Number Girl
School Girl Bye Bye


4.0
excellent

Review

by ZombicidalMan USER (17 Reviews)
April 6th, 2014 | 18 replies


Release Date: 1997 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An album made for breezy summers and beers with friends.

Japan, as any Hollywood movie will likely point out, has been a pretty isolated nation for most of its history. Certainly, Japan is careful about what it lets into its culture, and not unexpectedly, doesn’t share everything it produces with the rest of the world. In the world of music, dozens of bands remain in obscurity outside of Japan, but if you search for them you’re bound to find some gems. Number Girl, who formed in 1995, are just such a Japanese gem.

Number Girl released their debut album “School Girl Bye Bye” four years after forming, while signed to a small label. Though they probably are best described as “indie”, their sound is expansive and covers a nice amount of musical ground. The album begins with the cheerful opener “Omoide in My Head”: several drum rolls and guitar chords lead into chaotic, hardcore-styled riffing, but soon after Number Girl reveal their true colours. The song turns into a groovy, upbeat jam with chimey rhythm guitar and lead guitar that never seems to repeat itself. Vocals are faintly sung in the background, and every so often Shutoku Mukai will shout out lyrics like a madman, quickly switching back into his dreamy chanting. Even with its’ nearly 7 minute length, the song doesn’t feel stale or unwelcome, and in fact is one the best tracks on the album.

Like the opening track, the album contains a big range of sound, sometimes verging on grating and chaotic, while at other times it’s pleasant and overly happy. “September Girlfriend” for example, has thundering bass and power chording guitars, easily fitting in on an early punk record record, while “Summer of ‘72” has a slower, depressing tempo and vibe not unlike 90s grunge. It’s not to say that Number Girl isn’t original, it’s just that they clearly have a wide range of influences which appear on their debut. Even the third track, “センチメンタル過剰”, can’t help but remind me of early Weezer with its strained vocals and weird fuzzed-out guitar solo. Every song on the album is catchy and fun, no matter the vibes some of them put out. Strange chords and hardcore vocals sneak into several songs, which may turn away casual listeners, but will encourage others. I certainly found the occasionally erratic vocals refreshing.

All of the lyrics are sung in Japanese, though this certainly doesn’t detract from the greatness or fun of the album. Even with my (almost non-existent) basic grasp of Japanese, I had no idea what Shutoku Mukai was shouting out, but it really doesn’t matter in the long run. He isn’t a fantastic singer, either, with a small range that tends to feel pretty similar on most songs. Luckily Mukai mixes up his delivery on the tracks, so while on “Omoide in my Head” they sound distant and subdued, they’re much more upfront and aggressive on “水色革命”. The album has a sameness to it, partly because of the vocals, but each song introduces little touches like fun lead riffs or cool drum rolls to add diversity to the album. Despite this, the band is clearly focused on their frontman, and more input from the other members would have added to the album's replay value.

The production on the album remains one of my favourite aspects. It clearly is lo-fi and at times shoddy, but still manages to sound great at the same time. The chimey rhythm guitar is always high in the mix, with lead jumping in to add a solo or lick only occasionally. Vocals are hit with a heavy amount of reverb, giving them a distant quality for many tracks, and backing vocals are rare if not absent. Still, the vocals definitely fit with the sound. In terms of rhythm, the bass is probably the best mixed instrument on the album: you can always hear it’s catchy, speedy lines backing the songs. Without the bass, the album would probably fall apart. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the drums are mixed more poorly, often sounding lifeless. To make things worse, they’re always front and center, and at times I wish the drummer would take a water break for some songs. The drums also add to the sameness of the album, due to their “beat-roll-beat” feel that almost never changes. Luckily, “Mini Grammar” has the best example of this albums’ drums, giving them a break and changing the beat while also letting them rip for certain sections, but unfortunately comes in too late to the album to save it.

“School Girl Bye Bye” is worth your time if you’re into upbeat, occasionally chaotic 90s music, or you happen to be a Nippo-phile looking for more Japanese jams. The album hints at later work by Number Girl and Mukai's follow up band Zazen Boys, but remains a truly solid debut that mixes hardcore, alternative, and post-punk sounds that’ll get you banging your head along. It loses points simply because many of the tracks blend into one another too often; it sounds like Number Girl, but it’s hard to pinpoint the song without the tracklist. Nonetheless, it’s a pretty fantastic album that reminds me, in spirit more than sound, of a an upbeat and less egotistical Weezer (though if you hate Weezer like James Burns, I still suggest giving this a chance). “School Girl Bye Bye” is simultaneously listenable and jarring, but remains the perfect album to put on and jam with a few friends. Plus it’ll make you seem cultured.



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user ratings (34)
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
ZombicidalMan
April 6th 2014


2476 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I watched Battle Royale last night, which was great, and I've been jamming this recently, saw it had no review, so here ya go. Have a link, too



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGgr9x3r3yg

ZombicidalMan
April 8th 2014


2476 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

and we love this album

instantradical
May 27th 2014


316 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

SGBB is a great album, NG is one of those rare bands that gets better with every single album. Inazawa really hits his stride with the live performances from School Girl Distortional Addict, by the time NG broke up in 2002 he was one of the best and most immediately recognizable players in Japanese indie rock.





ZombicidalMan
June 8th 2014


2476 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

420 views, blaze it

samwise2000
October 18th 2019


834 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Really excited to check out the rest of NGs stuff, seeing as how awesome this is, despite being considered their weakest release

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
December 25th 2019


22485 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Ok this slaps. Hisako Tabuchi can riff for days

Digging: Bambara - Stray

Trifolium
December 25th 2019


14691 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yes it does! Really dig it too.

YouTube finally got it right again after many failed attempts.

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
December 25th 2019


22485 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

When yt hits it, it hits it ;]



Really wish I'd started off with this one now, it's a much easier jam than School Girl Distortional (though that one also slaps). Wanna 4 this but that would make Heavymetallic my lowest rated, which wouldn't feel right hmm :/

Trifolium
December 25th 2019


14691 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Going to check those too, this is too cool!

samwise2000
December 26th 2019


834 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

knew id love this album the moment the first few notes of Omoide played

Trifolium
December 26th 2019


14691 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Really loved it too. A nice Christmas surprise.

samwise2000
December 27th 2019


834 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I think i like this better than NUM HEAVY METALLIC, which as I understand is considered blasphemous?

hal1ax
December 27th 2019


14478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good band

hal1ax
December 27th 2019


14478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Distortional addict my fav tho

Jasdevi087
December 27th 2019


5988 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I have all of this band's albums rated super high but Distortional Addict is the only one I've ever come back to.



This does have Omoide in My Head though

Digging: Suffocate For Fuck Sake - Blazing Fires and Helicopters...

samwise2000
December 27th 2019


834 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Distortional Addict has great track after great track, and since it doesnt experiment as much as the 2 later albums, its much better for casual re-listens. I think it probably my favourite too.

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
December 27th 2019


22485 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah Distortional is the easiest to come back to and probs my favourite, but Sappukei has gotta be the best overall. Writing and musicianship are top-notch on that one.

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
January 9th 2020


22485 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think Ware Kiritsu Ichigojin might be better than Omoide in my Head hmm



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