Where’s Hisako?

For all the similarities between bloodthirsty butchers and Number Girl, including a common member between the two bands, one thing separates the two.

I hate to write this next sentence, but here it goes: Number Girl had better musicians.

That’s not intended to slag Yoshimura Hideki’s singing or Komatsu Masahiro’s drumming. In fact, I’ve praised bloodthirsty butchers for not being the most technically proficient band.

But just a side-by-side comparrison is enough to show the butchers never shared Number Girl’s laser precision with rhythm, nor its nimble arrangements.

And that’s how it should be.

But a big deal was made of the fact birdy is the first studio album to feature Number Girl’s Tabuchi Hisako as a full-time member.

The live album green on red was her true debut with the band, and she fit in quite well.

In fact, she fits in so well on birdy, it’s hard to distinguish her at all. And anyone who’s ever heard Tabuchi do a solo knows that’s not something that happens — at all.

At first, I suspected it was the spiritual affinity Tabuchi’s former band has with the butchers that made her performance seem indescript. After a while, I had to admit it to myself — Yoshimura isn’t the same kind of songwriter as Mukai.

Mukai wrote in a way that often brought Tabuchi into the foreground. Yoshimura doesn’t.

And that’s how it should be also.

birdy continues the concise, melodic streak started with 2003’s Kooya ni Okeru bloodthirsty butchers. The butchers have cut the length of the songs to a relatively short 4 to 5 minutes.

And many of these tracks are as melodic as anything on the last album, despite Yoshimura’s tone-deaf vocals. Add a “y” to the title of “Sunn”, and you get an approximate description of the song’s mood.

The title track also has a sing-song melody set against some ferocious guitar work.

Yoshimura does, however, put Tabuchi in a role Mukai never did — back-up singer. She adds a tinge of sweetness to “Walkman”, “Bandwagon” and “Kooya ni Okeru bloodthirsty butchers”. (Strange that the title track of the previous album would appear as the concluding track on the following album.)

Although melodic, birdy doesn’t quite possess the same hooks as the last album, and it can get tough remembering the songs afterward.

Toward the end, birdy falls back on the extended, mid-tempo songs that gave yamane its tone. The instrumental “Rat Music for Rat People” is beautiful despite the title.

birdy may not highlight bloodthirsty butchers’ new member the way she was before, but that doesn’t stop the album from being enjoyable.