Asian Kung-Fu Generation: Surf Bungaku Kamakura

Surf Bungaku Kamakura, Asian Kung-Fu Generation

Fujisawa Loser

Kugenuma Surf

Enoshima Esker

Koshigoe Crybaby

Shichirigahama Skywalk

Inamuragasaki Jane

Gokurakuji Heartbreak

Hase Sons

Yuigahama Kite

Kamakura Goodbye

*****

Songs in bold are previously released singles. Songs in blue (with a link) have already been reviewed. Those songs will, however, be reviewed in context of the album once more.

*****

Surf Bungaku Kamakura (Surf Culture in Kamakura) is Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s sixth album and third album release of the year (including the EP Mada Minu Ashita ni), released on November 5th, 2008. It reached #2 on Oricon and has sold 56 110 copies. Cultural Note: Kamakura was the capital of the Shogunate in Japan from 1185 to 1333. Note that the capital of Japan was Kyoto from 794 to 1868, but the period between 1185 and 1868 was marked by the Emperor being a puppet in the hands of the Shogun.

Opening the album is the only single released before this album, Fujisawa Loser. I still think the relatively short length of this song is the biggest let-down of this song, considering it’s a very good song. It’s a prime example of what AJIKAN does best: soft punk. As for its position on the album, it makes a perfect opening.

Originally featured as the B-Side on Aru Machi no Gunjou, Kugenuma Surf has started to grow on me after I wrote about how much I hated it. It’s similar to Fujisawa Loser, although it’s more laid back, making a smooth transition.

Enoshima Esker sounds distinctly more Western than the rest of AJIKAN’s material, which is actually a disadvantage when it comes to the overall presentation of the song. It sounds like some of the what I like to call “fake” rock we hear so often now, unfortunately, but it’s acceptable.

Koshigoe Crybaby is a calm song with a powerful beat similar to previous work like Kimi to Iu Hana (a flowery called ‘you’), their second single, and one of their best. It’s not nearly as catchy, though, and features sloppy vocals, which is one of the many things Masafumi Goto has to improve. Otherwise, I think this is a pretty decent album track.

Next up is Shichirigahama Skywalk, is also reminiscent of their earlier works. It’s quite dull but gets better for the bridge, which is slightly catchy, but not enough to really make this track memorable. Nonetheless, it’s an acceptable album track, and although objectively it’s a bad track, subjectively I really like it.

Inamuragasaki Jane brings us straight back to Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s habitual punk, another work reminiscent of earlier material, this time more like Siren and Re:Re:, although they add a particular twist, notably a Pink Floyd-like guitar solo toward the middle, which sounded weird at first, but in the end is a nice addition. I think this is one of the most memorable tracks on this album.

Gokurakuji Heartbreak is another Kimi to Iu Hana-look-alike, with a very similar bass guitar in the background. Here again, though, they fail to create a particularly impressive song, lacking the powerful catchiness found on their second single.

Another song making use of staccatos, Hase Sons is really hard to enjoy because the guitar staccatos are too powerful during the verses, even though the chorus sort of makes up for this. It’s another one of the more memorable songs on the album, but not necessarily because of its positive attributes. The bridge is very typical AJIKAN because of its relaxed mood compared to the aggressive chorus and verses.

Featured as the B-Side on After Dark, Yuigahama Kite is the worst of the three B-Sides of the World World World era. It opens with a deafeningly sharp screeching, which sloppily flow into some really boring guitars and Masafumi Goto’s voice, which make him sound like he’s sleeping.

I thought Kamakura Goodbye was going to be a short interlude-type song, but I was pleasantly suprised. It’s somewhat boring, and sounds more like a YUI ballad rather than an AJIKAN song, but it’s a perfect closing piece. The music features a woodwind in the back, which adds to the quality of the track, because it’s sort of boring. After a while it began to remind me of Neko Case, in a nice way, with the guitar effects.

I really like the concept of Surf Bungaku Kamakura, and I’ll explain it to you: Fujisawa, from Fujisawa Loser, is one of the two extremities of the Enoshima Railway Line, which connects Fujisawa to Kamakura, with stations, skipping some, in order of appearance by the name of: Kugenuma, Enoshima, Koshigoe, Shichirigahama, Inamuragasaki, Gokurakuji, Hase and Yuigahama. You’ve probably understood that this album’s concept is the travel from Fujisawa to Kamakura, and probably the separation from a loved one. Otherwise, this is a pretty decent album. By far not as good as the two previous ones, but far better than what I was expecting from the third album release in one year. Unlike the last album I reviewed, Anna Tsuchiya’s NUDY SHOW!, the beginning and the ending are excellent, but the middle is sort of hazy and sloppy. None of the tracks were flagrantly weak, although most of them were average.

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