Open letter to Number Girl

Not that anyone should complain, but — what the hell happened to Bugy Craxone?

In 2000, the Hokkaido-based trio released an album (Yuganda Ao to Tsukenai Kanjoo no Soko) steeped in the all the best 90s alt-rock had to offer — malleable dynamics, metallic riffs, a pouty lead singer who can turn seductress to banshee on a dime.

Although solid songwriting gave Bugy Craxone a credible foundation, the band epitomized commercial alt-rock.

Two years and one garage rock revival later, Bugy Craxone

has ditched all of that. Now, they

just want to be Number Girl.

And there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

“Fuck the Melancholy”, the opening track on the band’s latest long-player Northern Hymns, begins with a rhythm taken straight from Number Girl’s “Abstract Truth”. After singer Suzuki Yukiko enters with a snarl, the rest of the song plays like Number Girl’s best moments — thundering drums, dischordant guitars, even a screaming backing vocal during the chorus.

In fact, Northern Hymns feels like an open fan letter to Number Girl. Bugy has turned itself into a garage band, trading in its more ambitious complexities for a straight-forward, visceral sound.

Oikawa Tsukasa’s guitars are dirtier, more dissonant. Suzuki sings with total abandon, while drummer Miki Hiroshi pounds on his set with a single-minded determination.

There are even tell-tale signs of hero worship, such as the feedback noodling at the start of “Free Throw”, the rhythmic solidarity of “War Is Me”, the headbanging ferocity of “Sayonara Sunday”.

But this isn’t just mere imitation — Bugy Craxone has keyed into the main component of Number Girl’s appeal, a loud-is-more aesthetic that at heart emphasizes simplicity and clarity of statement (even after Dave Fridmann got a hand on them).

There are signs the Bugy Craxone of Olde is under there somewhere — the melodic majesty of “Your Sunrise”, the intimacy of “Hibi no Awa”. “Kurete Hana”? Let’s just say Mukai Shuutoku has seldom written in compound meter.

Even if it isn’t Bugy Craxone’s intention to bow a hat to Mukai and crew, Northern Hymns is definitely one of the most passionately performed rock albums released this year. It’s also refreshing to witness a band do a complete sonic makeover.