Over the course of 10 years, Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her has produced a body of work ranging from youthfully amateur to brashly seasoned.
Although the group has toured internationally, only now has its music become available outside of Japan, thanks to UK label Arriverdeci Baby and its retrospective, Red Talk.
Like most career-spanning collections — especially one covering a decade — a bit of history has been rewritten.
Red Talk contains SSKHKH’s more accessible tracks, from the catchy but dischordant opener “Sentimental Journey” to the garage rock simplicity of “Pretty In Pink”.
Sure, some tracks demonstrate Higurashi Ahia’s more ambitious songwriting chops — the swing-to-swagger of “Pink Soda”, the freaked-out intro of “Grapefruit”, the three-part juggling act on “Mo’Mo’Gimi’Mo'”.
But for the most part, Red Talk showcases Higurashi as a hook writer more than as an intuitive rock composer. Some of the band’s more experimental leanings — most of It’s Brand New, for instance — are glossed over to create an easier listening experience.
Hey — whatever works, right?
Thankfully, Red Talk doesn’t attempt to revise the sonic evolution of the band. Seagull’s lo-fi beginnings are offered without any dressing, making later works stick out by virtue of their fidelity. It’s obvious “A Guitar for Me and Milk for Her” and “Asking for It” weren’t written in the same period.
Satisfying though Red Talk may be, the packaging leaves a hell of a lot to be desired. Alive/Total Energy saw fit to include at least a short essay on why Thee Michelle Gun Elephant deserved a label deal outside of Japan. Red Talk doesn’t even bother to list which albums each of the tracks come from.
Forget about the video for “Sister Sister” included as a CD-ROM extra — grainy encoding and shoddy sound quality don’t “enhance” a CD.
As far as retrospectives go, Red Talk does a decent job respresenting Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her in some respects — the songs on the album really are good — and not so in others.
Despite any missteps, Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her deserve this kind of attention outside of Japan. The music on Red Talk makes up for any shortcomings in presentation.