Boris
Smile


4.0
excellent

Review

by hug rap's painful goodbye STAFF
June 2nd, 2020 | 81 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Boris sell out, I guess?

Boris are a band. They are sort-of a cult band, even though everyone knows them. If you don’t know Boris, you’ve fallen at the first hurdle.

Boris are an exciting band. They have an instantly recognisable sound, but all of their albums are distinct. Their cocktail of psychedelic, doom- and stoner- metal, drone and post-rock is as polyvalent as they come. There’s a separate time and place for each Boris album: even with similar works, you would never listen to one for the same fix as another. Just you try to jam Flood when you should be listening to Dronevil, or Akuma no Uta when you want as crushing a time as Amplifier Worship and tell me I’m wrong. If you have only heard one or two or three Boris albums and think you’ve ‘got’ this band, you’ve fallen at the second hurdle.

Boris are a confusing band. While anyone could pinpoint their cluster of consensus favourites, their discography is practically labyrinthine. Outside of their 1998-2006 classic run and a handful of releases from 2011 onward, they have a vast range of albums that have attracted relatively minor exposure and lurk around in obscurity. Their ‘canonical’ discography is relatively easy to chart, yet the full roadtrip has some serious dark patches. This is straightforward enough in terms of individual albums receiving less attention, but once you bring the band’s penchant for alternative versions of the same album into the frame, things get hairy. Some of their most important releases have multiple, significantly different editions: Amplifier Worship’s CD and vinyl releases contain major sequencing differences, as does Pink’s, with glorious extended versions of previously B-grade tracks to boot. Technically, none of these alternative versions are any more authentic than any other, but that doesn’t change the fact that the vinyl version of Pink elevates a choppy collection of stoner bangers into a perfectly sequenced overload of exhilaration. Differences between release editions matter, and some are more important and distinctly better than others. If you haven’t clocked this yet, you’ve fallen at the third hurdle.

This brings us to Smile. While not nearly the most obscure post-Pink album in Boris’ arsenal, this one can certainly claim its share of critical neglect and short shrift from the fanbase. There are some excellent ideas and a handful of underacknowledged classics here, both which fall foul of an elephant-shaped calamity; not so much an elephant in the room (this album doesn’t really do subtlety or discretion and is immune as such to that particular sub-genus), but rather an elephantine series of errors: the American CD version is an abject travesty and does a huge disservice to the sound, spirit and general experience of this album as captured on the Japanese version. The American vinyl version may be slightly better or slightly worse: since it has the same mix as the CD version, I’m avoiding it like the plague. I can’t imagine what led audio engineer Souichiro Nakamura to mix the American version the way he did, but the result is a listless mess of bland dynamics, distortion that hardly crackles, and arrangements that clump together like overcooked cheesecake when they should be at their most diffuse and psyched out.

Not to come down too hard on Nakamura; the chances are he was just trying to craft something he thought would be appealing to a stateside audience. Fucking America. No wonder the band described this record, perhaps wryly, as their sellout moment. Speaking ultra-generally, 90s thru 00s American rock albums have a knack for compressing the living daylights out of albums, whereas Japanese albums from the same period unashamedly brickwall them into ecstasy. Compare Californication to Shouso Strip, for instance; the former saw Rick Rubin paying as much attention to dynamic variance as to the state of his beard, while the latter saw Shiina Ringo riding off frankly insensitive levels of gain en route to an all-time classic. An extreme example, perhaps, but an apt reflection of the difference between the two Smiles. There’s a Japanese proverb about the self-replicating cycle of evil and inadequacy, akuin, akka. Evil seed, evil fruit: this already sounds very Boris, and it’s all too true here.

If you have only heard the American version of Smile, that is your fuckup and your responsibility to address.

The flip-side of this is that the Japanese version is a delicious mess. This record sees Boris at their scattiest and most fun, oscillating between spangled siesta jams and full-throttle craziness. This album is loud: superlatively, gratuitously and irresistibly so. Loudness may be one of the few commonalities between almost all non-drone Boris albums, but the liberties the trio take here are another story entirely. Iconic guitarist Wata in particular is off that charts, laying down one of her most volatile and irresponsibly amplified performances; when things kick off, as they do two minutes into Tonari no Satan, the result is a riveting overload of feedback and voltage. The stoner metal epic Kare Hateta Saki is another perfect showcase of this, bringing to mind Pink’s knockout closer “Just Abandoned My-Self”, whereas “Buzz-In” is a noisy banger evocative of the “Ibitsu”/“Furi” pairing on Akuma no Uta. These tracks are extraneously noisy, but indulge in their many, many decibels so gleefully that it’s hard to fault them as such.

This isn’t the only change-up; the band’s palette is revised, with Takeshi turning up the screws on his lethargic psych persona, while drummer Atsuo dabbles in electronic-esque tones in opener “Message” and the monumental epic “Kimi ha Kasa wo Sashiteita” in particular. It isn’t a huge departure in the latter, as his repetitive beat is cogent with the song’s stubbornly slow development. However, “Message” is a striking choice of opener, blending an ultra-dry kick rhythm with a thick bass groove in a way that falls somewhere between krautrock, stoner rock, and the kind of post-punk that Daughters milked for cheap thrills on You Won’t Get What You Want. In Boris’ hands, it’s instant coolness; Takeshi turns in one of his slickest vocal performances, the band run their groove through every synapse in your body, and audio engineer You Ishihara pushes things almost into the realm of lofi. This treatment is a little ambivalent, but it gives the album such a stratospherically crass flavour that it’s largely beside the point to fuss over how much it helps and harms it. For instance, I’m still not entirely sure whether the likes of Tonari no Satan and Hana Taiyou Ame, primarily driven by Takeshi’s melodic vocals over a deadpan heathaze of an arrangement, work. The American version turns everything shaky about them into a huge drag; the Japanese version doubles down on all their most incohesive aspects. However, Tonari no Satan’s lurching gear-shifts are never off-putting; thanks to Ishihara’s work, cracks in its composition turn into a straight blast.

The album as a whole tends to take who gives a shit moments in its stride, with each track accruing more than enough momentum to tide things over. “Kimi ha Kasa wo Sashiteita” follows a convincing development, yet its first and second phases are segued by a three crass seconds of silence in advance of an unpolished flare-up of guitars, as though Wata and Takeshi had blithely turned their amps off and on mid-take. Why not. Meanwhile, “Hanate!”’s freakouts of feedback, noise, stop-start riffing, and, eventually, almost entirely untreated clean tones are less concerted subversion than they are the sound of a band throwing caution to the wind for the hell of it. Good for them. All things considered, it’s as though Smile encourages its audience to stack up as many reservations as they so please, only for the closer “[Untitled]” to put things to rest in a characteristically Boris fashion: similarly to “Just Abandoned My-Self” and “Red”, this track thrives off the band’s knack for taking a single idea and teasing it out to almost twenty minutes of patience, gratification and feedback (albeit with a brisk cameo from the band’s Vein album). Featuring Sunn O)))’s Stephen O’Malley, “[Untitled]” is a psych juggernaut that cruises away at doom tempo and eventually gives way to a stunning drone finale. “Farewell” fans, this one’s for you. “[Untitled]” ties the album up beautifully and seamlessly, and many of the inconsistencies in its many, many preceding quirks are lost in the bigger picture by the end of its nineteen minutes.

As its closer fades away and the dust settles, Smile comes off as attractive a package as raw messes can hope for. It’s plays into its most haphazard qualities with flair and excitement, and comes off the better for it. As far as Boris’ more rough ’n’ tumble rock efforts go, you can do far worse; don’t take any flack from the kind of fans who gatekeep Pink and Heavy Rocks at Smile’s expense. Go listen to the damn thing - and stay clear of that disgusting American version while you’re at it.



Recent reviews by this author
Coaltar of the Deepers/Boris Hello ThereEddie Marcon Shinkiro no naka, Anata
Julia Holter Something in the Room She MovesFour Tet Three
Odd Eye Circle Version UpZorza (CAN) Hyperdream
user ratings (252)
3.5
great
other reviews of this album
Neoteric (3)
disappointing release from a band brimming with potential...

related reviews

fade

Heavy Rocks (2022)

W

NO


Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
June 2nd 2020


60191 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

did not expect to bother with this, but fuck that american mix and fuck that other review ugh, time for some revisionism

tl;dr the US version is mediocre zzzzmeh, the Japanese version is hot shit and totally different and the one you should be listening to right now jfc keep your headphones on please

thank you justjoe for inspiring my conclusion :]

parksungjoon
June 2nd 2020


47231 Comments


the spotify version seems to be the japanese one?

it credits diskunion, and diwphalanx records which discogs mentions for the jp releases is a subsidiary of disk union

Relinquished
June 2nd 2020


48692 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

could be the japanese version



but they prob filled out that info without matching it cuz they've done that in the past

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
June 2nd 2020


60191 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

not sure about spotify bc it might be based on location settings, so i'd have the jp version anyway

basically tho, diwphalanx records (japanese) = "メッセージ aka "Message" aka "Statement" 7min version first track and a wild mix

southern lord (us) cd = "Flower Sun Rain" first track and a shite mix

southern lord (us) vinyl - "Statement" 3min version first track and a presumably identically shite mix

first one is a winner, avoid the bottom two

Meridiu5
June 2nd 2020


4162 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Jap version is the way to go, message is just too good an opener.



Have a pos sir

SteakByrnes
June 2nd 2020


29690 Comments


Damn nice review johnny, I've always meant to check these guys out since I liked a few songs I've heard thanks to dub sessions with friends

parksungjoon
June 2nd 2020


47231 Comments


its the first one johnny

and yea my location setttings are obviously EU

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
June 2nd 2020


60191 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

okay phew lol

cheers meridiu5 and steak (go Pink, Feedbacker, Amplifier Worship in that order and then do whatever if you wanna check - but make sure you do all three, v different vibes)

SteakByrnes
June 2nd 2020


29690 Comments


Will do brother

Uzumaki
June 2nd 2020


4464 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I’m gonna have to look and see which CD version I have at home. It’s definitely got a different cover than this one.

Uzumaki
June 2nd 2020


4464 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Steak, jam Flood after those three.

parksungjoon
June 2nd 2020


47231 Comments


if its not yellow its the us one

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
June 2nd 2020


60191 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ye, if you dig Feedbacker defs followup with Flood and then Dronevil Final

and the us one has a plane or some shit on it. added it to the database as a comp just to exorcise it from this one's page

JustJoe.
June 2nd 2020


10944 Comments


happy to be of assistance johnny

😄

Bedex
June 2nd 2020


3133 Comments


it's good to see staff putting out reviews for older releases, nice work johnny!

parksungjoon
June 2nd 2020


47231 Comments


> it's good to see staff putting out reviews for older releases

agreed, please do mantas - death by metal next

parksungjoon
June 2nd 2020


47231 Comments


> it's good to see staff putting out reviews for older releases

agreed, please do mantas - death by metal next

SteakByrnes
June 2nd 2020


29690 Comments


He asked twice johnny now you have to do it

JustJoe.
June 2nd 2020


10944 Comments


“it's good to see staff putting out reviews for older releases” [4]

Relinquished
June 2nd 2020


48692 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i'm all for well-deserved revisions



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2023 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy