Japan always seems to throw up some interesting musical acts. The ones that always seem to make an impression, in The West at least, are usually those that head down a route that explores music as art.
Boredoms are a world renowned act having come some distance since gigs involving dog carcasses. Melt Banana‘s beserk take on metal and punk has found its way into our hearts, while Merzbow‘s entirely unique take on musical experimentalism has won him fans the world over.
The Japanese have a way of taking Western ideas of music and adapting them into something startling. When we finally hear bands like such as Mad Capsule Markets or Diren Gray genres such as metal or goth have been totally reinterpreted to make something that is utterly new.
Something you rarely see finding its feet (in the UK at least) is straightforward Japanese pop music. When it does get noticed it tends to be quirky girl bands who are lucky enough to have celebrity endorsements. The 5,6,7,8′s made a little impact after the patronage of Tarantino, while Shonen Knife enjoyed considerable coverage after Kurt Cobain mentioned his admiration for them.
Where does this leave Bo-Peep then? A Japanese all girl 3 piece without celebrity backing seems unlikely to make much of an impression. However Is It Good For You?!!? is pretty good for me. There’s no reinterpretation or reinvention of musical genres, Bo-Peep keep it pretty simple and it suits them. Ignoring the vocals for a minute, what we have hear is an album that would nestle quite happily in the punk ranks.
Forget the 1977 sound, this is far more influenced by the cleaner sounds of latter day Ramones and more up to date Swedish punk pop. There are definite nods towards grunge and metal too, but Bo-Peep are at their best when they play things simple, three chords and a great melody is all they need.
Vocally things are something more of a challenge. High pitched and frequently at odds with the music it takes a while for their vocal style to sink in. At it’s best (Crazy Bomb) there are elements of Melt Banana, and Bikini Kill’s more aggressive attacks. At it’s worse it’s a little bit like a dentist drill being jammed into your ear canal.
With the exception of the mind shatteringly dull Coffee (a painful ballad) Is It Good For You?!!? !! is a fairly enjoyable romp through some fairly familiar territory. There’s nothing new here, but it’s certainly worth a look.