Review Summary: A surprising switch-up from Japan's ska pioneers.
Among influential ska bands in Japan, La-PPISCH are one of the biggest names. Formed in 1983, the group made their major debut in 1987 with the single, "Payapaya", followed by their self-titled debut album. Both were respectable hits, and the band reached their peak by 1989 with their sophomore album, "Karakuri House", reaching the peak of number 2 on the Oricon charts. Things were going tremendously well for the young band, with the group charming fans all over the nation with their bubbly ska-centered style, while maintaining a respectable switch-up here and there for good measure ("Tanpopo", anyone?). Around this time, it could also be argued that the group are the first Japanese rock band to exploit ska to a mainstream audience, beating out early groups like Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra and The Boom by a few years (TSPO making their mainstream explosion in 1990, while The Boom made their mainstream introduction a year before in 1989, making La-PPISCH the first mainstream Japanese ska band within a two-year gap between them and The Boom). While their third album, 1990's "Make" (which still maintained a respectable position on the charts at number 3), hinted a bit of experimentation rising, no one could have expected the amount of contortions and tweaks that would occur within their fourth album, 1992's "Flower". Within the "Flower" era, the group experimented with a humongous horizon of genres that they haven't even implicated of touching previously, such as funk, straightforward alternative and folk, making the album a huge curveball among various La-PPISCH fans.
The album starts off with "Virus Panic (90's Terrorist)", which opens up with a straightforward alternative drive, with a flickering, funk-driven bass line bubbling underneath the surface. Frontman Magumi is virtually bellowing along the spastic track. This song alone marks a milestone within the band's timeline, as it single-handedly sheds their upbeat, pop-friendly ska style from just a few years before. The next song, "Suiyousei", on the surface, sounds highly reminiscent to an early track by the legendary funk rock band, Red Hot Chili Peppers, or, perhaps more accurately, a b-side to a Faith No More single, circa 'The Real Thing' era, due to the smashing sound following the majority of the song, while adding an additional, stripped-down, funneled pop splash in the bridge of the song. A highly unorthodox track, especially for early La-PPISCH standards, but easily one of the best tracks among the disjointed curveball of an album. "Dobu" is a confrontational, balls-to-the wall kind of song, full of bubbling hostility, another unfamiliarity among the previous La-PPISCH albums. The track follows a speedy, carefree style, full of rebellious overtones and white-hot disobedience, fresh for the taking of any punk-styled teenager. "Sakura Sakura", surprisingly, revives their ska upbringings, with a chill, breezy sound, with Magumi crooning alongside the laid-back nature of the song. While there are some mild progressions within the song, the song mainly follows a lighthearted style, which is a refreshing switch-up in the rather abrasive album thus far. "Gyouretsu no March" and "Basket" follow folky stylings, and both are light and dark examples of the aforementioned genre. "Gyouretsu no March" follows a free-spirited type of style, with a Celtic-fronted style and a buzzy atmosphere, while "Basket" battles the more dark side of folk, channeling the energy of gothic-folk bands like MetroFarce. The track develops a neo-gothic atmosphere, retracting the positive energy from "Gyouretsu no March" and projecting gray energy where the positive energy once was, effectively making these two folky tracks exact opposites from each other.
"Haru Ichiban" is another ska-centered track, akin to "Sakura Sakura" in many ways in terms of breeziness and having a carefree atmosphere to it. "Pressure City" is a frantic track which initially follows a foresty beat, before exploding into a big-band-90's-day-alternative mixture, ending up being a beautiful disaster. One of the most experimental songs on the album, but also one of the most exciting ones. "Boku no Tame ni" is a late-night ska song, following a relaxed, ambient-like sound. A nice break in the album, and a soothing track to boot. "Rakuen" is a track that delves a bit into psychedelic ground, which the group would later indulge themselves in. Yet another interesting turn in the album. "Manin Densha wa Furusato wo Mezasu" closes the album up, and follows an incredibly bizarre concoction of ska, folk and psychedelic. Magumi is bellowing alongside the screwy album closer, and the whole song ends up sounding like a horrendous acid trip from the bowels of hell. Quite an interesting end to an already experimental-like album.
While some may say that this album marked the beginning of the end in terms of blockbusting, hot-selling albums, it also marks the beginning of a more mature, eclectic band, confident enough to take on various genres, while maintaining their original outgoing stride. An excellent album that shows the band excelling outside of their comfort zone of ska, and managing to tackle various genres successfully. The album can also be a mark for things to come, especially with the overwhelming psychedelic influence in their later days as a band. A splendid album that manages to break ground musically for the ska-based pioneers.