Getting better all the time

At first, Terra 2001 might strike listeners as a sonic sequel to the Brilliant Green’s self-titled debut album.

But after a few spins, it becomes evident that this second album by one of Japan’s most popular alternative rock bands is a stronger work.

The opening track, “Bye! My Boy!”, bursts out of the speakers like race horses at a derby. It’s grungier, harder, definitely more up-front than anything on the band’s previous album.

After retreating for a while back to the bouncy jangle pop of The Brilliant Green, the trio sticks to its creative guns, muddy-ing up the guitars and boosting the rhythm section.

“Call My Name” lays it on heavy, pitting some classic ’60s bass rhythms with a wheezy, chaotic organ.

“Funny Girlfriend!!” lyrically and musically evoke some pretty strong flower power imagery, and “Round and Round” practically kowtows to “House of the Rising Sun.”

The Brilliant Green seems to have gotten better at twiddling the knobs, hammering out an album with a beefier sound. On such tracks as “Sono Speed De” and “Can’t Stop Crying,” guitarist Matsui Ryo positively blares out of the stereo, burning up on his solos and laying a heavy curtain of tactful distortion.

Even the album’s sole ballad, “Maybe We Could Go Back to Then”, possesses a bit muscle.

And tempting as it was to get heavy-handed with this stronger sound, singer Kawase Tomoko is never lost in the mix. In fact, her singing has gotten more confident since the band’s debut. And as usual, English-language songs outnumber Japanese ones. Both still sound very good.

Songwriting-wise, the songs on Terra 2001 are a bit darker, but they’re every bit just as memorable. By easing back from the jangle-pop of its first album, the Brilliant Green has produced a set of songs that appeals to rock fans who like their music as rough as it is bright.

In all, Terra 2001 is a proverbial major step for the Brilliant Green, a sign that this trio knows it can get better. And will.