Review Summary: A truly underrated Japanese emo classic... if only their "With Euphoria" album was as fortunate...
In the late 1990's, the moody, "classic wave" of emo rock was starting to swarm within the Japanese underground music scene. Groups as melodic as NAHT, or as intense and in-your-face as Cowpers, were starting to dominate the underground indie rock scene in Japan. However, during this time, groups that were generally more "upbeat" were becoming more and more financially successful within the Japanese mainstream. This made it the initial underground emo wave in Japan become quite obsolete by the mid 2000's, thus burying the truly impressive potential of various up-and-coming underground emo/alt rock bands. Nine Days Wonder were one of the bands that was tragically buried with the short lived underground Japanese emo movement. To this day, their 2001 debut album, "The Scenery is in Disguise There", remains a truly remarkable album that brilliantly dances on the border of traditional alternative and 1990's-esqued emo rock and bleak pop punk, coming across like an interesting mixture of Sunny Day Real Estate and The Get Up Kids, with a bit of Cowpers-inspired post hardcore inserted to the mix as well.
The opening track of the album, "Reminder", starts off with distorted and drained guitars, which appears to have a slight shoegaze element to them. The song that chugs off into melodic traditional emo goodness, and the vocals of Kensuke Saito have a beautiful snarling whine to them, giving the song a true, gritty emo foreground to work on. "Lossleader" has a theme that centers around a draining guitar, shrieking and echoing alongside the song's depressing tone. Saito then comes on, shrieking and crooning along the apocalyptic sound of the song. The ending result being a classic emo track that relies entirely on hopelessness and frustration, which would make the emo pioneers of the early 1990's gleam with pride. "Voiceprint" is one of the most abrasive tracks on the album, and the band just pummels the lucky listener with clashing drums, over-amplified guitars and bubbling bass, essentially drowning the listener in good ol' fashioned alternative melancholy. Saito's vocals seem to have more of a lively tone, and the whole track just channels and aligns itself with the whiny, apathetic 13 year old inside all of us. "Return to Sender" is a track that relies much more on melody, although it is just as loud as the other tracks. The fluttering guitars and bass, along with Saito's desperate wails, make the song one of the best on the album, as it manages to churn out just the right amount of emotion and melodic technicality. The album's final track, "New Ways to See the World", is another fantastic track, which follows an impressive technical rhythm, and also captures a straightforward clean vocal production from Saito. The hook of the song sounds a bit reminiscent to Sunny Day Real Estate, but the majority of the song is quite unique, due to its slightly unorthodox orchestration. A brilliant track, and its more mellow tone works wonderfully as a closer to a splendid Japanese emo album.
All in all, "The Scenery is in Disguise There" is a fantastic listen, and the album's overall frustrated and bleak theme will be sure to please fans of traditional emo from the 1990's and early 2000's. The album's short duration works as a benefit as well, as it makes the album just that more listenable. Nine Days Wonder's debut album manages to capture the apathetic magic of classic emo perfectly.