The purveyors of cool over at Vice have brought us yet another exciting new band, except this one seems oddly familiar. Japanese Motors is a four-piece band from Costa Mesa, California who have just released their self-titled album. Immediate comparisons will be made, but break on through the banal qualities for an ultimately rewarding listen.
Let’s get this out of the way; Japanese Motors are coated in the spectral essence of The Strokes of old. Singer, Alex Knost, has precisely the same hollow echo of a voice that Julian Casablancas has, which really isn’t a knock on his singing voice. It fits the music appropriately. However, the fact that they don’t use dueling guitars on every single song, on most songs in fact, makes their sound entirely different than their New York counterpart.
Opening track, “Single Fins and Safety Pins,” creates an entirely different vibe than The Strokes; choosing to bask in the glory of the California sun rather than worry about the plight of upper-middle class elitists in New York City. You can hear the sound of the surf flowing out of the guitar-work, and the rythm of the beach trodding along in the song. Even here, the commonalities with other select groups are not yet noticed.
Then “Regrets A Paradise” comes walking along the shore, and Knost embraces his inner Casablancas, although videoes of this frontman show him having a bit more fun; he dances rather than using his mic stand to hold him up. Vocal stylings are similar throughout the rest of the album, especially in songs like “Coors Lite.” The similiarities don’t detract from the enjoyment of listening to such songs, for we all long for the sounds of a few years back, when everything seemed fresh and new. But, even the bass lines sound really close.
There is another, more Californian, influence apparent in a lot of these songs, and it might be one more close to the hearts of Japanese Motors. Listening to a song like “Better Trends” brings back memories of “Take the Skinheads Bowling” by Camper Van Beethoven, the Californian oddity commodity. Both bands had a tendency for catchy songs, worthy of listening for all audiences.
Now, those at Vice will tell you of their tendency to throw outrageous parties that cater to the homeless and surfers, the debutantes and the hipsters; this definitely has nothing to do with this band, nor their ability to write catchy lo-fi pop ditties with a surf twist. Listen to the band for their music, no matter where the influence.