Electroclash vs. J-pop

Don’t think Papaya Paranoia is some upstart jumping on the electroclash bandwagon. In fact, the group has been around since 1982, playing electroclash back when it was called New Wave.

Papaya Paranoia started out as a rock quartet, playing the kind of post-punk that would have felt at home in New York’s Studio 54 or Birmingham’s Rum Runner.

Over the years, the band has gone through a number of personell changes with only band leader Ishijima Yukiko as the only constant. Now, Ishijima has only Morinaga Michiko as a co-conspirator.

The duo’s most recent album, Rosepink, is something of a bridge between the synthetic machinations of J-pop and the more post-punk leanings of electroclash.

Papaya Paranoia may never be mistaken for the Faint or Trans Am, but all three could fit a concert bill nicely. The pair doesn’t attempt to sound like a guitar rock band through its synths.

On Rosepink, Ishijima and Morinaga augment their army of electronics with a broad palette of styles.

“Bara Ja Nai no” is steeped in reggae rhythms. The buoyancy of “I Like Sushi” would make it a good ending theme to a Takahashi Rumiko anime (think Ranma 1/2 or Urutsei Yatsura). Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes could have produced “Speed”, while “99” has something of an industrial tinge.

Ishijima has an incredibly distinct vocal style. In live performance, she owns the stage like a diva. She can croon like an expert karaoke performer, then unleash a primal roar. When she exclaims “Watashi wa!” on the title track, it’s spine tingling.

The first half of the album hurtles at a lightning pace, but after a while, the songs start to blend into one another. It doesn’t help the tracks get longer as the album progresses. Did “Speed Tokyo” really need to be 7 minutes long?

Still, Rosepink is an appealing album on many levels. It’s cute (for the J-pop addicts). It’s got a rough charm (for the indie music elitists). And it’s got some mean beats and odd effects (for the gearhead).