Review Summary: For those who embrace it for its acoustic cliches, it ain't all that bad.
Only releasing a limited number of copies of the record to the public and lamenting it as a one-off, whist half of the band itself comprising of actors (Adam Brody of The OC fame and Bret Harrison of The Loop), you’d be forgiven for thinking this record would fall flat on its face. Strangely ‘Music For Dummies’ succeeds be affecting the genre’s very clichés and dosing them in barrelfulls. Aiming to bask in a little fame artists like Bright Eyes and Death Cab for Cutie have achieved through channelling fickle acoustic strums and broken, but strangely comforting vocals, Big Japan constructs an album that carries those very qualities, however, for those who embrace it, the sound of the album is simply splendid.
From the warm, fragile guitar chords that open the record, to the simple yet interesting beats courtesy of Adam Brody, Big Japan delivers 8 songs that do just that – deliver. The sound of the record remains casual and inviting, usually consisting of either warm reverberating fuzz and a consistent tempo, or a sole acoustic with Castro’s warbly voice hovering over it. Whilst not too drastic Big Japan also adds in other elements to great effect, for example, one listen to ‘The Rise and Fall of Bill’ and the one thing you will remember is the bloopy keyboard that carefully places the song into a more memorable aesthetic.
Unexpectedly refreshing, its vocalist’s Nathanial Castro’s lines that somehow has a penchant to deliver an intimate and effective sound. Castro lyrics are sugary and simple, bleeding with imperative relationship truths that make you almost cringe but reiterate those feelings you may or may not have felt for someone at some point in your life. Lines like ‘You’re not just another fish in the sea, to me’ from the ironically titled ‘All the fish in the sea are stupid sluts anyway,’ as well as ‘I wanna hear when you say, boy when you say –best friend’ from the albums best song, ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ are accessible but also have the flexibility for the listener to take them reflect on their own lives.
From the bounciness of ‘Complex’ to ba da da’s of ‘Enchantment Under the Sea’, Music for Dummies isn’t a record that takes itself too seriously, and why would it need to? It’s the sort of record you’d play on a road trip to a more summery state, a record for casual listening whilst you’re doing something else. It’s not unlike many other indie/acoustic artists that seem to cloud the radio stations playlists, but somehow Big Japan have enough charm to pull it all off. In the end, you can’t help think of someone and subtly agree with Castro when he sings ‘what do you mean when you say, you get me that way? Well you get me that way too.’