For all its diversity, Japan’s rock scene has some major creative holes.
It’s unlikely indie hitmakers Quruli would find much in common with power rockers B’z, nor L’Arc~en~Ciel’s U2-esque bombast with Number Girl’s Sonic Youth-ian dischord.
Which makes newcomers Acidman something of a conundrum.
Take, for example, “Zooka ga Warau”, a single off of the band’s debut album Soo.
In the background, double-time drumming, grunge guitars and fuzzy bass lines point Acidman’s influences to 90s alternative rock in its early decade heyday.
Then singer Ooki Sobuo pipes in with his husky baritone, and there’s a certain turn in the shape of the melody that marks it as “Japanese”. You’ve heard it before — in anime themes, in enka.
Replace the guitars and masculine shouts with synthesizers and American 80s hard rock, and “Zooka ga Warau” would sound like any mainstream Japanese rock song — and not just of the visual kei variety.
Acidman, then, is a bridge between J-rock’s mainstream and its indie brethen. It’s the Back Horn watered down.
That looks worse on paper (ne, pixels) than it does in execution. Soo is, in fact, an incredibly strong debut.
Although not as mish-mash as the Back Horn, Acidman does manage to traverse a number of styles and moods.
The jazz tinge of “Akadaidai” and the stripped-down psychedelia of “at” show the group can ground itself, while “Simple Story” and “Your Song” find Acidman rocking out hard and loud.
“Background” and “Silence”, meanwhile, demonstrate the band’s ability to intersperse quieter moments with louder ones.
Ooki’s trembly voice contains none of the nasal qualities of most of his male contemporaries, but he doesn’t emote any less than the best of them. The rhythm section of drummer Urayama Ichigo and bassist Satoo Masatoshi make a fine complement to Ooki’s riff-making.
The trio’s melodic sense, coupled with its tight, fiery performances, makes Soo a very welcome debut. For a band with a tangible mainstream appeal, Acidman does a fine job connecting to its indie roots.