Midori
First


3.0
good

Review

by JohnnyoftheWell USER (58 Reviews)
November 26th, 2018 | 26 replies


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A scrappy but ultimately auspicious debut for Osaka's bygone jazz-punks

For those unfamiliar, Midori was an Osaka band that fused a jazz rhythm section and piano with the violence and aggression of punk. They put out a string of releases from 2005 to 2010 before disbanding without fanfare, over which time they acquired a major label contract in Japan and a cult following across the world. Like any good fusion band, their sound is more than the sum of its (admittedly obvious) parts; it stands squarely as its own phenomenon and, for this reason, has aged surprisingly well. Yoshitaka Kozeni’s drums and Keigo Iwami’s double bass lay down the roadmap, pianist Hajime takes the lead on the instrumental side, and vocalist/guitarist Mariko Goto spits and yelps her way over her bandmates’ framework while punctuating tracks with blasts of distortion. Not a particularly complex formula, but it worked – Midori’s work is both hellishly infectious and infectiously hellish, but I would also argue that there was a constant tension surrounding their unashamed bizarreness which continually put them in jeopardy of being a fad, novelty, or gimmick band.

However, almost a decade since their breakup, it is my view that their shelf life is longer than might have been expected and that it is well worth combing their discography to elaborate as to why. This brings us to the beginning (minus a couple of early demo tapes): as debuts go, First is certainly a shaky start with flashes of the band’s full potential. It’s clear from the outset that Midori had a clear idea of what their sound was and how it would theoretically work; it’s clear that they they were keen to show this off, but there’s a nagging feeling that sinks in within the opening bars of First that they were punching above their weight.

わっしょい。bursts through the floodgates with as much off-kilter savagery and marked jazz influence as any future outing, but the song’s confidence doesn’t quite land squarely. It’s in the way Goto reaches for a guttural scream far beyond her range, in the way the lurching rhythm and jumpy structuring are arresting and jarring without actually tying the song together. It’s fun for sure, but fun in a way that stems from cheap shock value rather than musical strength; the secret to Midori’s best work is that behind the grotesquerie and violence of its execution is a solid bedrock of songwriting and musicianship, both perfectly engaging in their own right. First leans a little too heavily on the former, to the degree that it doesn’t take long for the latter’s lack of refinement to show through.

On that note, the third track (ああ嫌) is a hellish mishmash of awkward rhythms that lack even the redeeming qualities (dynamism and energy) that just about kept わっしょい afloat. It’s the worst example of all this EP’s flaws and I would recommend anyone to be skip it liberally. The same goes for the atrocious closer, POP – when I saw the title and heard the major key opening chords, I expected something a little more subversive than a half-hearted traipse through the blandest of melodies. I can accept that a band like Midori rolling out a crap pop song counts as a passable outing of irony, but they could have done something so much more interesting with this.

It’s telling that two of the strongest tracks here, お猿 and *マンティック夏モード, would be rerecorded on future outings (We Are Midori and Shimizu, respectively) – the reworked versions are not structurally different but do come across as the work of a more focused band whose confidence had a much stronger musical foundation. That’s not to say that they don’t sound great on First - *マンティック夏モード definitely comes close to overkill at points, but its manic frenzy is enjoyably ridiculous, while お猿 is probably the best track here and demonstrates a real knack for upbeat songwriting – but underscoring even the best tracks on an EP with the concession that “…we’re going to get these completely right further down the line” does not make for a great retrospective endorsement.

I’ve been harsh on First because it falls short of the significantly higher standards set by the band’s later work (and because I actively dislike one third of its tracklist…), but there’s still a lot to appreciate here. For all its rawness and chunkiness, one thing that Goto, Hajime and co. had in spades was attitude, and while that attitude did lead to a couple of awkward own-goals, it makes even the half-decent parts of First a blast to listen to. Conveniently enough, the best example example of this is my favourite track on the EP, A.N.A. I honestly couldn’t tell you whether or not this is a ‘good’ song insofar as its rhythmic unison between Goto’s yelps and the militaristic drumming screams of the shock value tendencies I criticised earlier and sounds like it should be annoying (I’m sure a lot of people out there would utterly loathe this song…), but the intensity with which they go for has some bizarre charm and hooks me every time. The rising and falling of Hajime’s menacing, albeit straightforward, piano part also showcases Midori’s knack for shifting dynamics particularly well, which gets many bonus points in my book.

In its way, A.N.A spells out the most important ground rule for Midori: their style is relentlessly oddball, but they put enough conviction into it that in (not inaccurately) reducing them to descriptions such as ‘silly’, ‘immature’ or, worst of all, ‘gimmicky’ misses out a sense of spark that runs through all their work and elevates it from a trite experiment to worthwhile music. This, to me, is the essence of the ‘punk’ side of their sound; the musical chops behind the jazz side speak for themselves, but it’s the bizarre synergy lurking behind the unlikely or bold facets of Midori’s sound that made them a great band (or, for sceptics, a noteworthy band). That synergy materialises somewhat fleetingly on First, but those moments are enough to make it a worthwhile listen and to indicate the scope to which the band’s future efforts would rise.

To be continued…



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user ratings (30)
Chart.
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
November 26th 2018


12713 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Haven't reviewed in a while, but have been getting into these guys lately and saw that their earlier stuff still hadn't been covered on this site



Stay tuned for Second...

TheSpaceMan
November 26th 2018


11818 Comments


nice its always good to see some words slapped to review-less albums

agreed that they initially come off as gimmicky but manage to avoid that pitfall if you give it a chance, only heard that one album tho

SandwichBubble
November 26th 2018


9255 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

WOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAH

Good job on sput for censoring Kozeni's name because it has the word shit in it

Digging: Little Claw - Moss Has Fangs

JohnnyoftheWell
November 26th 2018


12713 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Ugh yeah I wish someone could fix that algorithm so that it only targets shit as a standalone word

TheSpaceMan
November 26th 2018


11818 Comments


just edit your review and retype his name (:

JohnnyoftheWell
November 26th 2018


12713 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Shit the bed, this changes everything ;]

SandwichBubble
November 26th 2018


9255 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nevermind it's fixed

Glad this has a review now, love this one

JohnnyoftheWell
November 26th 2018


12713 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

What are your faves on this, dude?

SandwichBubble
November 26th 2018


9255 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Probably the first track and ANA

JohnnyoftheWell
November 26th 2018


12713 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Mmm I wish I could click with the first track, but it's just kinda scrappy imo

SandwichBubble
November 26th 2018


9255 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's got that force to it that I like in an opener, sets the stage well.

JohnnyoftheWell
November 26th 2018


12713 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I get that, sums up precisely what I love about Second's opener

J() Alexander
November 26th 2018


5691 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I'm surprised that they got much better after this thing. Their first demo is better btw.

Digging: Noise - ??

BMDrummer
November 26th 2018


14440 Comments


o shit been years since i jammed this band

ramon.
Contributing Reviewer
November 27th 2018


2918 Comments


I always misread it as minorin, seminal bae from toradora, and get inordinately upset at both my expectations and just myself in general

never got round to this release so what better time than the present

Tyler.
November 27th 2018


16260 Comments


midori

JohnnyoftheWell
November 27th 2018


12713 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Lol since when has this userbase been remorseful

SandwichBubble
November 27th 2018


9255 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"i was going to give this a 1 but then i saw these g(uy/al)s were japanese

now i have to give it at least a 3.5 in order to not be shunned by the americans that remain remorseful for ww2 (that seem to be the majority of this site's userbase)"


He's confusing being remorseful about pearl harbor with the site being shameless japanophiles and anime fans

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
November 27th 2018


18455 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

just like stuff



like imagine caring about the nationality of the artist and rating them specifically by that rather than their art, it's just a pointless exercise in redundancy.

Digging: Natural Snow Buildings - The Dance of the Moon and the Sun

SandwichBubble
November 27th 2018


9255 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"just like stuff"

I give 5.0s to anything in french, so I can't relate



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