This review first appeared in Japanese on Goblin.mu
No one could accuse Tokyo alternative/postpunk band Bossston Cruizing Mania of being wastefully prolific. “Loaded, Lowdead, Rawdead” emerges more than seven years after their third album, 2004’s “Comic/Saisei/Cynicism”, and coming up to twenty years since the band formed in the 1990s. Nevertheless, as lynchpins of the Tokyo underground live music scene they have been a constant fixture, so whatever you do, don’t call it a comeback.
Bossston Cruizing Mania share something in common with jazz/progressive/hip hop/alternative duo Uhnellys, with Esuhiro Kashima’s lyrics forming rambling narratives that snake in and out of the music. However, while Uhnellys’ Kim prefers the snappy, cinematic cut, cut, cut of a Martin Scorsese movie, the stories Kashima tells are more abstract and discursive, taking in topics as diverse as YouTube, socialism and Super Mario Brothers and employing a looser delivery, like a Japanese version of Mark E. Smith.
There are also similarities with Shutoku Mukai’s early Zazen Boys-era spoken word rants, although given that Bossston Cruizing Mania pre-date both Zazen Boys and Number Girl, it’s likely that any influence that there might be flowed from Kashima to Mukai rather than the other way round. In fact, rather than Mukai, it’s another late-90s Fukuoka scene figure, Panicsmile’s Hajime Yoshida, who exerts a more direct influence on “Loaded, Lowdead, Rawdead”.
Yoshida produced the album, and it was his band’s arrival in Tokyo that together with Bossston Cruizing Mania formed the core af a particular corner of the Tokyo music scene that emerged in the late 1990s and influenced a generation of bands, mostly centred around Akihabara Club Goodman (where first Yoshida and now Kashima have driven the booking policy) and latterly around Disk Union’s Take A Shower Records. Without Bossston Cruizing Mania and Panicsmile, bands like Tacobonds (also produced by Yoshida), The Mornings and more would probably not exist in their present form.
This is music that combines the sonic sensibility of British postpunk, U.S. no wave and 90s alternative rock with a mindset that forms part of a distinct Japanese rock lineage going back through 80s weirdos like Aburadako to the disenchanted post-hippy 1970s underground scene that eventually melded with the nascent punk scene. There are parallels with Pere Ubu, particularly in the first half of the album, for example the repetitive minimalism of “Low Down”, there are echoes of the postpunk dub of Jah Wobble and Public Image Limited on “Who is Next” and “Citibank”, as well as the brutal, uncompromising funk-punk of The Pop Group as on “Go On to Be Child”.
Nevertheless, these are sounds that are so worn into the Tokyo alternative scene that they have become part of the fabric of the city; at least partially divorced from 70s Cleveland, London or Bristol, but rather than a fashion-conscious affectation, they have found a new home tattooed into the concrete of venues along Tokyo’s Chuo Line and beyond, buzzing with urban frustration, alienation and paranoia.
The jerky skittishness and sparse production are powerfully discomfiting but also relentless, which makes it a difficult album to swallow in one gulp. Contemporaries like Panicsmile would often find ways to break up the harshness of their more experimental and raw moments with, admittedly self-mocking and deconstructive, approximations of the occasional pop song, while the 25-to-30-minute mini-album is becoming the delivery medium of choice for many current underground bands.
Who is Next
Especially given the long gap since “Loaded, Lowdead, Rawdead”‘s predecessor, one wonders if Bossston Cruizing mania might be better off releasing their material more frequently in more easily digestible chunks. On the other hand, and perhaps decisively, it’s difficult not to respect the band’s uncompromising commitment to the ideal, and with the carnivalesque “It’s 4AM in Lynch” they even indulge the listener by rounding the album off with something that sounds almost happy.