Review Summary: An exuberant taste of psychedelic pop that dissolves way too soon.
When you strip a band with such a powerful stage presence as Bo Ningen and encapsulate them on a record like a genie stuffed in a magic lamp, the impact loss is quite significant. Not because the Japanese four-piece are bad musicians in any regard, actually, they are pretty good when it comes to extracting every sonic drop from their instrument, but after 4 albums, and now culminating with thisSudden Fictions
, their quirkiness reaches a level of absurdity and inconsistency that it makes you think that songwriting is, or never was, their forte.
When Taigen Kawabe (bass, vocals) met Kohei Matsuda (guitar) in London during a shared bill where they were playing on different bands, they instantly knew they had to make a band together. The two twin souls living the rock'n'roll life dream, away from the land of cursed salary men, were soon joined by Yuki Tsuji (guitar) and Monchan Monna (drums), and the first explosive jams ensued. First thing coming out of the studio back in 2010 was a mix of space rock, punk, noise, psychedelia and general madness that only served Bo Ningen's ultimate purpose: burning the stage.
After years of touring, opening for bands like Primal Scream or Savages and collaborating with an impressive list of artists, from noise master Damo Suzuki to the one and only Yoko Ono, Bo Ningen have built a name which usually rhymes with "the best live show you are gonna see in a very good while". On record though, the vibe is noticeably different. Unless you have a perfect mental image of that hysterical whirlwind of hair and sweat that usually clutches to the back of your mind after seeing them live, a cursory listen to Sudden Fictions
will leave you hanging on the cobwebs at times, while slapping you awake in unpredictable intervals.
"You Make a Mark Like a Calf Branding", pretty straightforward title all things considered, opens the album in the worst way possible, with Taigen mumbling a spawn of spoken word while the rest of the band sound checks bashfully. 30 seconds before the song ends, Taigen switches to a beautiful vocal melody and the song transforms into a gorgeous butterfly but alas, it's smashed down swiftly because the proper opener, "Aka", is about to start. This second is promising. Blending shoegaze with psychedelia and a sick beat led by Taigen’s bass pulse, the band's fourth release seems to gain momentum, but next song, "Silenced" makes good use of its title and kills it with a somnolent post punk build-up that, albeit rich in melody thanks to Matsuda and Tsuji's multilayered guitar work, it never manages to take off, and hence Sudden Fictions
goes back to prone and resumes its crawling way out.
And this is the dynamic that flows throughout the album. Gaining momentum, killing momentum, rubbing guitars against the amp, sodomizing effect pedals, and Taigen in the front lines doing his thing. He sounds more inspired in songs like "Kyutai" and "B.C", where he shows how much his melodic singing has improved, while showing off some impossibly tight bass lines in tow with Monna's often creative drumming in songs like "Zankoku". Also, worth mentioning is the inclusion of a featuring courtesy of Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie in middle disco jam "Minimal", even if it feels extremely disjointed and pretty much irrelevant.
is a remarkable effort for Bo Ningen. It’s a deviation from the psychedelic stoner of legends Acid Mother Temple or the soft psychedelia of brother band Kikagaku Moyo, in a quest to find their own sound. With this affair, they have sacrificed a great amount of the energy that fueled the band's humble beginnings, in exchange for exuberantly textured songs and impervious experimentation, like they show in deep cuts like "Kazurenai", or closing venture, “Riff”. Still, I’m sure the material in Sudden Fictions
will translate wonderfully into their hypnotic live shows, balancing the unhinged fury of the band's sound in the Koroshitai Kimochi
era with this new softer, deeper and more focused approach. If anything, Bo Ningen keeps branching out showing the same fearless attitude that made them one of the most impressive live acts of the last decade. It’s only a matter of time that fuse reaches the studio, and then the magic will happen.