Review Summary: A gorgeously disjointed effort from one of Japan's true noisy alt rock pioneers.
At this point, it seems that anything ambitious Japanese alternative rock icon Ken Taniguchi touches, turns to sheer gold (or very close to it). fOUL is no exception. Formed in 1994 after the split of hardcore punk-meets-classic emo band Beyonds, Taniguchi brought his loud, throaty style to an even broader horizon. While Beyonds's original style tended to balance hardcore punk with heartbroken emo tones and melodies, fOUL just blasts off at a complete left field, and blasts full-speed into alternative oblivion, with various genres tackled along the way. With the 1997 debut of fOUL, "Dostoevsky Groove", the band explore loud, grunge-like territory with lo-fi frustration and experimentation that ends up being fOUL's trademark charm.
The opening track, "Watashi wa Motomenai", is probably the album's finest moment. The song's main lick consists of an angsty band performance, with a frustrated Taniguchi breathlessly shrieking and ranting alongside the chugging band. The song's coin frustration ends up being highly contagious, and is arguably the album's most memorable song. "Na-Ka-Za-Wa" is a beautiful lo-fi melodic-punk spectacle, which sounds a bit reminiscent to the likes of early-day Supercar, only with a lot more of an artsy edge. "Akai Sabaku" initially visits disturbingly experimental territory, with Taniguchi and the gang crooning madly along the bubbling guitars and bass lines. The song then slowly evolves into Taniguchi ranting Engrish lyrics along with the grungy-art rock blend of the song, and the end result would make Sonic Youth gleam with pride. "Detach Commitment" is a nice post-punk ditty that has Taniguchi belting the listener with wails, alongside the overwhelming array of musical experimentation, with fuzzy guitars, dipping bass lines and smashed drums practically drowning the listener. On the other hand, "Smart Boy Meets Fat Girl" tends to go on a more approachable route, centering around typical 1990's alt rock-centered static guitars and Taniguchi's jumbled wails. The song's bridge is also noteworthy, as its slight breakdown works nice with the main orthodox band orchestration. "Searching for June" is probably the album's darkest moment, as its drowned basslines collides with a tom-tom beat and flickered guitars. Taniguchi's vocals are also particularly memorable, due to their high-and-low mentalities seeming to border various light-and-dark elements quite often. This makes the track an a particularly interesting one. The album's self-titled track has a bit of a traditional emo vibe to it, which can be compared to Taniguchi's legendary Beyonds project. The only thing that makes the "Dostoevsky Groove" track different is the quirky bridge, which seems to crossover into post-punk and art rock, which does a good job at adding even more diversity to the beautifully unconventional album.
As it is plain to see, fOUL's debut album has a tendency to experiment with various styles, mainly focusing on grunge and alternative rock foregrounds. Nonetheless, the mixture of straight 1990's alternative and sheer madness makes "Dostoevsky Groove" a splendid debut, and definitely puts it in a league of its own. If you like your music with a bit of an experimental, grunge-like edge, then definitely give fOUL a spin, more particularly their "Dostoevsky Groove" album. After all, it's Ken Taniguchi. Enough said.