The last time out, The Back Horn seemed a bit too eagar to prove itself.
The band made an impressive performance with its eclectic, genre-jumping debut, Ningen Program, but some of its ideas seemed messily imagined. Punk guitars and samba rhythms aren’t exactly the easiest components to marry.
For Shinzoo Orchestra, The Back Horn tightens its focus. The wild, world beat eclecticisms have been pruned, but the overtly Japanese melodies and abrupt volume changes remain.
“Wata Booshi” sets the tone for the entire album. Singer Yamada Masashi’s whisper hints nothing about the ferocious screaming he delivers during the chorus. Yamada’s bandmates hold back as well, unleashing its full force only when he does.
On “Game”, The Back Horn offer up a straight-forward rock song. Before, they may have thrown in a Latin bass rhythm or some other exotic touch, but this time around, it’s just big chords followed by a head-banging chorus.
Yamada has become much more nuanced as a singer. When “Natsukusa no Yureru Oka” reaches its dramatic apex, Yamada doesn’t cross over into his distinctive wail as he’s usually prone to do. And when he delivers soft passages, his restraint doesn’t come across as a forced effort.
The band’s songs have gotten simpler. Tracks such as “Material” and “Yuugure” still demonstrate The Back Horn’s talent as skilled arrangers, but they’re not clouded by tangent ideas. “Dinner” could have even been an outtake from a latter-day Thee Michelle Gun Elephant album.
In a way, Shinzoo Orchestra comes across as an honest stab at mainstream attention. Although The Back Horn has a solid grip on its creative identity, it’s hard to dismiss the polish given to its second major label album.
A bit of the edge bubbling under Ningen Program gets lost on Shinzoo Orchestra, but in its place is a more cohesive, better executed sound.
In a word, accessible.