The Zodiac, Oxford
16th September 2004
At first glance, there’s no reason why we should be surprised by Polysics. Kooky, heavily Western-influenced, frenetic and video gamey, they seem to combine some of the most obvious characteristics of exported Japanese pop music. However, the Tokyo two boy, two girl band – named after an early synthesizer, the Korg Polysix – have more up the sleeves of their matching red overalls.
They tear through 18 short, punchy tracks – the length of their first proper UK album, the compilation Polysics or Die. The influence of American new wavers Devo is obvious both visually and in the band’s philosophy; however, musically they are faster, bouncier, more energetic and far crazier.
Guitarist and singer Hayashi is enthusiastic and captivating, yelping and shrieking a mostly unintelligible mixture of Japanese and English and squealing his way through frantic guitar solos. Kayo, however, is almost motionless behind her keyboards, occasionally performing robotic dance moves and adding vocodered vocals (most prominent on their electro-punk cover of My Sharona, their next single). Fumi, on bass, holds the madness together, her fingers moving like a blur at times, occasionally contributing very girly “yayay”s. Drummer Yano – supplemented by mini disc beats – copes with what must be very difficult speeds and rhythms expertly.
The set’s pace increases to a crescendo and plunges us into an exhausting barrage of riffs. Amidst the noise there are touches of pure beauty, reminiscent of the swirly guitar/electronic genius of Cornelius. Most tracks, like Lookin’ Lookin’ Ga, don’t have a recognisable verse or chorus – just short repeated hooks weaving in and out of each other. Kaja Kaja Goo and New Wave Jacket are more commercial fare but no less noisy. Kayo’s keyboards sometimes lose out to Hayashi’s raging guitar, but the electronic robotic synth sound is just as important in the overall mix.
In short – brilliant. Miss out at your peril.
From Nightshift, October 2004
Photo: © Richard Whitelock