, such as Melt-Banana.) Guitarist Chiemi Ishimoto has a tight, rhythmic style but is also proficient in playing melodic solos and provides a bit of superego to balance out Natsuko's unrestrained id. Drummer Yoshino, the sole male in the group, pounds the pots and pans quite effectively as well, although he doesn't quite reach Number Girl legend Ahito Inazawa's heights.
The first song and title track doesn't waste any time in telling the listener what the 'Dregs are all about
: bright, sunny melodies buoyed by a relentlessly punchy rhythm assault. Chiemi's lead guitar keeps things interesting throughout the well-executed grab at a radio hit. 'Made' kicks up the energy and playfulness a notch before 'The Beginning of the End' slows down to offer a more threatening-sounding track infused with jagged post-punk energy. Along with later track "The Cider and You,' this song show's one of the band's chief strengths: crafting rollicking fist-pumpers with a nice bit of traditional Japanese melody thrown in, almost evocative of the energetic chants found in summer street festivals.
The mostly-instrumental 'Rat' changes things up a bit with its surf-punk, allowing Chiemi's noteworthy guitar playing to shine through, as the band shows they've tightened up their instrumental songwriting quite a bit since the debut EP. 'Oneday' slows things down a few notches to deliver a more nuanced pop tune before the fast-paced action continues. 'Slipping Off' twists and turns through fun verses and great instrumentals, and coming dangerously close to Ling Tosite Sigure's prog-pop at times. 'Seductive Beat,' released as a single earlier this year, is a worthy song on its own but seems a little too similar to 'IF a surfer' from their debut, without quite as much kick. Closing track 'Noisy' adds a bit of desperation that the other tracks don't quite hit and ends the album with a nice change of pace rather than a more predictable fast-paced tune.
Mass of the Fermenting Dregs aren't a revolutionary band and probably won't impress the moody adherents of the Win Butler and Thom Yorke end of indie rock. But the world can always use another good power pop band, and with great songcraft and the interesting musicianship characteristic of Japanese indie groups, 'Zero Comma, Multi-Colored World' definitely stands out from the pack and deserves to be heard.