Buddy Girl and Mechanic were a band who, off the back of a smart little demo CD and a couple of live performances, I tipped as ones to watch in 2012. Now my recommendations can sometimes be more of a curse than a blessing, so it’s something of a relief that the guitar and synth-based quartet has survived long enough to present us with this self-titled debut album.
There’s something in the breathy, downtempo melodicism that’s a little reminiscent of Mazzy Star, although it’s really more like a Mazzy Star that’s having slow three-way sex with krautrock and psychedelic desert blues on a hot summer night, while the cracked neon sign flickers through the window of a cheap New Mexico motel room. Buddy Girl and Mechanic are sultry, sexy and hot, yet at the same time there’s something quite rigid, theoretical and European about how their music falls together. Fenix has a bit of Ege Bamyasi-era Can to it’s funky rattle and Satan’s Son recalls the laid-back confluence of blues and spacerock of early Spiritualized, while Ultra Witch Crafty Fab autobahns ahead ahead like a sexy Neu!
Yeah, I know I’m using the word “sexy” a lot in this review, but it’s a key word: there’s even a song on here called Sexy. And partly because of so much of the language of indie having been defined by socially awkward British 1980s outcasts and partly because of Japanese rock having its roots more in the theoretical and technical nature of jazz rather than the more primal forces at work in blues and R&B, the Japanese alternative scene has never really felt very comfortable with sex and never really been very good at articulating sexiness. As a result, Buddy Girl and Mechanic often seem like something being beamed in from another world rather than just a bunch of people performing on a stage a couple of feet away, and yet somehow it still works, which has a lot to do with the aforementioned krautrock influences, the mechanical and the sensual tussling for dominance in the songs, linked and made coherent by the languid psychedelia that overlays it all.
And yes, it’s very good. It’s atmospheric, the melodies are often spine-tingling, the arrangements are inventive, and most importantly, it sounds like nothing else in the Japanese indie and underground scene right now.