Tokyo Explode: self-titled

Dave Dierksen

Tokyo Explode is S&M for the ears. But you shouldn't be deprived of your musical jollies, no matter how painfully whacko it may be for the rest of us.

Tokyo Explode

Tokyo Explode

Label: Fire
US Release Date: 2004-11-29
UK Release Date: Available as import

I'm not going to sugarcoat this for you. Tokyo Explode's debut is not a good record. Oh wait -- I wasn't going to sugarcoat it (ZING!).

I think what amuses me most about Tokyo Explode is that somewhere there's a pretentious college radio DJ spinning this thing and commending it as cutting edge art rock. I doubt anyone would laugh harder at the statement than the band itself. I don't believe the members of Tokyo Explode (known only as "girl", "boy", and "other") sat down and thought, "Gee, we're making something really important here." I think it more likely that their motives were born in mischief. Rather than making a product worthy of respect, they opted to make something so lacking in respect that it works to subvert the status quo. That is why I won't pan this sucker outright. There are too many artists out there who take themselves too seriously, and if they don't, then there are critics and fans out there to do it for them. Tokyo Explode will probably succeed in offending the sensibilities of all of the above, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The vocals are what really make this record so, um, challenging. Tokyo Explode plays the Engrish angle. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then maybe you remember William Hung. Or maybe you've seen a movie where someone of Asian descent sings a Western song, butchering it for often-unintended comic effect. Whether you find this sort of thing hilarious or racially insensitive will depend on how much PC runs in your veins. I think regardless of your point of view, a full record of an Asian woman belting out off-key English gibberish will test your tolerance (even if it is only 25 minutes long).

If you can manage to hear past the horrific singing, you'll hear occasional sparks of musical potential. Opener "Rocker Boyfriend" has some ripping guitar riffs backed by live drums and programmed loops. Likewise, the classic rock guitar riff of "Schoolmaster", a song about a perverted man with bad fashion sense and "stinky stinky doggy breath", is quite cool. "Devil in My Heart" is reminiscent of some weirder '80s New Wave; in a live setting, it might be entirely danceable.

"All Alone Again" may be the best track on the record. It's a bit quieter, and the vocals are at least, um, kind of melodic as they, um, sort of harmonize over a guitar hook that strangely reminds me of Pete Townsend's "Let My Love Open the Door".

The track that will undoubtedly provide the most laughs is the cover of "Suffragette City". It's truly awful. Just terrible. Luckily, the vocals are so off and the music is so completely removed from Bowie's classic that you can't accuse Tokyo Explode of sacrilege. They've truly created an independent monstrosity.

There's the slow paean to horses, aptly titled "I Love Horses". Sample lyric: "I love horses and they like me too / They like me because I like them / I like to feed them sugar cubes / And when they're sad because it's raining / I like to put a poncho on them so they feel warm".

Look, I'm not saying you won't find it funny the first time or so. In that way, it succeeds as curious entertainment (the key word here, of course, is curious). Everyone knows a musical fetishist -- that person who listens to music so against the grain that it leaves most listeners with splinters in their ears. These are the folks who own everything in Wesley Willis' catalogue; these lucky individuals now have a new artist to champion in Tokyo Explode. But let's not rule out our own dark fascination for the tonally fucked-up. This is the kind of record you might put on at a party just to turn heads, to spice things up, or to lighten the mood if necessary. Or, on the other hand, let's say you and your significant other are having a fight, and you're fed up with arguing. Stick this in the nearest stereo and crank it up to drown the other out. It might end your relationship, but at least Tokyo Explode will have provided you the emphatic last word. See, there's a time and place for everything, but that's about as close as you're going to get to a recommendation.






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