In Jon Fine’s excellent Your Band Sucks, there is a section in which he discusses the joys of re-forming a much-loved older band and the limits to which such reunions can be pushed. Speaking to Aiha Higurashi in the summer, it was clear that she was herself wary about making too grand plans for the new Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her. However, the band’s current form – with bassist Kentaro Nakao (Crypt City, ex-Number Girl) producing and partly managing band logistics, leaving Higurashi free to drive the band’s agenda from the front – has an air of logical progression from Higurashi’s work with Nakao over the past decade or so that regardless of what name she chooses to call the band and the specific people involved, it’s easy to see it continuing in some form or other.
The name does mean something though, carrying with it a certain weight not only of nostalgia but also of a certain disarming rawness and authenticity that made the band stand out as something special even in their own time. Musicians love to say, “I just play and sing what I feel. I don’t analyse it very much,” when they’re often reflexively avoiding the kind of honest expression they claim to value, playing and singing only in superficial banalities. Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her, on the other hand, were always brutally honest and direct, both emotionally and musically. Seeing their name again with the words “new album” next to it summons a roar of snarling garage rock guitars and petulant yet cocksure lyrics.
Opening track Damn It I Know What I Am delivers all that, amped up to eleven – Higurashi, a middle-aged mother with an adolescent daughter of her own, still engaged in a sometimes fractious conversation with her own teenage self.
Angrily asserting her identity at no one in particular, complaining about boys, and calling out the phoneys, insisting that she doesn’t give a damn, while obviously giving a massive damn with half a dozen fucks thrown in for good measure, Eternal Adolescence finds Higurashi’s inner teenager alive and screaming. It’s her own contradictions that she really seems to not give a damn about, and the celebratory way she seems to embrace her own ambiguities is part of what makes her so damn cool.
After the yeah, baby, we’re back! punk rock party of the forst three tracks, the album makes space for some more restrained moments in the shape of the Folk Implosion-esque Kiss and Make Up and the cascading harp and oboe of Beauty. The bluesy garage strut reasserts itself soon after though in a streak that builds to a climax with the fists-aloft torch song of Fuckin’ Blue before winding to a close with the scratchy, acoustic Ah~ha~ha~ha~(Jesus Never Mind).
All this never feels less than real, but compared to an almost painfully raw album like 1998’s 17, Eternal Adolescence is balanced by an assurance that can perhaps in part be attributed to the support and fuller sound provided by Higurashi’s more extensive backing band (featuring members of Crypt City, Kaisoku Tokyo and Miila & The Geeks, among others) but also surely a greater sense of perspective and confidence on Higurashi’s own part. At 28 minutes, the ten songs on Eternal Adolescence take you on triumphant whirlwind tour of past anxieties, leaving with a puff of smoke, a stubbed-out cigarette and a swagger rather than a strop and a slammed door.