Bacharach ambition

Yasuhara Konishi really worships his 60s record collection.

When Pizzicato Five was first introduced to the United States five years ago, Yasuhara was one of the best pillagers of the past to propel the present. His mix of trashy 60s pop with modern club beats was irresistible.

In the past two years, however, Yasuhara hasn’t hid his hero worship. He doesn’t just want to emulate Burt Bacharach — he wants to become him. Last year’s Playboy & Playgirl was the most earnest expression of imitation ever set to aluminum. Nancy Sinatra could have walked all over this album without encountering a single club beat.

With The Fifth Release on Matador Records, P5 are stuck in a time warp. Lush harps and strings, exuberant beats, Maki Nomiya’s soothing croon — it’s the same stuff Pizzicato Five has offered its audience for a better portion of the decade.

Unfortunately, P5’s most recent material lacks the cohesion of Happy End of the World, an epic work steeped as much in the past as the present. Even the First and Second Releases on Matador, which were just collections of past P5 tracks, held together more tightly.

But the moments when P5 shines are bright. “20th Century Girl” hinges on a simple, anthemic chorus. “Wild Strawberries” has a “la-la” chant that would make Stevie Wonder jealous. Even the muddy “LOUDLAND!” is charming, if only because Nomiya’s voice goes through a lot of distortion. The group even includes two versions of the same song so different from each other, it takes a glance at the liner notes to reveal they’re the same song.

When Pizzicato Five meander, however, it’s hard to stay interested. The fascinatingly titled “Darlin’ of Discotechque” works best in a lounge, not as casual listening. And when Yasuhara tries his damnedest to become his idols, even Nomiya’s ever-appealing voice can’t save those indulgences.

P5 fans who don’t like change very much won’t mind this album at all. At the same time, this duo has produced better work when they’re not trying to be so much like their idols.