Really interesting, clever little CD from Nagoya/Mie-based band Pop Office here. They got a lot of exposure in the Japanese indie scene this summer thanks to their appearance on the Style Band Tokyo compilation album (alongside CAR favourites Hyacca, Kyoto’s chillwave flag-carriers Hotel Mexico, and UK-based bands Bo Ningen and Comanechi) and for a few writers their closing number, “A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness”, was the album’s highlight.
This mini-album fills out some of the uncertainties left by that lone offering in a rather charming way. From the get-go, Ryuhei Shimada’s voice comes at you from some bleak, rainy place that might be somewhere in Aichi prefecture but to you or I is simply a place called Robert Smith. “Pale Blue Wine” is probably the closest to a straight-up 80s guitar pop pastiche that Pop Office does, with the synths set to “sweeping” and the guitar set to “jangle”, while “I Want More” (not, sadly, a Can cover) takes an indie-dance bass groove, sticks in some nu-rave synth squeals and squiggles, and Shimada lets his vocals drop into the sub-Smiths register labelled “Bauhaus” on most dials.
Pop Office: Here
There are plenty of bands around Japan that do this sort of neo-80s thing, with the likes of Lillies and Remains and Plasticzooms (both also featured on the Style Band compilation) leading purveyors of the sound; however, Pop Office throw in just enough quirks to prevent it coming over as mere pastiche — that is to say, it certainly is pastiche, but not only that. The drum ratatat-tat that underpins opening track “300 Castles” gives it a sprightliness that the band never really let go of, chucking in unusual yet strangely apposite ideas often at just the right moment. Autotune on the Joy Division-esque “Lover’s War”? Not cool, but why the fuck not? Let’s do it anyway. The way that juddering hedge trimmer guitar rubs up against those Psychedelic Furs synths on closing track “Here”, and just an overall sense that every sound on the CD has been chosen simply because it’s right, rather than to satisfy any hipsterish notion of how this kind of music should sound.