Monday, July 23, 2007

boom boom beat Single Mini-Review

Another day, another PUFFY single. After 11 years, they're still churning these things out like they're running an assembly line. I have never reviewed a single before, but this is as good a place as any to start. It'll be short and sweet this time.

Here's the single's track listing:

1. boom boom beat (music: Anders Hellgren & David Myhr / lyrics: PUFFY)
2. Ohedo Nagareboshi IV (music: Anders Hellgren & David Myhr / lyrics: Pierre Taki)
3. Kimi ga Suki (music: Linus of Hollywood / lyrics: Yumi Yoshimura)

The first two tracks are both considered "A" sides. Track 1 is a hard rock track currently appearing in a TV commercial for "Mode", while track 2 leans towards ska and is serving as the theme to the Japanese anime "Ohedo Rocket" - at least the third anime theme song they've done. Track 3 is more straight-ahead rock, though Yumi sings it in her softer girlie-girl voice.

The big question is obviously just how good these new songs are, and how well they compare to their past work - especially given that the composers are a bit new to them. To me, they all sound just a bit "off" in some way, though that's not to say they're bad. They're just... different... but not in a way that's completely unfamiliar.

In fact, I'd almost say this is PUFFY trying a little too hard to sound like PUFFY. Anyone who's heard Splurge knows that it was a little darker than most of their stuff, and a little less "youthful" sounding overall. They'd been moving in that direction for a while, and it felt genuine - like that was just where they are at this stage of their lives. This single, at least, swings the pendulum back. All three songs sound as if they were purposely crafted to fulfill their fans' expectations - they're a little too calculated, and not quite organic. They're also quite upbeat and young sounding. That's not necessarily negative, depending on what you're looking for. Some of their fans do eat this kind of stuff up.

In fact, "boom boom beat" itself, at least, may be ironic - unfortunately I can only understand the English lyrics. But it may be intentional self parody - the last line is "you all want to see us act happily... not reality." Could the entire song be commenting on exactly what I described in the previous paragraph? (By the way, girls, I want to see reality.)

PUFFY have had two main producers and songwriters throughout their career: Tamio Okuda and Andy Sturmer. Each sounded different from the other, but both felt entirely authentic when channeled through Ami and Yumi. (Similarly, most of the guest songwriters on Splurge made that album a successful experiment in branching out.) Anders Hellgren, David Myhr and Linus of Hollywood haven't quite gotten there - it feels like they've written songs in the third person here.

All three songs have grown on me a bit, though, and they all have the little nuances that most great PUFFY songs have and that you only hear with repeated listenings. "boom boom beat" is harder than it sounds initially, and with a darker bridge; "Ohedo Nagareboshi IV" is more melodic and fun. "Kimi ga Suki" does have at least a little bit of that "retro" sound that's probably my favorite thing they do. It's probably worth pointing out that Ami and Yumi are writing more of their own lyrics now, and Ami claims in her blog that the "boom boom beat" lyrics were "11 years in the making". So as I mentioned earlier, there may be something more to the song lyrically than most westerners can appreciate.

One bit of coolness is that former Lolita No. 18 guitarist Enazo is now playing with them again - not sure if she's now their full-time guitarist, but she just recently appeared with PUFFY on NHK's "Music Japan" to play "boom boom beat".

Here's the video for the song if you're interested - I posted it before, but I'll put it here for completeness' sake. It still doesn't really do much for me, honestly - though it does harken back a bit to the old days, when their videos were very low budget and often consisted of the two of them jumping around a room like this. And they're back to matching outfits, which is another convention they'd sort of gotten away from recently. I gotta confess I might be starting to think they're getting a little too old for this sort of look and feel... though I'm pretty confident they'll surprise me with the new album. They always do. And if this song truly is self deprecating irony, then more power to them.

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