Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


8 Teeth to Eat You

08/23/2002 | | | Album Review
y buddy Guillermo likes J-Pop. If you've ever watched any subtitled anime TV series you've heard J-Pop: it's the super-sugary, keyboard-heavy Japanese pop music that puts even the most mind-numbingly repetitive American pop to shame with it's pure bubbly annoyance. Don't ask me how the fucker likes it, it's just terrible. He and Franklin once sat all day tracking down the Japanese-sung theme songs of all their favorite anime series and burned them onto one unholy CD of pure Pop evil. Well, I've just found the solution to his Japanese pop addiction: Japanese punk, courtesy of Eastern Youth. This band kicks my Caucasian ass like most bands this side of the Pacific can only hope to. This music even sounds Japanese, throw together some Asian scales and Japanese vocals with Fugazi-influenced guitar-work and you've got one hell of an interesting sound. Jeff was actually the first of us around here to get this split and when I asked him what he thought though of Eastern Youth, he said he 'couldn't take them seriously, it sounds like baby talk.' Yeah, so Jeff's a racist apparently. He also seems incapable of realizing that Eastern Youth is absolutely great. Most of the songs are sung, but the stand-out track "Muyohnosuke" is a rocking screamathon with a late breakdown of drums and extremely high-pitched and echoed Japanese vocals that sounds like nothing you have ever heard in your entire life. Just because it's not English doesn't mean it sucks. Quite the contrary, it actually adds a unique element and offers a breath of fresh-air in an increasingly homogenized, English-centric world.

The Cursive songs are excellent as well, showing a marked improvement and tightened group dynamic over last year's Burst and Bloom EP. When I first heard that the band was being permanently joined by cellist Gretta Cohn, I was skeptical. How would Cursive's angular and sometimes non-musical guitar-work sound backed up by a classical stringed instrument? Well, Burst and Bloom showed it was possible to mesh the two, but kept the cello mostly in the background, adding depth to choruses and for the most part staying out of the guitars' way. This new release shows the cello truly becoming an active and integral part of the band; these songs simply would not be the same without it. Gretta actually takes point and carries the first song "Excerpts From Various Notes Strewn Around The Bedroom of April Connolly Feb 24, 1997" (is Fiona Apple influencing Cursive's song titles?) with a fast and dark cello-line. "Am I Not Yours?" meanders along, slowly building until the chorus when the low end comes in hard and heavy, blasting everything apart. The third song, "Escape Artist" is decent enough until the 1:44 mark (that's right, you can actually pinpoint the exact second when the song gets shitty) where it descends into an awful noise collage, ending up as kids singing "Row Your Boat" over classical music and segueing into the next song. All the lyrics are the typical "depressing relationship-rock in excruciating detail" that everyone expects from Cursive ... that is until "May Flowers" which is apparently about familial rape. The lyrics work though, done subtly and with care, not coming off as exploitive or overdone in the least until the middle of the song when Tim Kasher screams, "Deflowered!" Not only does the screaming not fit the somber tone of the song, but it ruins what subtly he had going. Yeah Tim, we know she was deflowered, that was the whole point of the song. You didn't need to spell it out for us, even a 12-year-old Catholic school virgin-till-marriage type could read between the lines without having it shouted at them.

Death to J-Pop.