The Back Horn will release a live album titled Ubugoe Chainsaw on Aug. 24. The album was recorded during the band’s tour in support of its most recent album Headphone Children. Shows recorded include Pennylane24 in Sapporo, Club Junk Box in Sendai, Zepp Tokyo in Tokyo, Nanba Hatch in Osaka and Drum Logos in Fukuoka City. The album covers music from the Back Horn’s indie days till now, serving as a live best collection. The Back Horn performs the Rock in Japan festival on Aug. 6.
The Back Horn will release a new album titled Headphone Children on March 16. A limited edition first pressing of the album will include a DVD with a video clip of “Kiseki”, the theme song for the movie Zoo. It’s been nearly a year and half since the release of the band’s previous album, Ikiru Sainou. Since then, the Back Horn released three singles — “Yume no Hana”, “Cobalt Blue” and “Kizuna Song”.
The Back Horn will release a new single, “Kizuna Song”, on Jan. 26, 2005. A limited edition pressing of the two-track single includes a video clip of the song as a CD-Extra. In the spring, The Back Horn will contribute the theme song to the omnibus film Zoo, titled “Kiseki”. In the past year, the band has been a regular fixture at various festivals, performing at Fuji Rock, Rock in Japan and Ezo Rock. The group tops off the festival-heavy year with an appearance at Countdown Japan 04/05.
The Back Horn will release a live DVD titled Bakuon Yumeka on Nov. 3. The DVD document’s the band’s one-man live show at the Hiyanoge Concert Hall on July 17, 2004 and includes a scenes from backstage. Also on Nov. 3, The Back Horn releases a new single, “Cobalt Blue”. A limited edition pressing includes another DVD with a live performance of “Yomigaeru Hi” from the same concert.
The Back Horn will release a new single titled “Yume no Hana” on July 21. Produced by Tsuchiya Masami, the song is the first new work from the band since its third album, Ikiru Sainou. The single also includes “Requiem”, the band’s contribution to the Kiriya Kazuaki film Casshern. Kazuaki is scheduled to shoot a promo clip for the song with the band. The Back Horn will appear this summer in a number of rock festivals, including Rock in Japan, Fuji Rock Festival, and Ezo Rock Festival.
I wouldn’t have heard it if it weren’t pointed out to me.
Reportedly, the Back Horn attempted to go for an ’80s New Wave sound on its third major label album, Ikiru Sainou. The band’s eclectic music has always gone for seemingly incongruous elements.
But between Yamada Masahi’s throat-damaging singing and Suginami Eijun’s metallic guitar work, it’s a challenge to find that influence at all.
One thing is for certain — Ikiru Sainou ain’t electroclash.
Which is to say Ikiru Sainou has as many synthesizers as previous Back Horn albums: none. (Self-editor: Actually, there’s a very quiet one on “Koofuku na Nakinagara”.)
The 80s influence is certainly nowhere to be found on the opening “Wakusei Melancholy”, a song that isn’t melancholy in the least.
No — the 80s starts to creep in on the following track, “Hikari no Kessho”, perhaps one of the least successful channelings of the Smiths and the Cure. And that’s not a knock.
The Back Horn is too much its own band to really take a stab at being anything else. “Hikari no Kessho” isn’t the Back Horn pulling an Interpol and calling up the ghost of Ian Curtis — it’s a band that makes the Smiths and the Cure not sound like the Smiths and the Cure.
“Hanabira”, with its harmonica opening and jangling guitar, is also a very unsuccessful attempt to sound like IRS-era R.E.M. “Seimeisen”, with its disco beat, is unclear whether it takes its roots from New Order or Duran Duran.
The Back Horn deserves high marks for attempting to incorporate influences totally at odds with its num-heavymetallic sound.¹ Whether its a successful match is really up in the air.
On its previous album Shinzoo Orchestra, the Back Horn reigned in its eclecticism to produce a coherent album. It also helped the songs on the album were some of its strongest writing.
Ikiru Sainou is a terrific experiment, but there’s a sense the writing can’t quite live up to that challenge.
“Kodoku no Senjoo” may be passionate, but it’s mired in melodic clichés. “Platonic Fuzz” sounds like it wants to be playful but can’t help but being a bit menacing. And the monotone melody of “Joker” is simply flat.
Unlike past Back Horn albums that seep into a listener’s conscious, Ikiru Sainou doesn’t sink in. The band’s distinctiveness makes its latest creative turn feel more like a scattered message.
The album may not be successful in juggling its influence, but it’s still fascinating to witness the Back Horn give it a try.
¹No, “num-heavymetallic” isn’t a realy word, but browse the archives for a review of Number Girl’s album of the same name for reference.
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.
The first time I encountered the Back Horn, the band’s overtly Japanese melodies prevented me from really appreciating everything happening in the background.
Truth be told, the Back Horn’s music sounds like anime themes done in a heavy punk style.
But to take the surface at face value does an injustice to the band’s often eclectic sound.
Vocalist Yamada Masashi could have just stuck to singing Western melodies over his bandmates, but fashioning a more Japanese style is far more daring, especially given Japanese bands’ tendency to mimic Western influences slavishly.
Guitarist Suganami Eijun and bassist Matsuda Shinji can switch between ska, punk, metal, even marches at the drop of a proverbial hat.
“Sunny” starts of with a metal cliché that switches into a ska rhythm. “Ikusen Koonen no Kodoku” begins with big power chords, but a Latin bass line drives most of the song.
“8-gatsu no Himitsu” and “Hyoo Hyoo to” would probably sound like traditional Japanese songs if only Yamada didn’t scream and Suganami didn’t play huge, beefy riffs.
Like Bugy Craxone, the Back Horn performs highly emotional music which changes mood many times within a song. “Suisoo” starts off quietly, but a larger-than-life chorus crashes through. Another Latin rhythm drives “Mr. World”, only to be off-set by a straight-forward, fist-pumping rock chorus.
Yamada’s versatile voice adds more mayhem to the band’s maniacal music. He can sing a melody well enough, but when he screams, there’s no question this music is rawk music. It’s amazing his voice even keeps after all the hollering he does.
The Back Horn’s eclectic sound may strike some listeners as incredible, but it can also put others off.
So many influences go into the the band’s music, it almost seems the individual elements don’t fit together comfortably.
The samba rhythm of “Ikusen Koonen no Kodoku” is one of the most overused bass lines in Western-influenced Japanese music. It can sound cheesy in one listening, inspired in another. Combined with music that alternates between punk and ska, it’s difficult to channel how any of it works.
But there’s a point where it does all click together, and the Back Horn become more than the sum of its parts. It may take one listen; it may take 20.
Or it may not happen at all.
There’s no mistake the Back Horn has a very singular sound, and no band out there does quite what this trio accomplishes. But don’t expect to get it right away. (Hell, I didn’t.)