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Mar 29

[Review] Zazen Boys: Zazen Boys 4

zazenboys4Even back when he was in the garage rock band Number Girl, Mukai Shutoku weaved dub and dance music into his compositions. He brings those elements to the forefront in the 2008 album Zazen Boys 4, a dazzingly complicated and challenging dance-rock album.

“Asobi” opens the album with a dreamy, spacey sound that turns into a showcase of Mukai’s synth grooves. The funk rhythms of “Idiot Funk” are punctuated by Yoshikane Sou’s off-kilter guitar work.

Other tracks emphasize rock more than synth. “Honnoji” is an aggressive rocker, but is still backed by a complex, danceable rhythm from Matsushita Atsushi’s drums.

As with much of Zazen Boys’s music, Mukai writes few melodic vocal lines anymore—he lets the instruments do the talking. He delivers most of the lyrics in chants, growls and screeches that aren’t pretty, but add to the band’s distinct identity and difficult yet alluring sound. Only Mukai can scream “Fureai” over and over in the song of the same name and make it sound so danceable.

The one disappointing aspect of Zazen Boys 4 is the reworking of the single “I Don’t Wanna Be With You” as a 10-minute remix called “The Drifting/I Don’t Wanna Be With You.” The new music at the beginning is nice, but the rest of the track retains little of the original song and what made it so appealing. Gone are Yoshida Ichiro’s catchy bass riff and build-up when Mukai throttles from chanting to shrieking cathartically.

Still, including a remix seems like a smart gesture. It’s a nod to the 80’s dance pop that Zazen Boys re-imagined as this monster of an album.