Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Album Review: World's End Girlfriend - Seven Idiots

We’ve known for awhile now—World’s End Girlfriend fans that is—that Katsuhiko Maeda is utterly, fantastically, and irrevocably insane. Really, that’s what’s made his music such a joy to listen to for the past decade. Unpredictable, it’s impossible to foresee whether he’s going to delve into depression and macabre, sheer beauty, or jazz infused seizures. We’ve dealt with such dichotomies as his debut; Ending Story was a fleeting, fun excursion into upbeat and jovial melodies. Just five years down the road, however, he would go on to create The Lie Lay Land, a dark and somber affair that blended beautiful sweeping moments with unsettling passages. With his tenth full length, Seven Idiots, we see Maeda, more than ever, teetering on either side of that thin line that separates genius and madness, and it’s all the better for it.

Seven Idiots is an album no one could have predicted; an amalgamation of everything Maeda has done throughout his career. It’s bold, brash, daring, and spontaneous, with enough character and personality packed in to float an entire band’s discography. Coming off his 2007 effort, Hurtbreak Wonderland, Seven Idiots comes as quite a shock. Whereas the former relied on sweeping gestures and post-rock aesthetics, the latter utilizes glitch electronica, and free form jazz. It’s much more “rock” oriented as well, featuring groovy bass movements as well as a frantic guitar. Strings and keyboard make their triumphant return too, albeit not very often, and with a much more sketchy, frenetic sound. Seven Idiots sounds utterly over the top and unfathomably ridiculous, which more often than not works in its favor.

Yet even though much of the album is fun and thoroughly enjoyable, it also happens to be unbelievably exhausting. At about 80 minutes, Seven Idiots is almost too long to fit onto one disc. Passages meander a lot longer than they should, and ambient Merzbow-esque noise pieces like “The Offering Inferno” seem absolutely pointless. A little fat trimming would have done the album wonders, but instead, filler completely kills the cohesiveness and flow.

Regardless of the 15 or so minutes of forgettable material, Seven Idiots is still filled to the brim with excellent songs. The three part “Bohemian Purgatory” suite stands as the strongest and even strangest piece on the entire record. Composed to be darker and more avant-garde, the three pieces are filled with some of the most creative and inspired sounds Maeda has created to date. Saxaphone, piano, and drums all coalesce into a frenzied and beautiful concoction, all leading up to a disgusting and disastrous conclusion somewhat akin to Maeda’s mind collapsing on itself. “Les Enfants du Paradis” is infinitesimally catchy, featuring a simple yet exciting guitar riff that is helped along by some twitchy electronica and dance-y beats. While they aren’t breathtakingly beautiful, they are beautifully weird, and represent well the sound Maeda must have surely been aiming for.

Seven Idiots will be the most divisive World’s End Girlfriend Maeda has ever created. Some will lambast the utter refusal to fall into the “post-rock” trap of making pretty music for pretty music’s sake. After all, if appears that he had a hell of a time making this album, with its spastic nature and whatnot. Either way—whether you embrace it or detest it—Seven Idiots will be one of the most bizarre, and ultimately unforgettable experiences of 2011.

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