By Japanese Fighting Fish
Japanese Fighting Fish have been knocking around for a while now, flirting with mainstream press recognition but never quite achieving the full-blown exposure they crave. After the novel loss of two members to a Brazilian samba band (not your everyday rock 'n' roll story there), the Latin influences that differentiated them from the crowded modern rock scene have also departed for a more typical straightforward rock beast, including the prerequisite, though admittedly movingly delivered, ballad of 'Mister Mandolin'.
Their process for creating their sophomore album, Day Bombs, aims for greatness by imitating the process of those they look up to, going for a lower budget version of what the Foo Fighters did on their last album: garage recording, albeit flitting from garage to garage dotted around the country as and when rental periods came to an end. This scattershot spasmodic nature to their recording hasn't impacted their consistency like you would expect. The album feels largely of a piece with itself, all the parts gelling nicely and working together. The quality remains the same throughout, in audio and musicianship.
However, while going about similar artistic processes can be enlightening and even inspirational, mere mimicry doesn't exactly inspire originality. And while they aren't just some carbon copy of Grohl and co., they don't differentiate themselves from a lot of what is already out there. Lead single 'Greatest Excuse' is a lolloping easy listen with a nod along rhythm, but it doesn't stick in the mind after the final ringing notes die. It lacks a spark, a freshness, tending toward the middle of the road, a weakness applicable across much of the album. 'They Lie' is a far more interesting track, with its manic vocal delivery, all rapidfire verses and sustained choruses. It's the stand out of the album by its sheer insanity, with its similarly more vocally playful and ska-inflected brother 'Ben', but they alone can't save the rest from being simply solid rock music in a vein we've all heard before.
Rock fans will as a result find plenty to like here, but it isn't music that will set the world on fire like you feel Japanese Fighting Fish would like it to. Their delivery sometimes lacks for enthusiasm; 'They Lie' is so much more energetic than its fellows that the tracks that follow can't help but seem tame and uninteresting by comparison until you put that track out of mind. This kind of fluctuation in energy is often an artifact of the admittedly at times stultifying nature of recording as opposed to the far more organic nature of live performance. These songs could certainly do with rocking up in places, something the live environment lends itself towards. I aim to catch them at a gig in the near future to qualify this feeling, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the follow-up review. Until then, Day Bombs remains an enjoyable but not entirely memorable album with the potential to be great. It remains for Japanese Fighting Fish to tease this out and deliver on that promise.