Review Summary: A well-balanced album from one of Japan's biggest rock names in the mid-90's.
In the mid 90's, as Britpop started to soar in popularity worldwide, thanks to groups like Oasis, Blur and The Verve, various underground groups in Japan were beginning to form with humongous influence from the scene. Groups like The Zip Guns, Oh! Penelope and, of course, L-R, were poster boys for the underground Japanese Britpop circuit. However, starting around 1994, L-R (stylized as L⇔R) were beginning to experience nationwide fame, becoming one of the very few heavily influenced Britpop acts to experience humongous commercial success in the country. Thanks to the singles "Hello, It's Me" & "Knockin' on Your Door", the group managed to become one of the most successful Japanese rock bands in the 1990's, and their skyrocket to fame can be compared to groups like Oasis. In 1994, the group released their breakthrough album, "Lack of Reason", which would be their most straightforward release in their catalog, and definitely their most approachable.
What makes "Lack of Reason" different from the previous albums, more particularly "Lefty in the Right", is that "Lack of Reason" focuses on a much more modern Britpop sound, while previous albums focused on a more classic Britpop sound that followed groups like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. "Easy Answers", in particular, has a unique diverse sound to it, which sounds somewhat reminiscent to Blur, while "Hello, It's Me" has a heavy influence from Oasis, especially with the heavy pop drone, as well as the influence of strings. "Remember" is an effective power pop ballad with heavy clashes, guitar stabs and shouted, echoed vocals from frontman Kenichi Kurosawa. "Stay Awhile -Stay-" revisits a much more dated style, rooting back to the 1950's, and has a doo-wop sound to it, and the orchestra atmosphere to the song makes it rich in appeal. One of the most melodic songs on the album, and one that relies on a more bare structure, although it ends up working in its own benefit. "Seventeen -17-" is a more modernly executed track, and has a sunny, beach-side feel to it. The kind of song you happen to have on while amidst a memorable summer moment. A song that penetrates the nostalgia factor of the listener, and one that is likely to be replayed for that exact reason. The album's final track, "Keep the Circle Running" is a soft, piano-centered track which shows off Kenichi's angelic vocalization on top of a bare, orchestrated sound. The dreamy song is a whimsical one, and is proof that L-R were masters of their own art form, and were one of the most talented and unique groups to surface on the Japanese mainstream scene, period.
"Lack of Reason" carved a path for L-R which no other band in Japanese music history has been able to replicate since. Its heavy Britpop-influenced style made L-R a unique group, and although "Lack of Reason" is far from being the group's most diverse album (that honor goes directly to the album's final effort, 1997's "Doubt"), its carefree, powerful pop punch is more than enough, and the group's kinship for melodies and knack of mastering earworm hooks made L-R a band like no other, and definitely one of the most surprising musical success stories in Japanese music history. In short, "Lack of Reason" is a fantastic piece of powerful Britpop influenced Japanese rock, and although it's not the group's most diverse album, it does more than get the job done.