Kicking Against The Pricks : An Album of the Year - Boris’ - Attention Please
Speaking objectively, there were better and more elaborate albums that 2011 had to offer. Bolder, though? Not really.
Thinking about music in 2011, especially in the “indie” sense of the word, terms like “safe,” “sanitary,” “sterile” come to mind. The threat of a non-accessible, non-commercial and non-saccharine underground being bolstered by do-it-yourself record labels seems more like a memory, the often ear-splitting, alienating and dangerous sounds of the independent music scene notably in absentia. This isn’t to say that performers and bands of this ilk no longer exist, but it’s difficult to associate any extreme with the idea of “indie” music, its sound having slacked and its bands growing formulaic and obtuse. This music is no longer doing its job.
To hear Japanese experimental rock trio Boris back away from their usual metallic and distortion-laden exuberance, opting instead to navigate their way through something more closely relatable to pop music, is the type of move that makes you consider what options you have once the supposed bastard stepchild of the music industry turns darling. For Boris, Attention Please is an initially confusing but ballsy interpretation of post-punk or new wave, a glam’d up push towards a more avant-garde idea of pop music and its potential. While a track like ‘Attention Please’ evokes dance music’s repetition and reliance on rhythm, something like ‘Hope’ defies the indie paradigm, its pose and grace the type of college rock perfection that many groups in the genre could only dream of reproducing. The song refuses to abandon its strength for the sake of sensitivity.
Being a very versatile band, having played back-up and collaborator to acts as varied as Sunn O))) and The Cult’s Ian Astbury, Boris haven’t really allowed themselves to be easily categorized. Attention Please confirms this probably more than any other release they’ve issued, the band’s female lead Wata taking vocal duties as either the sultry songstress, pop anti-diva or little girl lost. Songs like the aforementioned ‘Hope’, the super-rhythmic ‘Party Boy’ or the very minimal ‘See You Next Weekend’ seem to fulfill the status quo of a standard pop release, rugged tracks needed to enliven and enact some deep-seeded notion of rock rebellion while ballads and single-ready dance tracks provide the heart and fun.
Attention Please of course only utilizes the idea of pop as a template, not necessarily to emulative standards. I would say Boris’ efforts most closely resemble Sonic Youth’s various attempts at breaching that oft-evaluated line between art and pop, their own hostile brand of caustic racket and experimentation never achieving the expectations brought about by alternative’s early-90s emergence into FM territory. ’Tokyo Wonder Land’ illustrates this juxtaposition perfectly, the track attentive to Boris’ own love of loud, screeching irritation while the addition of a drum machine adds a dollop of gloss. Also on the more esoteric side is the post-hardcore persuasion of ‘Spoon’, though the tune is very melodic and mostly accessible.
So, as our supposed heroes rep’ing the utopian ideal of musical iconoclasm drop the ball, Attention Please seems to work to reclaim pop as a device with possibility to engage. And, it’s likely I’ve read into this, simultaneously impressed with Boris’ album while cynically aware of what this creative shift could mean, but Attention Please appeals to me as a challenge, one that not only extends the musical abilities of its makers, but also tries to deepen what some might consider music meant to push product. As skeptical as I am about pop, Attention Please allowed me to remember that it’s as relevant a genre as “indie”, so long as its contributors have something new and worthwhile to offer.