Boris: Attention Please, Heavy Rocks
Published: June 1, 2011
When a band releases two albums at the same time, it’s easy to suspect that it doesn’t quite know what it wants to say. Listening to the two new albums from Boris doesn’t dispel that idea, though not in the way you might expect. Both extend aspects of the Japanese power-trio-turned-quartet’s recent work: Attention Please features vocals from typically nonsinging guitarist Wata and a more “pop” feel (complete with occasional “dance” beats) hinted at on side one of its last proper album Smile, while Heavy Rocks expands the shadowy emotional psych explored on Smile’s rollercoastering side two. What both have in common, other than the musicians, is a fuzzy, unfinished feel.
That works best on Attention Please, which seems out to recast Wata as a slightly Goth-y diva and where fuzziness and the lack of a fine edge only add to the appeal of torchy Twin Peaks plod “You” and minor-key psych-squee creep “Tokyo Wonder Land.” The distinct approaches taken to each track, from the solo finger-picking of “Aileron” to the slinky fuzz-pop power move of “Les Paul Custom ’86,” give the album the feel of a discrete singer/songwriter breakout. It might break out further if the muffled sound didn’t swaddle up some of its most blatantly appealing tunes, from the fake-string-driven “Hope” to the hurtling shoegaze of “Spoon.” Possibly nonironic disco-rock thumper “Party Boy” will have to storm whatever charts this might make.
Heavy Rocks shares a title with a nearly 10-year-old Japan-only Boris album that marked the band’s shift from extended sludge workouts toward neo-biker-rock. The 2011 iteration features more typical mid-period crunch and usual vocalist Takeshi, though he breaks out in his own way. Strutting, flam-fueled opener “Riot Sugar” could have come off any of the last few albums, but follow-up “Leak -Truth,yesnoyesnoyes-” finds Takeshi crooning the verses and launching into falsetto for the liftoff choruses as if he’s channeling the spirits of FM moustache-pop past. The haunted vocals and sepulchral sound alternately enliven and flatten the rest of Heavy Rocks from track to track, both adding drama to an epic-mope electric redo of “Aileron” and the harmonized Universal Order of Armageddon gloss “Tu, la la” and sucking the full impact out of tracks like the furious rave-up “GALAXIANS.” These albums are full of great new Boris music, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it to listen to them.
> Email Lee Gardner