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Japanese Motors “Japanese Motors” Review

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

Singer Alex Knost’s slow, purposeful drawl follows an echoing introduction on “Single Fins & Safety Pins,” the lead track from Japanese Motors. Considering the generally laid back feel of the Orange Country quartet’s entire album, the track is a fitting opener – wading in a cool tide of sound with no real rush to go anywhere. As the album moves on, the sad realization of the situation is that the only reason that the Japanese Motors aren’t on Top of the Pops right now (other than because Top of the Pops no longer exists) is because 2008 is not 2001.

Or rather, the music that was popular in 2001, is no longer as popular in 2008. Japanese Motors would fit perfectly within a musical landscape teeming with albums such as White Blood Cells and Veni Vidi Vicious, but whether it be a changing fashion, or shifting tastes, the popularity of like-sounding records have gone the way of The Vines. “Better Trends” morphs a killer surf-line into an upbeat interlude, both signifying a sound that is seemingly harmless, but one that inevitably sucks you in without you even realizing it. The following track, “Spendin’ Days,” is a tragic listen because it’s a very good song that was released a few years too late. If any of the The bands had put this track out in their prime, it’d be a guaranteed hit – but as is the reality of the situation, it will probably end up lingering in relative obscurity.

Japanese Motors have released an album that is good, but something that doesn’t reflect the energy of the band’s live show (or so I hear). Even at “good” it remains an album that could have probably been viewed as “great” if the sound which is at the core of the album were still fashionable. A lot of bands who made comparable music around the dawn of the decade weren’t as solid as Japanese Motors, and a lot of those bands became wealthy from throwing together a popular sound when it was ripe. Japanese Motors may not get rich from the album, but that doesn’t mean it sounds any less solid than those which sold millions.

Japanese Motors gives the same sort of feeling that you might get if you were to see a Tickle-Me-Elmo doll now. Outside of the context surrounding its release, it was a good toy – one that still holds up because it was and is solid. But in no way should it have ever been as highly in demand as it was during its peak in popularity. You can still still find these dolls, and they’re still great toys, but they’ve since lost their shadow of hysteria. Likewise, the garage rock revival was a bit of a fraud, and its popularity elevated a number of bands who made good, well crafted, basic songs and blew them way out of proportion. Looking back, the bands that once had an inflated level of popularity are no less talented now than they were then – it’s just that they’re not as popular now. Japanese Motors is a very solid album, but even after a single listen it leaves the impression that given a different context, it could have been “great.” Despite the reality that garage rock is no longer the Tickle-Me-Elmo that it once was, that doesn’t mean that it holds any less value. That is especially true with Japanese Motors.