Asian Kung Fu Generation - Kunkei Faibumu
The more I get into the Japanese music scene, the more I find to listen to. If there is a style of music in the world, you can be sure someone in Japan is playing it. Particularly vibrant among Japanese youth is the indie-rock scene, which has seen much crossover success with Western artists such as the Pogues, the Pillows, and the Brilliant Green. Lesser known, perhaps, but no less talented is Asian Kung Fu Generation. Though they only have one full album out so far, their talent in the genre is unquestionable.
Kunkei Faibumu starts off with "Furasshubakku" (Flashback), a fast paced, bass-heavy song that borders on punk. The second track, "Kunkei Faibumu," is heavy with the bass guitar, especially during the chorus. Like "Furasshubakku," "Kunkei Faibumi" is a high energy song. However, the band's vocal talent is much more obvious in this second track. "Denpatou" really starts off the really sharp music. Like the first two tracks, the guitar and bass are solid and catchy, but the vocals truly stand out on this track.
After a lot of energy, the CD comes down a bit with "Understand," which isn't slow, just not as loud as the tracks before it. Like "Denpatou," guitar work takes a backseat to the great vocals/lyrics on this track. In "Understand," the bits of music come together really well into a standout track. "Natsu no hi, Zanzou" (Fading Vision of the Summer Sun) is another strong track with a great guitar hook throughout. "Mugen Glider," the CD's sixth track, is different from the rest of the CD; for the most part the bass guitar is relegated to the background in favor of rolling drums and a simplistic hook. It's not a bad song, overall, but it is the weakest track on the CD.
"Sono Wake O" brings back the heavier guitar intermittently, and the vocals are better, to its benefit, but for the most part follow the lead of "Mugen Glider." Track eight, "N.G.S." is another standout track, however, with a simple but catchy hook and much heavier emphasis on the bass. For some reason, "Jihei Tansaku" didn't strike me as favorably, however; nothing is wrong with it, indeed, the bass guitar is great, but the song simply didn't reach out and grab me like "Denpatou" or "N.G.S." Track ten, "E," feels less heavy than previous tracks, but the chorus flows very well. Following that, however, is "Kimi to iu Hana," is one of the best tracks on the CD (indeed it was released as a single). For anyone interested in Japanese indie-rock, it is required listening. The CD's final track, "No Name," unfortunately recalls more "Mugen Glider" than anything else. Again, it's not a bad song, but is a much calmer ending than the first couple of tracks would have one expect.
Though there are some great tracks on Kunkei Faibumu, there are a few problems with it. One is that not all the band's good tracks are on the CD to experience, something like "Rocket No. 4;" you'll have to dig up the "Kimi to iu Hana" single. Indeed, the band is standing now on three singles and 2 mini albums, all of which have some good tracks. More problematic is the music itself. While Western indie-rock bands are evolving or dying (Flogging Molly, for example, which combines traditional Irish instruments with indie rock) Asian Kung Fu Generation doesn't add anything really new to the mix. It's good indie rock, but it's not much more than that.
That said, fans of the Brilliant Green (especially their older work) will find a lot to like about Asian Kung Fu Generation on Kunkei Faibumu. Those not yet into the Japanese indie-rock scene will find the band a bit behind the curve, resembling more Matthew Sweet, The Flaming Lips, or Blur in their heydays, but talented at what they do. With only one full album under their belt and a new single which should be out by the time you read this, Asian Kung Fu Generation has plenty of potential to be a major musical force in Japanese indie rock.