PuffyAmiYumi is a chart-topping phenomenom in its native Japan, and just like in America, some questionable stuff reaches the top of the charts.
Puffy, who tacked on the suffix AmiYumi to avoid confusion with the Artist Formerly Known As Puff Daddy Now Known As P. Diddy, could be considered an “idol pop” group.
After all, Onuki Ami and Yoshimura Yumi were recruited by producer Okuda Tamio. He formed the group, not Ami or Yumi.
But that’s where similarities between Puffy and other idol groups ends. Ami and Yumi are in their late 20s, positively ancient in the youth-geared idol scene.
Instead of chirping to swirling techno beats and layers of over-produced, synthetic dance pop, Ami and Yumi scrape their way through guitar-driven, ’60s-inspired rock-pop that sounds positively beefy next to, say, Koyanagi Yuki or Hamasaki Ayumi.
Does all this matter to the anime-loving Asiaphiles to which Puffy’s U.S. debut, Spike, is evidently geared? Maybe.
Sony is banking on college airplay, not mainstream radio, to introduce bands from Japan to America. In short, the Discman/Wega makers want a piece of the Pizzicato Five-Shonen Knife action.
But PuffyAmiYumi is a pretty risky means to an end. Although Spike is rife with bouncy hooks and straight-ahead headbanger guitar riffs, it’s still first and foremost an album geared for Japan’s pop audience.
In other words, this music is so sweet, it can make a listener develop some awful cavities. “Boogie Woogie No. 5”, the album’s opener, should have included a dentist’s warning.
Other tracks could have come straight off a really bad anime soundtrack. The cheesy analog drum machine and synthesizer effects of “Cosmic Nagaretabi” sounds like an outtake from Macross or the ending theme of an episode of Urutsei Yatsuura.
But for the most part, Spike really isn’t that bad. (At least for folks who listen to too much Number Girl and Shiina Ringo and were expecting the worse.)
“Sumire” contains the kind of uplifting melody that comes across as sincere instead of crass. “Mondo Muyo” does a great job of pounding into your subconscious.
“Destruction Pancake” really lays heavy on the distortion, while “Sakura no hana ga saku amai amai kisetsu no uta” tones down the exuberence for a slightly introspective mood.
Vocally, Ami and Yumi are just one voice short and a few notes shy of being Bananarama, but their earnest delivery has more personality than, say, the technical polish of any member of Eden’s Crush.
In all, Spike is an indulgent guilty pleasure, an album that takes its lack of seriousness so seriously, it comes across as fun as it should.