Just like starting over

Since its debut in 1998, the Brilliant Green’s bright and happy music has grown steadily harder and, at times, darker. In 2001, the band reached its apex with Los Angeles, a rocking album that demonstrated how aggressive the Japanese trio could get.

There were two directions the band could go after that: even darker, or back to lighter.

Singer Kawase Tomoko chose a third option — do a solo album of 80s retro new wave under the name Tommy February6.

When the band regrouped to record its fourth album in 2002, the Brilliant Green essentially started over again. The results: The Winter Album, the band’s most regressive album to date.

Everything that’s been done on a Brilliant Green album is done once again here: 60s-influenced, bouncy pop, orchestral flourishes, a haunting slow song here and there.

Some songs even sound like previous Brilliant Green works. “Forever to Me”? Try “Angel Song”. “Flowers”? Try “Nagai Tameiki no Yoo ni”.

On three tracks, the band uses drum machines instead of a live drummer. The backbeats on “Rainy Days Never Stay” feel more like latter-day Bonnie Pink, while the electric drums on “That Boy Waits For Me” show a Tommy February6 influence.

Aside from the drum machines, there’s nothing particularly distinctive about The Winter Album. By comparrison, it doesn’t even match Terra 2001 in terms of viscera.

That’s not to say the album is unpleasant.

The mix of rough guitars and backbeats on “Running So High” makes it the most adventurous track on the album. “Escape” possesses a mellow poignancy suitable as a concluding track. Strange effects and a string quartet give “The Night Has Plesant Time” a psychedelic tinge.

Even familiar-sounding tracks as “I’m Jus’ Lovin’ You” and “Holidays” are nice, tuneful fare.

Still, it’s hard to escape the impression that The Winter Album has been done before — and done better — by the same band.