Boris
"Smile"

(Southern Lord 2008)Boris - Smile

Japan has a bit of a reputation for cranking out stuff that's six shades of goofy. You can always count on the Land of the Rising Sun for some truly head-scratching output, be it fish-flavored candy, humiliating yet hilarious variety shows, or the indescribably bizarre pornography…or so I'm told. So it should come as no surprise that "Smile," the latest from Japanese noise crafters Boris, fills the oddity quotient for this week's music lesson. Not odd in the flying blender or talking goldfish sense, but odd in the "hmm…I may need to listen to this again to decide if it's good or not" sense.

And after you've taken "Smile" around the block a few times, you'll find a very good, albeit challenging tangle of sonic references crammed into a tight knot of music. Ostensibly a metal album, there are enough detours, genre splices, left-field influences, and nuances to keep listeners on their toes. Take "My Neighbor Satan," for example. It sports a light, airy intro ripped right out of a tween-centric anime that drops into a crazy thick crunch of guitar worthy of the Crüe. Stuff this incongruous really shouldn't work, but somehow it does. There's a handful of tracks that at first seem like straightaway rockers, but even these are given subtext by subtle ripples of horns, layered vocal lines, and feedback-laden guitar caterwauling. And this is to say nothing of the psychedelia, drone, punk, pop and experimental elements you'll find scattered and mashed together all over the album.

Such is the quandary of "Smile." While it's easy to get overwhelmed or turned off by the varied aural barrage, those willing to give it an extra listen or two will find that Boris have fashioned a rewarding experience. And as a bonus, since all of the lyrics are in Japanese, you're free to make up any words you like to go along with the musical grab bag coming your way. There's no mistaking the woo-hoo! refrain in "Statement," though. That just rocks no matter what language you speak.

A-

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