Rantings, reviews and lists from a person who structures half his life around obsessing over music.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Boris - Smile (2008)

3.5 ★/7.0 - 7.9

From what I've heard, the American version of Smile has a more clear, focused and direct feel to it. But when it comes to the Japanese version, it's contrasting styles, inconsistency, and unwillingness to edit makes it feel like a challenging collection of oddball leftovers from Pink. What's strange is how Boris makes what should be a scattered, short-sighted and hard-to-follow collage of unrelated tracks somewhat enjoyable. It opens with a striking duo of immediacy that hardly characterizes the bulk of it's inaccessible content. "Message" is Boris doing TV On The Radio, Hendrix style: fuzzy drum-machine driven Electronica with violently disorienting guitar-noise solos and playful doo-wop chants. The following "Buzz-In" makes an exhilarating and primal leap back into Pink territory: careening drums, garage riffage and background tape loops tossing in a psychedelic edge. From then on though, Smile becomes a tough cookie to crack. It doesn't fail completely, but on your first few listens, it does fall apart. I still can't understand how the underwhelming "Flower Sun Rain" has become a fan-favorite, constantly regarded as "wrongly excluded" from Pink. It's pace is mind numbingly slow, Takeshi's poor vocal attempts at balladry comes off as bad karaoke and the intended melancholia that this is supposed to be supporting doesn't even have a memorable progression. "Shoot!", meanwhile, is just too irritatingly fuzzy to retain any listening value. But Boris will still be your favorite Japanese Indie/Ambient/Drone/Psychadelic/Noise/Metal band by default. As difficult as it may be to get through their unpredictable albums, no one can deny them their distinctiveness, especially in the context of their homeland, where their closest living relative is probably Boredoms (and even they would only qualify as a half-cousin, twice removed). That realization alone makes all their albums worthwhile in some way. As confounding as Smile may be at first, it's got a personality that keeps you fascinated, making it a grower. Eventually, the initial incomprehensibility of "Dead Destination" begins to reveal an unstoppable decimation of apocalyptic proportions and the closing "You Put Up Your Umbrella" can never forgiven for it's lame first half, but soars and swoons through enough mind-expanding jamming and breathless ambiance in it's second half to impress.

The more you look at it, the more you realize Smile shouldn't be as good as it is. Pink was great because of it's cohesion and accessibility. It sounded like a work of labor and gave their experimentalism an aim and a recognizable identity. Here, the band sounds like they're once again shooting the shit, catering to no one and yet all the while, getting pretty close to Pink's greatness. Sure, it isn't very together, but taken as a collection of individual moments, it'll captivate.

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