Wednesday, August 04, 2010
THE BORIS BRAND
I'm listening to the BXI EP, four songs recorded by Japanese rock band Boris with vocals (on three tracks) by Ian Astbury. The usual wave of hype that surrounds anything and everything Boris does is slowly building. It will crest in a week or so—the disc comes out on August 17, the same day as the new Iron Maiden album, which I also wrote about today, over here.
Daydream Nation with Astbury on vocals. The guitar riff is slightly "off" and distorted/fuzzy in that way SY perfected on "Teen Age Riot." But the histrionic Cult vocalist doesn't really fit with the music. Things get quirky when a small child begins reciting lyrics toward the end of the song. (I think it might be the daughter of Boris guitarist Wata and drummer Atsuo, whose name I can't remember. Nice kid; I met her when Boris were having their photo taken for Metal Edge.) The second track, "We Are Witches," is fuzzier and more in the hard psych-rock vein of Boris's Pink album. The drums are heavily effected for a sound that reminds me of late '90s "alternative metal." The third track is a cover of the Cult's "Rain," sung in a very breathy voice by Wata. Based on this evidence, she should sing more Boris material. They become quite a convincing shoegaze/dream-pop act with her up front. The fourth and final track, "Magickal Child," starts with Astbury imitating Bruce Springsteen as Wata makes enraged-hornet guitar noises like John McLaughlin on Miles Davis's "Go Ahead John," minus the speaker-switching effect. There's a big crashing sound when the whole band comes in, but they disappear again. This is the pattern for the whole track, which isn't a song so much as five minutes of music.
If this EP was by a band you'd never heard of, and you randomly slotted it into your CD player or streamed the tracks from MySpace, you'd probably quit about halfway through the first song. It's occasionally pretty, but it's not compelling stuff, and Ian Astbury's vocals are, if possible, even more of an acquired taste than they were in the late '80s, when his ultra-earnest attempts to be Jim Morrison won the Cult a medium-sized following and got them on Headbanger's Ball during the hair metal era. And frankly, the songs are underwritten. It feels like the band said, "Hey, it'd be fun to work with Ian Astbury!" and he said yes (because Cult records aren't selling, and the version of the Doors he fronted isn't on the road), and nobody thought it was necessary to invest more than ten minutes in writing material.
I don't get why people like Boris as much as they do. I saw them a few years ago, and thought they were deadly dull live, despite Atsuo's over-the-top theatrics (he's got a big gong, and he likes to use it). Their albums are almost always middling, wedded to a concept or a conceit rather than being built around a collection of strong songs, and have a rushed feel like they're already impatient with the concept, and can't wait to get to the next one, even as they're recording the material. And yet, they've somehow become a cult band, and a brand. So people are gonna buy this record out of brand loyalty. Which disappoints me, but I'm sure it pleases them, 'cause it means they don't have to change their strategy to hold onto their fan base.