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Oct 07

[review] the brilliant green: BLACKOUT

Seems like yesterday,” Tomoko Kawase sings on The Brilliant Green’s single “Like Yesterday.” When the song came out in February, things did seem like yesterday. The Brilliant Green were back with their first single in two years, picking up where they left off with their no-frills British rock sound. Backed by a new label, the trio promised to resume its activities in full and release its first album in eight years. The announcement was cathartic for those of us who hung around during BuriGuri’s hiatus from 2002 to 2007 and wanted more than the three singles we got from 2007 to 2008.

It didn’t stay like yesterday for long. Three months later, guitarist and sometimes songwriter Ryo Matsui abruptly quit the band. (Although Matsui asked fans to continue supporting The Brilliant Green as a duo, Kawase’s word choice in this Japan Times interview appears to imply the split wasn’t amicable.)

While I lost significant interest in The Brilliant Green and expected they would be a shadow of their former selves without Matsui, I assumed the songwriting would stay more or less intact. Bassist Shunsaku Okuda has always written the majority—and often the best—of the band’s material.

It turns out Matsui must have had a larger influence on BuriGuri’s direction than the song credits showed, because their comeback Blackout sounds like…a Tommy heavenly6 album. Aside from the singles and a note-for-note cover of Blur’s “Song 2,” most songs bear Tommy’s angsty pop-rock stamp more than The Brilliant Green’s laid-back Britrock vibe. Even the lyrics sound like Heavenly lyrics: “We ride into the fake moonlight,” “Don’t call me/I’m in a bad mood and drowsy,” “I swear I’ll make you smile.”

Blackout’s a good album, but it’s disappointing. The Brilliant Green didn’t need to get back together to make music Kawase could have recorded as a soloist. It makes me wonder: Are Kawase and Okuda making the best of their situation by writing what they like? Are they trying to stick with the music that sold so many solo Tommy CDs? Is Okuda merely accustomed to composing these types of songs after six straight years of composing for Tommy heavenly6?

The Brilliant Green face the choice of how—or even, whether—to distinguish their new work from Tommy heavenly6’s and that of their years with Matsui. Though I’d have preferred Blackout sounded like yesterday, I’m interested in hearing BuriGuri sound like tomorrow.

2 comments

  1. alice

    I totally agree with your review, although after listening to BLACKOUT a number of times it has started to grow on me a bit and I do hear some of the original Buriguri sound in there as well. It seems like such a shame too, after Stand By Me and Enemy seemed to recapture their original sound so well.

    1. Victoria Goldenberg

      Yeah, the more I listen to it, the more I see it as a tbg album. I still wish we could’ve gotten more than just those few singles with Matsui, after the long hiatus. But “Ash Like Snow” was my favorite from that trio of singles, and it was actually an appropriated Tommy heavenly6 composition. Go figure.

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