Review Summary: One of the most addictive and satisfying Japanese punk albums to come out in the last 20 years.
Besides Locofrank, there haven't been too many modern Japanese punk bands as popular as 175R. Forming in 1998, the young group got their big break in 2002 when they released their debut album, "Go! Upstart", on the independent label, Limited Records. The record was a tremendous surprise hit, breaking the Oricon top 10 at number 6, and set the band up for a bright future, and made the group the official poster boys for the new wave of Japanese punk. The album, however, is even more rewarding, as it features a shiny, upbeat style, blended together with an addictive charm that punk fans from all over the spectrum can enjoy.
The album starts off its upbeat style with "Sakura", one of the album's most solid moments. The song features a ska-esqued style, and has frontman, Shogo, literally sprinting alongside the frantic song. The uptempo style of "Sakura" gives a well-done introduction to the listener of what the band is all about
: punk that is, essentially, as bright and sunshiny as punk comes. But, the sheer ambition demonstrated within the song gives off a nice aurora that saves it from being sheer disposable pop filler. The next song, "Cry the World", is a frantic punk ditty that channels the traditional Japanese punk styling of bands like The Blue Hearts & Laughin' Nose, while the song followed, "I Am Golden Head", orchestrates an admirable skacore style that follows in the footsteps of bands like Potshot & Kemuri (both bands were relatively popular in Japan when this album was released). "Your Song", however, is one of the album's biggest contrasting moments, however, as it shows the band adopting a more mature song style, which sort of ends up sounding like a mixture of hardcore punk dulled down with a poppy-alt rock influence, which gives the song an impressive amount of flavoring. "Precious" shows the band going full speed in the hardcore punk direction, and gives the album even more internal substance. "Wa" is one of the album's most mellow tracks, and has a complete ska style to it, acting as a complete contrast to "Precious". The sudden switch-up within the track listing is noteworthy in itself. "Blue" is as close to breaking the previous punk mold as the tracks get, and it has a heartfelt, alt rock approach to it. The nasally, crooning of Shogo is the icing on the cake, making the song as much of a punk ballad as it is otherwise... well, an alt rock track. "I'm Happy" follows the sheer ska influence as demonstrated in "Wa", but very little is going on within the track itself, making it the only somewhat dull track on the album. The rest of the songs are giant collisions of straight, modern punk rock and ska, as shown earlier in the album. Another solid example of this collision would be "W.O.W", which follows a bubbly bass line, driving drums and buzzing guitars. Shogo is shown alongside the track, trying desperately to keep up with the jumpy style of the song, making a highly entertaining, headknocker of a song.
In short, "Go! Upstart!" has the potential for being one of the brightest examples in modern Japanese punk history, with a respectable amount of influences shown, without being too overwhelming, making it an easily approachable album as well. With a few crashes embedded within the album, "Go! Upstart!" shows to be a fantastic example of a sugar-high-esqued album done perfectly.