Despite containing a trio of different bands, his three-way split album on 51 Records maintains a fairly consistent tone throughout by the careful selection of the participants (all of whom also appeared on 2011’s Style Band Tokyo Vol.1 compilation) and the clean but never overbearing production. Lillies & Remains are the most established and well-known and they kick off with four tight, efficient pieces of 80s-influenced postpunk/indie rock, with obvious similarities to the likes of Interpol and Bloc Party, a sound which in somewhere like London you might say is overplayed but which they are leading purveyors of in Japan, and which they have honed down to a fine art on this record.
Nagoya’s Sekaitekina Band take the middle position and make perhaps the most striking contribution. Earlier the same year they had released a rough and ready, Gang of Four-influenced album on Knew Noise Recordings but Underrated shows a remarkable amount of development in such a short time. New (New ver.) starts out like Human Cannonball by The Butthole Surfers before resolving itself into a krautrock mantra a la its near namesake Neu! while Liminal and Flying Saucer present a more stripped down take on Lillies & Remains’ postpunk-influenced indie rock built around repetition and taut rhythms, and the more deliberately paced Discord does pretty much what it says on the tin.
The last band are Purple, another relative newcomer, and perhaps the one with the sound least immediate and most reliant on texture and atmosphere. With vocals buried in cathedrals of gothic distortion they are the band that best rewards repeat listens from the Chameleons-like With Mary through the Bauhaus goth-grind of Voices and the schaffel beat vampire nightmare of Fly to the final, seven-minute space-out of Untitled.
It’s easy to dismiss the material on Underrated as pretty-boy indie for little girls and it could be debated what the export value of music like this is when some of it so closely resembles the sounds of relatively recent British and American bands, but perhaps due to the more persistently underground nature and low media profile of indie music in Japan, you get a sense from this compilation that the bands here have had to dig a little deeper to find their sound and are doing rather more than responding to easy commercial trends.