It wasn’t just the frog costumes, the space-age theatrics, the angular music or the incredible live shows that made discovering eX-Girl in 1999 a revelatory experience.
It was the palatable chemistry between its members.
Fuzuki with her stand-up drum kit, Chihiro with her expressionistic but stoic playing, Kirilo with her exuberance — the three women created a tangible energy.
And it shows in the trio’s earliest recordings — Kero! Kero! Kero!, Big When Far, Small When Close, Back to the Mono Kero.
Starting in 2001, the band’s line-up went through some major transformations. Chihiro left in 2001, followed by Fuzuki in 2002. Keiko from Super Junky Monkey replaced Chihiro, but before the release of the band’s fifth album, Endangered Species, she moved on in 2003.
Now, bassist Kirilola, as she calls herself now, is joined by drummer Chapple and guitarist Zorek.
And all that upheaval has had affect on eX-Girl’s music.
Endangered Species is the band’s most scattered album to date, which says a lot considering eX-Girl’s music incorporates a myriad of influences.
Save for Chihiro, every one of those members, past and present, plays on the album. On the surface, it sounds like business as usual on Planet Kero, but on an instinctive level, the clarity of the past is missing.
The band has expanded its sound to incorporate more synthetic effects — keyboards and weird noises. But the material seems to range from weirdly complex (“Hettakorii no Ottokoku”) to uncharacteristically simple (“Dodo”).
The opening track, “E-Sa-Ya”, is something of a dud, and “New Pulse” has no substance going for it.
In live shows, Chapple is an incredible performer, able to sing and play a full kit at the same time. Strangely enough, her sound in the studio isn’t as forceful as Fuzuki’s.
The first half of the album possesses all the eclectic energy for which eX-Girl is reknowned — the garage rock spirit of “Pretty You Ugly”, the operatic dissonance of “Pujeva”.
The second half of the album, demarcated by “New Pulse”, seems to peter out. The songs aren’t nearly as complex as the band is capable of.
If anything, Endangered Species sounds like a band working hard to refamiliarize itself. It’s the same eX-Girl we know and love — but it’s an eX-Girl still adjusting to a new set-up.