Top 20 Releases of 2014: No.16 – Crunch – Futoshita Nichijyo no Koto

Crunch are sometimes pitched in the Japanese media in terms of new wave and postpunk, which to someone unfamiliar with the loose way terms like those are bandied about by journalists in Japan might seem like a bit of an overstatement. What that misses is the extent to which J-pop in its 90s incarnation was indeed born out of new wave, with the influence of Elvis Costello on Mr. Children, the synthpop roots of Tetsuya Komuro and TM Network, the formative years with the Plastics of Glay/Judy And Mary producer Masahide Sakuma, and Judy And Mary themselves’ own punk roots. Shibuya-kei had its own roots in postpunk labels like Postcard and Él Records, and even the decidedly homegrown Ringo Shiina had roots in the Fukuoka punk scene with bands like Number Girl and Panicsmile, whose current drummer Geru Matsuishi produced this album.

Crunch are undoubtedly a J-pop band, but they’re a J-pop band from a parallel world where it retained its curiosity and still produced bands with ideas instead of them all having been squeezed out of existence by idol franchises. Instead of frantically casting about, trying on the clothes of every subculture or fad it can find in hope of finding a temporary host demographic from which to feed, Futoshita Nichijyo no Koto is pop music of what feels more and more like a vanishingly old-fashioned type. Crunch are obviously thoughtful and voracious listeners, with small-c-catholic musical tastes and a sensitivity and sense of craftsmanship to their songwriting that doesn’t reveal itself all on the first listen but rather unfolds gradually over time. This isn’t complex music of staggering technical virtuosity: rather it is music of careful consideration and quiet imagination.Awakening (live at Shinjuku Marz)

Awakening perhaps best exemplifies the combination of melodic immediacy and an offbeat approach that trips you up and sends you back for repeat listenings just to work out what they actually did there. With vocals that leap scales over a simple, descending chord sequence it seems straightforward enough, but in the breaks the rhythm begins to increasingly to drop in extra beats, interrupting the looping chord cycle just enough to make you think there’s something odd going on. In 2014 Crunch also released the short Simple Mind EP, suggesting that there is more to come from the trio, and when it arrived, hopefully the pop world still has a little place for them.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Albums, Reviews

2 responses to “Top 20 Releases of 2014: No.16 – Crunch – Futoshita Nichijyo no Koto

  1. “This isn’t complex music of staggering technical virtuosity: rather it is music of careful consideration and quiet imagination.”

    The vocals and the songwriting immediately remind me of Merpeoples, perhaps with a more straightforward songwriting and less noodling around. They aren’t moving mountains but they are doing something really great which is taking a simple formula and not making it suck, a surprisingly difficult thing to do sometimes. It disappoints me when a band like this is under appreciated and doesn’t end up lasting too long in the scene. There’s always a nice spot in my heart for music like this though, so I hope more band’s keep it coming. It’s really…spacey too, or rather its devoid of a lot of gimmicks and unwanted fanfare that major label recordings come packed with which usually gives me the impression of “emptiness” or “it’s missing something” though I don’t think I mean that in a negative way at all.

    “Awakening” evoked a distinctly J-pop mood when I listened to the live clip. It certainly felt akin to some of the stuff that came out when I first started listening to Japanese music.

    • Merpeoples were a band I thought of too in relation to this, although Merpeoples are more consciously girly and market themselves more obviously on that, while Crunch seem to be a bit more restrained in that regard. Miu Mau are another group I thought of. All three bands use some measure of new wave to make pop music that is distinctively their own.

      And yeah, I know exactly what you mean about the emptiness and sense of something missing in music that seems more busy. Although I probably do mean it in a bit of a negative way (I could never quite get into Akai Koen for this reason).

      Hopefully in Crunch’s case they’re not underappreciated so much as just new on the scene. Journalists like them, and fans might catch up!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s