May 05, 2004

eX-girl "endangered species"

Imagine this: In another dimension, there exists a planet in the shape of a triangular pyramid. This planet is called Kero Kero. At each of the three points on the bottom dwell a beautiful female frog, and at the top is an anti-everything entity called "Rainbow Satan", which appears in the form of the Frog King whenever it wants to be seen. These three frogs and Rainbow Satan meet each other at a convention for Kero Kero apex dwellers and form a band with Rainbow Satan as their "style commander and curator." After forming a band, they participate in a planetwide musical contest, but since there aren't any musical instruments on Kero Kero, they can only make music with their voices. However, they easily trounce the all the competition, who try to win by making music with stomach growls and eye-blinking percussion. Because they won the contest, they were chosen to represent the planet Kero Kero on Earth and use their musical powers to make Earth a happier place. So, they make the interdimensional trip to Earth, transform into human form, and land in Japan. From Japan, they begin their mission as eX-Girl, the musical ambassadors of the Planet Kero Kero.

So, did that make any sense to you? That's the story as I've tried to make it out from various sources around the Internet.

Really, eX-Girl is a band of three women from Japan who dress in outrageous (but cute) costumes onstage (check the album cover for an example) and seemingly have some sort of frog fetish. In case you didn't know, "Kero Kero" is Japanese for "Ribbit Ribbit." As for the Rainbow Satan/Frog King entity, he's actually their producer, Japanese musician Hoppy Kamiyama (touted as the Japanese Brian Eno), who helps write and plays some instruments on their albums. Since 1998, they've released five full-length albums, the last being Back to the Mono Kero released in the U.S. on Ipecac in 2001.

eX-Girl makes some of the most unique music I've ever heard. Their songs are mixtures of space and prog rock, traditional Japanese music, pop, and noise. And let's not forget the crazy, operatic vocals. What comes out is something like Shonen Knife on acid. Yes, this music really does sound like it originated from outer space, but it's just poppy enough to be fun and barely accessible. It's not too far an imaginary leap to picture them with a cameo in the next Star Wars prequel. Then again, they'd have to look more convincingly alien (less cute), and you know that a band as good as eX-Girl just wouldn't fit into George Lucas' "vision"... I guess they just haven' mastered the Force as well as 'N Sync.

This latest album, Endangered Species, marks something of a transition point for the band, since two of the original three members (Chihiro, the guitarist, and Fuzuki, the drummer) have gone. Chihiro left in the fall of 2001, and Fuzuki left during the recording of this album (she does drum and sing on three tracks, though). Chihiro was replaced by Keikos, guitarist of a band I've never heard of before called Super Junky Monkey, and Fuzuki is replaced by someone named Chapple. And to make things more complicated, Keikos left the band after the album was completed, and she's been replaced by someone else named Zorek. Original bassist Kirilo still remains, but she changed her name to Kirilola.

Even after all the lineup changes, eX-Girl still sounds like the same band. Musically, they haven"t evolved much since their last album, save for some incorporation of acoustic instruments (the string section on the album opener, "e-sa-ya", and the acoustic guitar and piano-driven "Venus vs. Gas Onn"). If I hadn't known about the new band members before listening to this album, I would have sworn that the original members were still there.

As for the lyrics, they're even crazier than the music. Yes, eX-Girl is Japanese, but most of their lyrics are sung in English (well, maybe Engrish, to be perfectly honest). The website for Alternative Tentacles says this album is "a concept album that ponders the conflicts between civilizations and the road that may lead to our extinction". Um; no. Don't get me wrong, the lyrics are quite deep at times, but they don't make a cohesive, intelligible statement like that. Lyrics range from the incredibly deep ("Wonder how you could survive. Not knowing it would make you crazy. The birds were clever enough to fly away when they feel the waves. The time to see yourself reconnected with Mother Nature. To see things in perspective. This journey has to be a self quest." from "Resonance"), to the comical, ("Some drink Coke and some people hold their breath. Others go and ask someone to come try to scare them to death. Keronian 5 crosses the Milky Way. He cures hiccups every single day." from "Rocket Keronian"), and finally to the just plain ridiculous ("The bird, she messed up 'Tea', and flied away to her soul trip through the space. She'll never know the 'Big Mistake' she made 'The Tea' (must be kept) clear like 'The Soul'. You know what I mean?" from "Pretty Ugly."). Really, the lyrics wouldn't be much without the music.

And you know what? The music and the mere sound of their voices totally carry the album. No one else makes music like this, and that's why eX-Girl is so important to me. Strip away the "Planet Kero Kero" rhetoric and the outrageous costumes, and you still have this incredible, innovative space pop/rock, the likes of which have never been made before and may never be made again. If you want something avant-garde and different that's not a chore to listen to, pick this one up.

--Eric Wolf

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