March 31, 2004

Sekiden "Junior Fiction"

In his review of their EP 1+1=Heartache, Joseph compared Sekiden to Weezer, and I must disagree with that. Sekiden sounds too much like mid to late ‘90s Brit-pop rock and rocks too hard to be like Weezer. Actually, they sound a lot like the band Ash did at their artistic peak. The guitars and “Ooh” and “Aah” vocals sound like they could have been taken straight from Ash’s album, 1977. Sekiden is not a complete Ash clone, though, since they have two things that Ash didn’t have during their glory days: Moog synths and a female vocalist to do backing vocals and a couple turns on lead. (Yes, they do have a woman in the band now who does some backing vocals, but I’m talking about Ash when they were at their artistic peak.) The synth parts either sound very new wave (like on “1+1=Heartache") or crazily Moogified, like on a Rentals album. They’re mostly background, though, and the music is mostly guitar-centric.

Really, if you want to go crazy with the band comparisons, I’d say that Sekiden sounds like the supergroup that might have ensued had the members of Ash joined forces with the keyboard player from Pulp. If you’re an Anglophile, you will love this album. Sure, they’re Australian, but you won’t be able to tell (especially if you’re from America). Didn’t most of those Brit-pop bands pretty much lose their accents when they started singing? Sekiden loses their accents, too. As for the lyrics, most of them are about relationships. Nothing too deep here. But you never did turn to Brit-pop for deep ruminations on the nature of existence and the global power structure, right? This is almost totally upbeat, rocking love music here.

And hell, the lyrics could have been lifted from an Ash or Pulp record, too. Don’t be frightened away by my comparisons, though. Sekiden has an advantage that Ash and Pulp don’t have. You see, those two bands are well past their respective golden ages, which they weren’t really able to maintain for a long period of time. Ash had only one really good full-length, and Pulp… well, I personally only like a few of their singles here and there. Sekiden, after releasing two EPs, has just reached the heights of pop greatness with this album. Here’s to them maintaining that for at least another album or two.

Oh, and there are a few interesting quirks to the record that I should mention before ending this review. Some of you might be thrilled to hear it when Sekiden puts a Speak and Spell to great use on the song, “S-T-A-Y”. They also have an authentic Game Boy “ping” to start off the album’s final track, “Pulsewidth”, and for the first few seconds of the song, they use a Game Boy to play the song’s melody before kicking in with the Moog and female vocals. Very cool. Speaking of the last track, it’s actually 46 minutes, 6 seconds long (the total album length is 73:48), and the what might be considered the actual song itself lasts for only 3 minutes. The rest of the track is just atmospheric Moog tweaking. It sounds just like the IDM that would have been trendy a couple of years ago. I don’t know what the motivation behind that is, whether it’s some sort of joke or they thought they were doing something interesting, but I just think it’s funny that they’d fill out the album that way. It’s kind of reminiscent of the extended ending to “Diamond Sea” on Sonic Youth’s album, Washing Machine. You can either keep listening or just press stop knowing that you’d feel satisfied either way.

So there you go. I don’t think those quirks really make the album (the great, fun pop songs do), but I thought you’d like to know about them. So, if you’re like me and find yourself wishing that Ash could have just held onto their full greatness for just one other album, you’ll want to give Sekiden a try.

--Eric Wolf

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