From a songwriting standpoint, Tsubakiya Shijuuso does some amazing stuff.
The trio is a rock band more than willing to make bass lines growls and to double up guitars. But there’s room for blues and soul in its riffs.
They don’t shy away from dividing meters in unexpected places, nor do they shun the power of a pulsating power chord.
They’re willing to play between each other, interlocking seemingly incongruent parts, but they know when to bring it back together.
Above all, they’re not afraid to make their melodies sound Japanese.
And yet there’s something missing from Tsubakiya Shijuuso’s music, something vital to push the band’s music from competent to amazing.
It’s this: the willingness to sound “dumb”.
On his work with girl groups from the ’60s, Phil Spector would often ask listeners sampling a new studio work, “Is it dumb enough?”
That is, does this music have a quality that can reach anyone anywhere?
Tsubakiya Shijushoo’s music fits squarely with the adjective “smart”, often at the expense of hooks.
Each of the examples stated above have correlating tracks on the band’s debut album, Shinkoo Naru Shoozo.
Growling bass line? “Shuuressha”. Odd metric divisions? “Issetsuna”. Interlock parts? “Gurasutama”. Japanese melody? “Shun-yo”.
But try singing along with any of those songs — let alone recall their melodies away from a playback device — and it gets challenging.
“Nare no Hate” is the closest thing to a single on the album, and it’s the only one.
Singer Nakada Yuuji has an appealing voice, and the rhythm section of bassist Nakada Takashige and drummer Kotera Ryoota can navigate some thorny terrain.
Tight playing and smart songs make Tsubakiya Shijuuso an incredible band, but if the trio can slum it a bit, it could be revelatory.