Boyish: The Hidden Secrets EP

It’s a constant source of wonder to me the way so many Japanese indiepop bands seem to spend hours ensuring the reverb on their guitars is just so in order to create the scientifically optimum level of Cure/Smiths/Close Lobsters style jangle and then when it comes to recording and mixing the vocals, they suddenly discover that of all the bands they could be mimicking, Sonic Flower Groove-era Primal Scream (the second-worst period of this utterly horrible band, and largely because of the shuddering craptitude of the worst vocalist in British indie history, Bobby Gillespie) is the pinnacle of their aspiration.

I dig Boyish and there is a lot to love about them on this new EP. On title track The Hidden Secrets, they fashion a neat energy rush out of the little pause between each loop of the main guitar riff and on Quarrel, the xylophone that dances over the top of the guitars seems to be saying, “Want some jangle on top of your jangle? You got it!” while the repetitive chorus burns itself into your ears and the abrupt halt that closes the song is an enjoyably snotty way to end. Closing number, Crazy For You is the weakest of the collection, and it’s no coincidence that it’s the once that sees Boyish aping Primal Scream the most, with the vocals smeared blandly across the otherwise solid track, nailed down to no clear melody and expressing no particular character or personality.

I realise that this, more than many other things, is a matter of taste (I really do dislike Primal Scream a lot, and Bobby Gillespie in particular I can’t stand), and there is a certain sort of person who finds this sort of emotionally drained vocal style the peak of washed-out beauty. I also don’t want this to seem like I’m gunning after Boyish in particular, since they’re a band I very much like. It’s a general point about the mixing of vocals in Japanese indie records that I’ve touched on before when discussing Nagoya’s The Moments and which some people have mentioned as a criticism of Friends/Teen Runnings (I don’t strictly agree as far as Teen Runnings are concerned, since their music has a more abrasive, punk edge, but it was enough that they themselves decided to remix their album and clean up the vocals) but it really does seem to me that these bands are all missing a trick by neglecting the musical opportunities offered by such an important instrument as the vocals.

(More on this over at Make Believe Melodies)

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2 Comments

Filed under Albums, Reviews

2 responses to “Boyish: The Hidden Secrets EP

  1. I partly agree with you about PM and BG. I think Screamadelica is boring and everything tthey’ve done since leaves me feeling cold. But the two singles Loaded and Come Together (not the shit album version) are bothsurely uundeniable classics of that era! And as far as vocalists go.. BG?… What about SR, IB, TB, MES?!! And indeed BGs old band JMC? Badvocals I always thought were part and parcel of the whole c86, baggy, Manchester, shoegaze scene! Anyway

    I’ve heard boyish before and can’t wait to hear this! Sorry for my little rant! Your blog is great! Martin 🙂

    • Hi there, thanks for the comment. My problem with Bobby Gillespie’s vocals isn’t that they’re not technically great so much as that they’re dreary. Ian Brown’s vocals have attitude, Mark E Smith and Shaun Ryder have bagloads of character in their vocals, they all sound at least as if they’re putting something into it. The main thing though is that it’s a clichĂ© among Japanese indiepop bands to do these washed out, disaffected vocals and I wish more of them would put a bit of feeling into it. Andrew Burnett, Dave Gedge, Paul Marsh, Robert Smith, Morrissey, I’d like to see a bit more of that about the place (although perhaps not so much Morrissey now I think about it). To be honest, my beef with Bobby Gillespie goes a bit deeper than that in that he just strikes me as a bully and an all round nasty bit of work. Anyway, you’re of course totally right that being a “good singer” isn’t the be all and end all of vocals.

      Boyish had a full album out last year that I haven’t had a chance to hear, but from what I’ve heard of it, it’s a solid record. Their label, Dead Funny Records, are definitely ones to watch at the moment as well. Lots of interesting indie stuff coming out of that stable these days.

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