In a world where an Iowa independent label reissues the fourth album from an Osaka-based all girl trio that is not Shonen Knife, School Girl Pop is better than you’d expect. Much better.
Originally released in 2002 on the Japanese label, Triangle, School Girl Pop reveals that Mummy The Peepshow has a fuzz box and they’re not afraid to use it. Following a time-honored pattern, they blend their chopped, buzz saw guitars with frequently indecipherable J-punk grrl vocals in a bubblegum pop that evokes memories of bands like Girls At Our Best (“Hide and Seek on the Turntable”), the Darling Buds (“School Girl Pop”), and Helen Love, while occasionally straying off towards Slits and Raincoats territory.
In 12 songs spread over 33 minutes, the inevitable cuteness and quaintness mingle with punk beats, ba-ba choruses, minimalist drumming, and ‘60s garage guitars. Some songs are as simple and shout-along joyous as you would hope. Others are almost complex and intriguing—time signatures get changed at will. A few are disjointed and weak. And “Lady Wendy” is ludicrously oompah-pah.
Perhaps there’s not enough punk rock shouting on School Girl Pop. Maybe there are too many slow songs. Certainly, Maki (vocals and guitar), Naru (bass) and Mayu (drums) could have put their pedals to the metal a little more for maximum rock ‘n’ roll appeal, and on the evidence presented by songs like “Sailing” and “Hello Stan”, they’re eminently capable of doing so. But on the whole, none of this does School Girl Pop any harm whatsoever, because these are three cute Japanese girls wrestling with guitar, bass, and drums, and their wardrobes will always include short skirts and knee socks. There will always be a market in the punk rock indie teenage bedrooms of the decadent west for such charming Japanese School Girl Pop.
So hit me, Maki, one more time.