This is the complete series of seven inches that Boris put out through Southern Lord last year; combined they form sort of a proper album so i thought i'd bundle them together and review them as such (there were four different covers as well- i chose to use the Wata photo cuz she's so darn cute.)
Freed from the conceptual chains of a full length record, Boris used this opportunity to turn in what is both their poppiest and most experimental set of songs to date. This isn't experimentation like their record with Haino or any of their Merzbow collaborations, nor is it an aggressive assault like their mighty guitar vomit record with Kurihara (the flattening and totally amazing "Cloud Chamber"); instead it's experimental in the diverse approach the band takes to songwriting. Over the last couple albums (and "Smile" especially) you could hear Boris dancing with "pop" conventions, embracing an ever more melodic and streamlined sound, a refinement that at once seemed totally natural and really fucked up. One of the heaviest bands ever was suddenly writing these beautiful, rocking, blissed out and memorable songs. What's going on? Where's the Boris that wrote "Vomitself"? Do they even exist anymore?
To me, the answer is no. And that isn't a bad thing at all. Boris is still heavy as fuck-they always will be no matter what they do-but they aren't the slow-motion abrasion unit that they were at their career's inception. Gone is the Melvins worship, gone is the necessity to exist within an avant-garde metal microcosm. It's been replaced by a love of music in general and an allowance of their native mass cultural influences (i.e., insane Japanese pop music) to shine through in what they're doing. "Japanese Heavy Rock Hits" hints at as much in the title, but the music itself proves the point with a more rampant intensity.
Things kick off with "8", easily the most "rocking" song on the set but also probably one the best Boris songs i have ever heard, an incredibly perfect marriage of punk energy and pop songcraft. I wish this was the kind of shit that was on commercial radio all the time, because it should be (and in Japan it probably is); it's that hooky. I could blast that song over and over and never feel the joy it gives me evaporating. It's melancholy and summer rolled into one hyperactive fireball of rock damage.
From there things get a little weirder. "Hey Everyone" and "Black Original" are techno-themed, drum-machine based formulas that owe perhaps more to recent splitmates 9DW , or maybe Boris' approximation of late '80's American dance floor bangers than they do any kind of rock music; the feeling on these two for me is that it isn't really the best sound for them to wallow in, but if given enough time and allowance to play with it, they might end up fucking owning it and proving me very very wrong and very very unfaithful. "H.M.A. (Heavy Metal Addict)" boasts one of those great playful Boris titles that tricks you into expecting a rush of fierce distorto-face ripping but instead reins Atsuo in to a constant driving snare thwack over which Wata serves up a decidely "heavy metal" riff that never really goes anywhere. A drone joke, maybe, or just another instance of Boris doing what they want; either way it works. The triple harmonized legato trilling (!!!) in the middle is just so much referential gravy.
"16:47:52" is an extremely minimalist folk-tinged number that plods along with an endearing constancy and brings to mind a vaguely overcast, almost-raining sort of day. Wata's dry and simply delivered vocals add to the feeling of washed-out resignation that haunts the song, making it way more affecting than you know it should be and adding a confusing sort of depth that you didn't initially expect. "...And Hear Nothing" goes in exactly the opposite direction, a hyper-blissed deluge of melodic distortion that sounds so much like Nadja it's got me wondering why the hell they haven't collaborated yet (seriously-someone at Southern Lord needs to get these two in touch with each other.) It's the most traditionally Boris sounding track on the record and ends up feeling weirdly out of place here, but certainly no less enjoyable. There's a majesty and immensity in this track that reminds me of why i love Boris so much and how enveloped their music makes me feel.
The record closes out with a Wata-led cover of Earth and Fire's "Seasons," a decent enough encapsulation of the idea behind these seven inches-natural change and progression, an inevitably that you live through and sometimes love and sometimes hate. Boris are sometimes ironic, always clever, but never, ever pandering nor unintelligent. The choice makes perfect sense.
The biggest and most positive development within these songs is the growing use, and confidence in delivery of, vocals. Both Takeshi and Wata have very laconic, almost sleepy delivieries, and Takeshi's voice especially seems imbued with that rare tired melancholy that i have heard in people like Thurston Moore, Stephen Malkmus, Paul Westerberg and Greg Dulli. I wouldn't put him in that esteemed company just yet, but there's no denying his vocal presence has grown more powerful on each record, to the point where it's almost become a sort of secret weapon for Boris, a magical bridge that will allow them to leave the world of outsider boutique metal and reach a wider, more embracing audience. This is one of few bands in operation that in my mind can do ANYTHING; i look forward to every new transmission with a barely contained excitement that forces me to twitch and jump as the release dates draw near. The next record is an EP with the Cult's Ian Astbury, and i have no idea what to expect. But i know i can't wait.