Review Summary: Triple crown
There will come a day when youth will pass away, and surveying massive piles of CDs, milk crates full of vinyl, and hard drives bulging with music files, we begin to entertain the notion that ‘We’ve heard it all.’ Then something like Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re provides that much-needed sonic slap across the face, astonishing and enlightening us with erudite musical charms.
The band’s name is some kind of cryptogram assembled from pieces of the girls’ names (Yayoi Tsushima, Mari, Mizue), but to prevent premature confusion, let’s say they’re a proper power trio consisting of three wunderkind talents Yayoi (bass), Mari (vox,gtr), and Mizue (dr). Together they’ve crafted a distinct supercollision of brawny heavy psych and cooing J-pop that has to be heard to be believed.
Don’t be fooled by the Hello Kitty artwork (or actually, go ahead and be fooled. It may actually help with this one). Their debut album Souzou Ninshin ("Pregnant Fantasy") combines aggro musical chops with dreamy pop smarts. Every song blows up with freewheeling jams, Yayoi’s basslines creeping and pounding, Mizue’s rolling smash-it-all percussion squarely in the pocket, and Mari scraping chickenscratch guitar licks, cooing and squeaking like a bath toy. “Manhole” sneaks in the back door with an unobtrusive bassline, picking up steam with a steady beat and some guitar sparkles, Mari’s sexy purrs and hiccups move from trickle to gush over that steady rhythm, eventually capsizing into a feverish jam, all three going bananas with cymbals crashing and Mari yammering in one of several climaxes within the context of the song. By the time we return to the slow bass intro, you’ll need a cigarette to soothe your nerves. It’s like Sir Lord Baltimore being overtaken by an anime convention.
“Tea Time Ska” is even more confounding, the menacing tension building from a simple pulse that develops into Mari’s experiments with death-growls and guitar slash that changes on a dime to sickly-sweet Chipmunks pop over a ska pattern – but it vanishes like an apparition and she’s back to growling and pounding like Cronos’ evil stepsister in no time.
Without letting my obvious fanboyism creep into the review, suffice to say this trio brings the same juxtaposition of berserk aggressiveness and high-art innocence epitomized by bands like Kleenex and The Pixies. Every song sung in Japanese, so I can’t understand one word, but who cares？ Check out the live footage if you get a chance – watching them spin, pose, and move around like bona fide rock stars is truly hypnotic.