Japan’s nearly reached spazz-rock critical peak. Though not making much of a dent on the mainstream charts, plenty of indie-leaning groups who have a MySpace account and a good shouting voice have popped up to share their brand of all-together-now rock with the world. It’s a weird mix of Los Campesinos! tweeness and the sort of guitar rock that always seems to be in favor in England…like, Cajun Dance Party or The Fratellis I guess?…and the pages of Snoozer magazine. Groups likes The Chef Cooks Me, Your Gold, My Pink and Highered-Girl among others dabble in this fidgety sound, and now Kansai-based project NOKIES! can join the ever growing list. If the all-caps and exclamation point didn’t tip you off, NOKIES! like to play fast and scream together…something a growing number of Japanese bands want to do.
NOKIES!, though, find themselves in a much smaller category though – groups who can actually pull it off. Sometimes all the fast-talking vocals and random yelps feel forced, wedged into otherwise uneventful songs to give them some sort of personality, the sonic equivalent of putting a lampshade on your head at a party. NOKIES! manage to be charming musical drunks, however, sounding most comfortable when they fidget furiously ahead. A slower song like “Our Way Home” (also presented in a cleaned up version here called “With All Light”) features flashes of hectic brilliance…the rising shouts in the chorus…but the whole “Chariots Of Fire” piano build-up doesn’t suit the group very well despite late song freak outs. “Who Cares” breezes by in just under two minutes and forty seconds, the whole thing a little bit more hurried that “Our Way Home” but still subdued for a band upping caps lock like that. Still, it finds NOKIES! getting sweet, even nabbing a guitar line that would feel at home on a Magnetic Field’s album.
When they let go and dance uncomfortably in the middle of the room…that’s when they get really good. “We Are News In The Dance Floor” sprints from the very start, the song increasing the pace ever so slightly and adding more group chants at just the right times. The vocals are delivered in a semi-sang ramble that match up well with the cheese-wheel-down-a-hill speed of the guitars. It’s a relentlessly catchy tune that owes a debt to Los Campesinos!…peep the guitar solo…but doesn’t feel like a tracing. NOKIES! also do a great job here highlighting why some bands slip up when trying this sound out – they never sound this happy, something you can’t really fake just by being cute with your lyrics. “We Are News” stands alongside Your Gold, My Pink’s “Adolescence” as a track that not only announces a band really starting to get a hold of who they are, but also as a highpoint in a style so many young Japanese bands try to imitate.