Puffy AmiYumi: Splurge

When an album is this movie-theatre-popcorn good, it's hard to complain.

Puffy AmiYumi


Label: Tofu
US Release Date: 2006-07-25
UK Release Date: Available as import

Puffy AmiYumi are better than PokeMon. While their animated Cartoon Network show is cute and bubbly and horridly typical of what runs on that network, the actual band itself is quite amazing. The group consists of two girls who have been recording unabashed power-pop music for over a decade -- huge in Japan, they've released more than eight full-length albums, and have a Hello Kitty-level merchandising team behind them. They penned the theme to the massively-popular animated superhero show Teen Titans and have developed a small audience here in America with the success of their own show. They've already found a small U.S. cult that just can't get enough of their guitar-driven J-Pop, and now they're poised to be bigger than ever. With the release of this year's Splurge . . . they just might succeed.

A constant mentor to the young duo has been Andy Sturmer, head honcho of perpetually-underappreciated pop outfit Jellyfish, and he reprises his role as collaborator and producer here. Yet the band also brings a slew of rock-greats along for the ride too, here snagging Jon Spencer, Offspring mouthpiece Dexter Holland, and rock uber-producer Butch Walker. Most importantly though, the band has created a terrific, fun, and ridiculously catchy pop album without ever once going dirty, vulgar, or new-age experimental. Countless bands wish they could achieve this level of pop perfection. "Security Blanket" could have easily been a mid-90s pop-rock hit (and the Goo Goo Dolls would certainly kill for a hook like that nowadays). The throw-back pop stylings of "Missing You Baby" sound as if the girls (Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura, just for reference) had somehow transported themselves back to the time when Scott Walker's first four solo albums came out, with a bit of "Rhinestone Cowboy" flourish thrown in for good measure. Certainly, songs like "Etude" and "Mole-like" (not to be confused with a track that appears later on the album simply titled "Mole") aren't as flat-out engaging as "Sunday in the Park" or the Jon Spencer-filled "Go Baby Power Now", but when an album is this movie-theatre-popcorn good, it's hard to complain. (It should be mentioned that "Go Baby Power Now" is the best classic-rock rip-off since the band Jet formed).

"Radio Tokyo" -- co-written with Butch Walker (a fine producer whose latest album, Butch Walker and the Let's-Go-Out-Tonites is one of the best LPs released this year) -- is one of those pop hits that you'd swear you've heard before on the radio (in the good way). In a strange irony it's also better than the neglected Collective Soul song "Over Tokyo" which, incidentally, Walker sang vocals on as well. "Tokyo I'm On My Way" (the Dexter Holland collaboration) is similar -- bouncy, fun, and unabashedly disposable. Yet with all the big name-dropping, it's Sturmer who still gets the best moments, be it the we-love-rock opener of "Call Me What You Like" or the "ooh ooh" vocal-channeling of "The Story". Even the prerequisite ballad ("Cameland") is infused with enough 60s-folk homage that it is more of an interesting detour than a drain on the album's momentum.

Two remixes cap off the album, one an utterly useless retool of the otherwise-fine "Friends Forever", as well as a bouncy update of the "Teen Titans Theme". Here they're just tacked on to what is an otherwise great pop album. Are the lyrics worth analyzing? Not for a second. Will this album change your life? Not in the least. Yet is it the most fist-pumpingly fun album you'll hear all year? Absolutely. Let's see Pikachu try and do that.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less

Alt-rock heroes the Foo Fighters deliver a three-hour blast of rock power that defies modern norms.

It's a Saturday night in Sacramento and the downtown area around the swank new Golden 1 Center is buzzing as if people are waiting for a spaceship to appear because the alt-rock heroes known as the Foo Fighters are in town. Dave Grohl and his band of merry mates have carried the torch for 20th-century rock 'n' roll here in the next millennium like few others, consistently cranking out one great guitar-driven album after another while building a cross-generational appeal that enables them to keep selling out arenas across America.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.