Attention Please (7/10) and Heavy Rocks (6/10)
Japanese experimental rockers, Boris, are decidedly non-committal: Since the release of their debut album in 1996, the band has flitted between genres — from its psychedelic metal roots to synth-pop to ambient noise. But with four albums set for release during the first half of 2011, it looks like they still have plenty of room to explore these sonic variations.
Their output comes heavy this week, with the concurrent release of Attention Please and Heavy Rocks — albums that ultimately serve as a good halfway point between Boris’s metal foundation and flair for experimentation.
The more traditional Heavy Rocks is a return-to-form for Boris, which will come as a pleasant surprise to fans who’ve grown weary of Boris’ recent pop-heavy, riffless work. Indeed, Heavy Rocks sports exactly the same kind of muddy garage riffing and spacey atmospherics that characterized the band’s most definitive works, 2003’s Akuma No Uta and 2008’s Pink.
Standout track "Galaxians" manages to successfully integrate Pink's heavy shoegazing with more experimental synth effects and relatively traditional metal drumming. Others tend to be more straightforward; "Jackson Head" tries (mostly unsuccessfully) to combine ominous doom metal atmosphere with ‘70s classic rock. The result is intriguing, but ultimately more awkward than awesome. Though most of the tracks work, like “Jackson Head,” they often pale in comparison to the aforementioned Boris classics.
Attention Please, on the other hand, explores some of the most diverse stylistic ground the Boris rockers have attempted thus far, incorporating everything from cheesy, late-nineties electro rock to flat-out J-pop. The self-titled opening track, along with the excellent "Tokyo Wonder Land," combine colorful keyboards with a grunginess that evokes the best of mid-‘90s radio alt rock. Even better are tracks like "Hope" and "Spoon," which lend guitarist Wata’s gorgeous vocals to excellent, shoegazing dream pop hooks. Though it has its downs (the aimless "You" and charming-but-innocuous "Party Boy"), Attention Please’s occasional moments of stunning beauty make it a worthy listen.
Even if you're deterred by Boris's recent shift from its metal roots, these two albums — though flawed — are promising, especially considering the commendable volume of output Boris are set to release this year.