On these promising EPs, Suibots create the perfect soundtrack for a twee stroll through a shimmering metropolis, over-sized headphones buffering the franticness of the city from the outsized but understated emotions within.
Album: Selfish Youth/Baby Young
How hard do you twee?
How hard can one even twee? It’s a genre that, by definition, rejects hardness. Nonetheless, I roll deep with Belle & Sebastien; I rock soft with Camera Obscura.
Twee, in its (arguably) 90s heyday rejected the big loudness of alternative rock, the big sexuality of pop music, the big insistence of dance music. While a bit slippery by definition, twee always insisted that the small, the quaint, the quiet, could generate big emotional payoff. If emo needed wailing and gnashing of the teeth to get through to its audience, twee needed just an understated punchline. It said, “Sure I may be dying slowly of heartache, but I wouldn’t want to trouble anyone with something like that.”
From a certain point of view, then, it would seem like Japan would be fertile ground for twee bands. After all, its the home of that wonderful stereotype, the buttoned up, hard working, salaryman. Wouldn’t a pleasant album of twee-pop be the loveliest thing to put on after an eleven hour shift. Yet that doesn’t really seem to be the case. Japan’s most popular exports have been more of the Boredoms/Melt Banana “listen to how crazy this band is,” variety. Other popular musical exports include the always frenetic anime theme songs.
Perhaps there are not too many young folks picking up a guitar in Japan whose desire is to make a pleasant album for a salaryman. Perhaps the salarymen, after a long daily grind would prefer hyper-sexualized pop or bizarro indie rock to serve as a counterpoint to the straightjacket of work. Or perhaps there are loads of twee bands in Japan and they’re just hard to find.
All this is a prelude to saying that the Suibots may be the most polite band I’ve ever encountered. The opening track from Selfish Youth sounds like a serenade. Only it is a serenade for the girl’s father. A serenade asking permission to go on a date. Any father in his right mind would say to his daughter, “Sweetheart, anyone who can right such a hummable melody, use such economy of songwriting for a big effect, is OK in my book. The two of you have my blessing.”It’s a shock though, that such a well-mannered song is called “Selfish Girl”. Yikes! If our lead Suibot can be so polite and dismissive at the same time, this girl must truly have issues.
After the first track, the Suibots ratchet up the rock to push themselves more into “Friday I’m in Love” jangle pop territory (still twee? right?) And yet that polite sense of restraint undercuts things a bit. The highlight of the two EPs comes in “Give Me Blue”. The band starts to get its dander up with noisy distorted guitars and tension building pre-choruses. But when its time to really unleash in the choruses, the drummer falls back on a closed hi-hat steady beat. Loosen up Suitbots! You earned a moment of catharsis.
Nevertheless, the band has a run of great songs throughout the two EPs. Lead off song on Baby Youth, “Young Chaos” is another highlight. It pairs a twee-base with a layer of absolutely gorgeous shoegaze drone. “April Youth” then, does the most bizarre slight of hand. It adds a layer of genuinely funky wah-wah guitar to the mix. How the band makes it work is anyone’s guess, but it does.
The only weak spots come at the end of Baby Youth. “Baby Candy” makes the mistake of summoning the beast. It quotes almost directly from “Lust for Life”. Ironically, the band does try to cut loose a bit on the track. But when you quote from Iggy Pop, an artist famous for being so unhinged we are all blessed that he could contain himself long enough to cut some songs in the studio, you’re always going to pale in comparison. The last track, a remix of “Baby Candy”, is decent enough, but has the sound of indie dudes playing at dance music.
Overall, the Suibots aren’t just polite, they’re Canadian polite. But they can right the heck out of a twee/jangle pop song.