Review Summary: Japanese sci-fi rock chicks nearing perfection on their second -and final- album.
Alternative Tentacles is a label, run by Jello Biafra - punk rock singer and anarchist by heart. He releases lots of cool music and a considerable amount of politically engaged spoken word performances, mainly questioning capitalism. Living in The Netherlands and living up to its capitalist nature, I was about to order the CD by Munly and The Lee Lewis Harlots about five and a half years ago, a great album by one of the main characters in Slim Cessna's Auto Club, when I stumbled across some downloadable songs by a band called eX-Girl. They were so promising that I ended up purchasing their album 'Endangered Species' as well. And here it is: a review to put all you music lovers in the right direction again, this time around with your noses collectively pointed towards Japan, for 'Endangered Species' definitely is an album worth checking out. Way better than its predecessor 'Back to the Mono Kero'. On that album you could feel these classically trained Japanese girls (eeerrrrr girls from the planet Kero Kero) struggle on how to implement everything they love in their music - from eighties Kraftwerk-style synth pop and punk to metal and opera; struggle to create a cocktail of styles all their own without losing a natural flow. The result was -despite the obvious quality- a slightly forced attempt to be original. On 'Endangered Species' however they have reached perfection on a level that's almost beyond comprehension.
Opener 'e-sa-ya' is a tune sung in Japanese with a slow, pounding groove and breathtaking harmonies that crawl right under your skin - every now and then exploding into some really fast parts with double kick drum. The second track 'Hettakorii No Ottokotou' keeps the Japanese vibe rolling, but throws some firm metal chords into the blender and starts showing their feel for groove and subtle changes of rhythm and pace, bumping up and down, left to right and every other direction thinkable. It's one hell of a ride that makes you want to glue your ears to the speaker, trying to comprehend what's going on and how they're able to make it all so damn catchy despite the complexity. Then it's time for the most straightforward song 'Pretty You Ugly'. It's got some childish English lyrics with a Japanese slang that puts a smile on your face no matter how you look at it. And eX-Girl wouldn't be eX-Girl if -even with this simple rocker- they wouldn't throw in something for you as a listener to figure out. It feels as if one instrument is thriving the whole song forward, seems to speed it up without gaining pace. At first I thought it was the bass, but after some closer inspection (even consulting a colleague of mine who happens to be a schooled jazz musician) I figured out that on multiple occasions there's a drum kick just before and after the first count, while the bass guitar is right on the spot, which makes them twirl around each other creating the thrive mentioned earlier. Very creative indeed, just like the short Tribal Tech-like lick that finishes of this song. Again a subtle showcase of what these girls are capable of. Just like the whole album actually, from the synth pop based PUJEVA with excellent drumming (heavy computer beats gradually transform into acoustic drum & bass patterns), through the slow, hypnotising but powerful drum track 'New Pulse' to the aptly titled 'Rocket Keronian' and the mid-tempo bass & groove-driven Venus vs. Gas Onna (again with some opera style vocals) and the epic closer DODO. And than there's the mesmerizing 'Resonance' somewhere in between; a song that starts of as a sensitive ballad, but beholds some incredible drum parts with firm distorted guitars - talking about contrast. In all, this is one of the most surprising CD's I've ever heard and I would have loved to catch these girls live some time with their extravagant girly outfits and those wonderful voices. But that probably will never happen as they seemed to have broken up.