A few years ago Asian Man Records released two records by a young all-female trio from Chiba, Japan called Softball. Both discs were quite entertaining, heavy on both melody and attitude -- almost like Shonen Knife after a few triple expressos. Not long after their LP Tenku hit Western shores, however, Softball split up. Fortunately, frontwoman Moe Suzuki still had plenty of music left in her, and a lot of things to say in that same music.
Their first Western release, Kasimisou, is a 13-track affair with primarily political lyrics. Contrary to some message board bullshit that one or two lone crusaders have attempted to propagate, the band's lyrics (written by Ms. Suzuki in both English and Japanese) are not nationalistic or anti-American (Asian Man owner Mike Park has been more than willing to debunk such rumors to anyone who asks him directly). Lyrically, Akiakane touch on such subjects as American imperialism ("Uncle Sam"), the plight of the Native American ("Tepee"), and mass media ("Fuckin' Media"). But Suzuki also encourages listeners to make the most of their lives in "Hanamichi," then puts herself in the shoes (combat boots?) of a warplane pilot in "Kaze to Tomoni" and gives a 21st century young adult's view of World War II history in "1945." These last two songs were apparently inspired by Ms. Suzuki's encounter with one Takeshi Maeda, a former WWII Japanese Navy pilot who became a peace advocate after the end of that war.
Some of the songs retain their original Japanese lyrics and vocals (a version of this same album released in Japan is sung completely in their native tongue) and thus, their messages will unfortunately be lost to non-bilingual Western ears. What won't be lost to Western listeners however, is the music itself. The aggressive quotient of Ms. Suzuki's songwriting has been upped several degrees, but so has the melodic content.
If there is any true drawback to Kasumisoou, it is only that in places, Moe Suzuki's vocal delivery on the English-language tracks may come off frantic or not easy to catch on first listen. Her English lyrics, apparently self-translated, tend to read awkward (a by-product of having to fit a translated lyric into a melody initially composed to go with a Japanese-language lyric), however the points she makes in those lyrics still come across fairly well.
If all of that wasn't enough, there's also a hidden 13th track, a slightly faster cover version of the Sex Pistols' "EMI." While it's certainly an original choice of Sex Pistols song to cover rather than the obvious ones ("Anarchy in the UK," "God Save the Queen," etc.), it's also a song more personal to the Pistols given the situation that inspired it. It's likely though that Ms. Suzuki may be using this cover to either criticize the major record labels, mock the band's detactors given both the band's political lyrics and Ms. Suzuki's history with Softball, or both. Or maybe just the band liked the song enough to record their cover version for themselves only to decide it was good enough to stick on the album as a bonus track. Either reason is fine with me.
Both lyrically and musically, Akiakane seem to have learned well from their collective role models, the Clash and Dead Kennedys. With the former influence now a certified legend, and the latter influence now a shameless profits-before-punk oldies band, it's seemingly up to the ladies of Akiakane to carry the torch. From the sound and general cohesiveness of Kasumisou, it looks like Akiakane has a damn strong grip on that torch and won't be dropping it any time soon.
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