Almost inevitably Taffy’s Japanese roots mean that they are instantly compared to Shonen Knife, but Taffy are not quite treading the same path. Lixiviate does not contain J-Pop, as might be expected, but revealing instead something else entirely.
There is a distinctive British flavour to their finely executed indie pop. Despite current opinion to the contrary, bands like Sleeper, Echobelly and Kenickie really did have some exceptional songs and it’s those bands in particular that Taffy have taken their lead from. With so many of Taffy’s influences apparently consigned to landfill, they’ve managed to pick through the scraps and find some real gems.
Sweet Violet opens with a bass rumble and a raucous burst of shimmering guitar fuzz. Iris’ cute vocal delivery is nearly swamped in the deluge but somehow she floats to the top and stays above it all. It’s a bold opening statement which ably shows off Taffy’s pop credentials and their apparent obsession with almost every aspect of early ’90s UK indie. With Iris as the focal point, the comparisons with female fronted indie acts are apposite, but the hazy, soft focus guitars suggest that the band clearly has the odd Ride and Slowdive album in their collection.
The shoegaze influence crops up throughout the album, but it is most effective on their cover of The Cure’s Boys Don’t Cry. Recognisable only by the vocal melody and lyrics, Taffy’s reworking is quite stunning. Totally reworked, it’s a slow burn of emotion that, in this form, is not so much a cover but an entirely new song. Iris’ vocals still possess that cute quality, but she manages to sound haunted and damaged as the band create a constant ebb and flow for her to inhabit. Once again, there are nods to the ’90s UK indie scene, this time the band tackling the sonic nuances of Chapterhouse and making them their own.
It’s not all shoegazing of course; there are moments of pure pop too. Snowberry, for example, could happily have found itself on Kenickie’s In The Club with its jaunty ramshackle guitar lines and tight vocal harmonising. Dawn Red meanwhile embraces that same band’s more punk moments and finds time to throw in a little grab from Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. The summery jangle of Train and Stewert And A Yellow Bicycle taps into the band’s more twee aspirations and winds up sounding not unlike the much missed Heavenly, while Maple Art finds the band in spikier territory as they power through some strangely woozy punk that sounds like it’s barely been rehearsed and was immediately recorded in a dilapidated garage. No Endings But Only The Beginnings wraps the album up in suitably noisy fashion as the band throw everything into the pot at once, with stabbing punk riffs, fuzzed guitars, barely conscious solos and yet another butter-wouldn’t-melt vocal.
If all this is sounding like a mass of too many appalling influences, don’t be deceived. Somehow Taffy has managed to make an album that is pretty good fun and, at times, packs a considerable emotional punch. Quite how they’ve done this with the raw materials they’ve chosen to deal in is almost beyond comprehension, and yet somehow, from the bones of the most brittle Britpop bands (although Kenickie was always brilliant), they have fashioned something that is considerably more than the sum of its parts.