Surprise! Rivers Cuomo of Weezer and Scott Murphy are making J-Pop now. It’s not much of a shock to those who have kept up with either artist. Scott has been a pretty big deal in Japanese music since signing as a solo artist with Universal Music Japan in 2008 (Allister also found success in Japan). Rivers is, as anyone who has listened to Weezer’s Pinkerton can guess, enamored with Japanese culture (and Japanese ladies). The two paired up in 2010 to work on the Scott & Rivers project and this album (the title of which I understand translates to Scott & Rivers) is their debut. The result is a very peppy, squeaky clean pop album with slight hints of the bands that came before.
This album is heavy on the synth, though it incorporates guitar (which both Scott and Rivers play on the album), bass, and drums. Scott and Rivers share lead vocals; it’s apparent that Rivers definitely has the stronger pipes, and at points it may have been better for Rivers to have taken the lead vocals for himself. It’s all upbeat, peppy pop songs. There’s an overall positive, polished sound to the album. The best description I can think of is that I could see almost all of these songs fitting in on the soundtrack to a kids’ movie. If the Smurfs head to Japan for their next sequel, one of these songs could fit right in on the soundtrack. The only song with some edge (and the only one where the guitars are featured prevalently) is a cover of Kimura Kaela’s “Butterfly.” There’s a couple of riffs on the fourth track, making it different from the others, but it’s still far from Scott and Rivers’ past projects. The twelfth track, “君と二人で” (which is “Kimitofutaride” in our alphabet) seems like it has the most emotion to it; the powerful piano, distorted guitars, and Rivers’ strong vocals convey much more feeling than the synthesizer and cutesy vocals in the other songs. It makes the strongest sonic statement of the album (though all I understood of the spoken statement was “all my life” and “pass my time,” the only English phrases.)
Given that this is J-Pop, 95% percent of the lyrics are in Japanese. I don’t understand Japanese, so I can’t provide a whole lot of insight about the words. However, I’m going to make an educated guess that they’re not all that deep. I’m basing this on the few words that are in English (a handful of songs have one line of the chorus in English). In “Freaking Love My Life,” the only English words are “I freaking love my life, it’s turning out just right, it’s a party every night.” Other English lyrics aren’t quite so positive, but still give the impression that they are trying to appeal to a young audience, like “I gotta break free” in “Break Free.” Given the similarities to current fluff-filled Weezer songs, I’m going to assume that the Japanese words are equally as shallow. The combination of English and Japanese can be at once intriguing and frustrating, like on the ninth track where the only English word is “waterslide” (I really want to know what they’re saying about a waterslide), or in the fifth track where the English is “Don’t let me go, I want you to know,” then switches back to Japanese. What did you want me to know? Now I’ll never find out.
There are some comparisons to Weezer. “Homely Girl” is about how much he loves his homely girl, which brings to mind how Rivers wanted a girl who wouldn’t laugh or put on makeup if he wasn’t around in “No One Else.” Unfortunately, the Weezer that most of this abum will remind you of is the post-Green Album Weezer that sings synth-pop songs about the going to the mall and causing trouble, not the Weezer of old where Rivers listened to Kiss and fell in love with lesbians.
The album debuted at #1 on the Japanese alternative charts the week it was released, so saying it’s big in Japan isn’t just a joke. It’s a well-polished, positive J-Pop album. So if happy J-Pop is your thing and you don’t mind a lack of deep lyrics, this is a pretty solid (but generic) album. If you’re looking to hear more of the Weezer and Allister you liked back in high school, just go get your old CDs out of your parents’ basement.