Review Summary: Just the good noise. Fuck your stereo.
Noise is loud and you can feel it. It is not distortion and it is not feedback. It is noise. O’Summer Vacation are noisy. They’re an off-kilter punk trio from Kobe; they are awesome and they play noise rock. It is loud. In a similar fashion to arch-influence Melt-Banana, they make music so raw, raucous and savagely joyful that you could hardly call it anything else; as similarities go, you could hardly ask for anything more opportune. However, unlike Melt-Banana’s inimitable overdrive warpings and unconventional guitar layerings, O’Summer Vacation keep their arrangements brutally simplistic, rolling with bone-dry tones, minimal overdubs and no clutter. Clutter in this case means a number of things, one of them being guitars: the band revolve around a Ruins-esque bass-and-drum partnership, topped off by vocalist Ami, who spits and howls enough milligrams of adrenaline out of her guts to defibrillate the most mangled of recent roadkill.
It’s a lot, and I occasionally wonder whether she’s the sanest of the bunch. With such a spartan arrangement and mix, each member has ample space to make their presence felt, and thanks to their obvious chemistry, the band’s instrumental pair seem to egg each other on to new levels of batshit. At points this comes off with a wire focus, as per the groove that carries “DxOxN/Eight”’s splintering backend jam; other times it’s a rare brand of frenetic chaos, as per "HOMMAGE"'s dance-punk vortex of broken melodies and incomprehensible scattish hooks. The latter track in particular spotlights bassist Mikiiiiii, perhaps the most colourful member of the trio. The man lays down anything from hyperspeed fingertapped thrills (“pandemic?”) to punkish hard-picked carnage ("black heat"), and his style is as electrifying as it is dizzying. In light of this, Ami’s vocal performance is perhaps more shrewdly gauged than her hectic delivery would suggest; songs like “HOMMAGE” see her holding down the band's rhythmic and, fleetingly, melodic hooks rather than knocking things any further off-whack. She cedes the spotlight to her bandmates enough to preserve her novelty, but she generally does a great job of rendering a potentially challenging set of mathish freak-outs approachable and, dare I say, catchy?
The same can’t be quite said for the album’s overall pacing. It seems thoroughly catered to replicating the intensity and feel of a live performance; although this suits the band down to the ground aesthetically, their willingness to change tack at the drop of a hat tends towards a energy-first songwriting approach and masks a myriad solid ideas that, perhaps, hold more ground than they're given given credit for. It's hard to criticise music like this for being too much, too fast, but I feel their barrage of infectious grooves and melodic door-slammers have enough going for them to warrant a little more of their own space. The album's more developed tracks "after all", "HOMMAGE" and "DxOxN/eight" would vindicate this, each one easily strong enough to hold its own ground amidst such breakneck pacing; impressive and entertaining as the rest of the album is, I think the band could benefit from exploring this approach further.
As it is, Wicked Heart
feels less like an "album" album and more like a moving, shaking, grinning invitation to O'Summer Vacation's live show. With its deployment of eleven tracks in about as many manic minutes, the band hardly overstay their welcome or leave themselves pause for breath, but having proved their strengths so adroitly it will be interesting to see how they translate this experience into a satisfying encore. Goodness knows I'll see you there.