ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION
Sol-fa


3.0
good

Review

by Ben Thornburgh CONTRIBUTOR (112 Reviews)
June 27th, 2013 | 17 replies | 1,458 views


Release Date: 2004 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Not just for otakus.

Visuals aside, anime doesn’t seem to have all that much going for it at first. You can typically boil down the plots of whole series to a couple words (“Boy in robot”, “Girl is princess”, “Chosen one”) or they’re so absurdly convoluted they don’t make sense after a season and everything is slathered in thick streams of angst that would only appeal to someone with a learners permit. So why does anime attract some of the most devote fans of any media on planet earth?

Character development.

Anime builds and fosters firm relationships between viewer and the characters within and I’ve got thousands of cosplayers and convention attendees to back me up on that. Main and secondary characters alike go through huge arcs of growth through journey, adventure exists to further bonds and emphasize key traits in relationships. Nobody makes it out of a series without feeling a very real personal connection to the characters within.

So for a certain contingent of Fullmetal Alchemist fans, listening to Sol-fa’s 3rd single “Re-Write” is going to feel like flipping through an old photo book. It was the final opening song used for the show and is the one fans hold closest. Sound tracking the opening of every episode of the shows final 10; it conjures up the nostalgic pull for people never met and places never seen. Landing an opening tune in an anime may not seem like a big deal but for a Japanese band it is. It’s the best shot at global exposure any band from the island has a chance at and it’s inclusion propelled Sol-Fa’s global sales to 170,000 copies, great numbers from a band that sings only in Japanese.

It helps that it’s a kickass song. AKG’s not so secret weapon is and has always been their drummer Kiyoshi Ijichi. He plays with the energy of someone sitting down at a kit for the first time and with the precision of one who applied their Engineering degree to the mechanics of drumming. His rapid-fire fills on “Re-Write” are phenomenally on point, the way he thwacks the floor tom in the brief bit of breathing room between verse and chorus gives the hook a huge sense of lift. To the average American, lead singer Masafumi Gotoh may actually sound a little off key here, indeed Japanese voices tend to be a little on the thin side which can make for some pitch issues (He really scrapes the top of his range during the chorus). I find the effect to be endearing, the slight flatness making for another little hook. The songs verses may actually be catchier than the chorus’, dammed if I have any idea what he’s talking about.

It’s a killer song, one that sold quite a few copies in the States on domestic imprint label Tofu Records (Also responsible for bringing us the absurdly good Polysics). Those who may have picked up this record on a whim would be pleased to find that “Re-Write” isn’t even the best song on Sol-Fa, which is a solid collection of Japanese power pop.

Masafumi Gotoh’s key influences are American guitar bands like Weezer and Teenage Fanclub and Sol-Fa would comfortably slot into a playlist featuring either of those. It’s easily a better record than anything the Japan obsessed Rivers Cuomo has put out in years. Opener “Shindōkaku” hits fast, sporting one of the catchiest melodies on the record. “Kimi no Machi Made” is upbeat and chiming. “Last Scene” has Gotoh flexing a little falsetto over power chord churn and distant guitar. Elsewhere the album plays fast and light with solid, if occasionally bland, power pop. Nothing too offensive but much of it might not grab your attention.

And then there’s “Siren”.

Easily the best song on Sol-Fa and the best thing I’ve heard from Asian Kung-Fu Generation to date, it’s a head twister of a good song. It has that same nostalgic pull of “Re-Write” while containing an even more on point melody. It drives forward with remarkable urgency, every time the guitars step in to say what Gotoh cant at the end of the verses the thing takes off over the skyline. Ijichi jumps the tempo for the second verse as new harmonies begin to simmer excess momentum, resulting in a burn it all down chorus of gigantic Marshall stacks proportion. It climaxes in a twisting and dueling guitar bridge before roaring to a pop-punk close. It covers more styles and sounds in little over 5 minutes than most bands touch on whole records. If you only dip your toe into Japanese music once, it deserves to be this song.

Language barrier – smanguage barrier, big hooks transcend words and when the hooks are as on point as they tend to be on Sol-Fa. Released in 2004, it was Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s big breakthrough in their native contury (They’ve been playing together since ’96) and as close to an American breakthrough as they’re ever likely to see. Fans stateside campaigned for its release after “Re-Write” hit our shores through Fullmetal Alchemists’ final run. Japanese bands have never gotten enough shine in the States so however you came to hear about AKG is fine with me. Whether you’re an devoted otaku or someone who is looking for a new power-pop fix, Sol-Fa delivers the goods.



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user ratings (41)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
June 27th 2013



1602 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm working on a big review series for this website, thought I'd take today off to dash off a review for a band I really like.

HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
June 27th 2013



1602 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

These guys have amazing album art btw, I'd buy prints of it if they sold it.

Rev
June 27th 2013



9404 Comments


Great review, band rules

Blue Train is my fav track from them

HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
June 27th 2013



1602 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah that is a great song. They have one of the best drummers in rock.

elbaliem
June 27th 2013



886 Comments


love the summary

silentstar
June 27th 2013



2243 Comments


"Visuals aside, anime doesn’t seem to have all that much going for it."

...

HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
June 27th 2013



1602 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"Visuals aside, anime doesn’t seem to have all that much going for it."

^^

You know what, that needs an edit.

HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
June 27th 2013



1602 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Okay added a bit. Remember, thats not a factual statement or anything, at first anime can seem really childish and dumb. It's a medium that reveals its intricacies later.

amanwithahammer
June 27th 2013



404 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

At first I was really upset that you started this review talking about anime, since this band deserve to be mentioned without that connection always being brought up. But I guess the nostalgia brought on by Fullmetal Alchemist is relevant, so that's fine. Still, anime is a medium with thousands of completely different titles and you generalise it waaay too much. There are a lot of factors that come before the good character development in some (not all) shows that have made anime popular worldwide. Also, you still bring up anime way too much... and Siren as the one Japanese track to check out if any? Come on, you know that's not true. At the end of the day it's just a great powerpop song in a sea of great tracks by thousands of talented Japanese musicians.

Still, this review is well-written as a whole, it just has a bunch of issues that get to me personally. I know you said these aren't factual statements or anything, but they are presented quite assertively. Still one of my favourite reviewers though ;)

HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
June 27th 2013



1602 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It's not the greatest Japanese song of all time, but it is one I can see Anericans getting down with on first listen. This, the strong recommendation.

HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
June 27th 2013



1602 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Also, anime decidedly takes up a very small portion of the review. After the intro I mention it towards the end but that's it.

Yeah I questioned making the eternal connection but 9.99 times out of 10 it's how an American is going to have heard of these guys so it is what it is.

amanwithahammer
June 29th 2013



404 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah I think I got a bit carried away with my ramblings... on a side note I see I still have this as a 5, and I have no issue with keeping it that way.

HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
June 29th 2013



1602 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Geez, I'm glad you're passionate but I cant see this as a 5. Good record but no classic.

Gwyn.
June 29th 2013



14990 Comments


Dude, at least half the people who listen to this in last.fm don't even watch Anime, and either way,
that's a completely unrelated point that has nothing to do with the quality of the music.

But other than that, this is a pretty good review. I've heard a couple of songs and these guys are
pretty good.

Although, saying "Not just for Otakus" while giving it a 3, which borders on mediocrity, and making
long points about the band's relationship with anime, isn't helping your case.

Digging: diSEMBOWELMENT - Transcendence into the Peripheral

HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
June 29th 2013



1602 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm not sure how you gathered those kind of statistics from last.fm but if you scroll to their comment sections you're
going to see a lot of Anime avatars. Not to mention their most popular song on there being "Re-Write".

A large percentage of their American fans heard about them through FMA, that isnt detrimental to the band at all but
that is the reputation they have to carry in the states, flat out.

I mean, if I deducted points due to the songs useage as a theme song, we'd have a problem. But its how I heard of them
and I wouldnt be surprised if thats how you heard them, at the end of the day its a good thing.

Thats why I use it as an introduction, the intro is designed to grab the attention of your average reader. I made a
particular note when writing this to keep anime out of the majority of the review and I did.

Furthermore, the summary is a reply to the most positive Sound Off, which is dismissive on those grounds.





Mister Twister
June 30th 2013



1524 Comments


Whenever anybody says anime is childish, I say Now And Then, Here And There. I think that should replace Elfen Lied as the de facto response to disprove claims of "anime is for kids", because with Elfen Lied they can jump to the other extreme of "anime is porn" because of that opening scene. Now And Then, Here And There is just brutal.

More about this album though, Keshitei! Reraitoshitei!

That's all I got.

amanwithahammer
July 7th 2013



404 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

5's are personal for me. Asian kung-fu generation were one of the first bands I ever really got into, and this has always been my favourite album by them. I have albums that are without a doubt technically superior rated much lower, but that's not what it's all about, to me anyway.



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