With the recent birth of ‘postringtone’ music, brought about by record labels such as PC Music, along with a surge in the popularity of a new breed of fast paced, semi ironic dance pop, it is no wonder that threepiece Kero Kero Bonito have enjoyed a lot of attention and praise for their releases so far.
The bands choice of rhythm is a bit more steady and their instrumentation a tiny bit more organic than their friends at PC Music. The melodic elements they employ are intensely precise, and sound as if they have been fed through the nearest N64, whereas the rhythmic aspects are heavy and well produced. This results in extremely cute songs, with an air of serious danceability to them. Sarah Bonito’s lyrical prowess spans over two whole languages as she seamlessly transitions from English to Japanese and back again. She has an ability to make seemingly uninspiring topics fodda for a vibrant and engaging track. A full album however, is a rare venture for any artist associated with this vibrant musical revolution championed mainly in the UK, the psuedo-shallow subject matter and piercing instrumentation could turn sour when stretched over 10-15 tracks. But, confident and carefree, Kero Kero Bonito attempt to rise to the challenge on ‘Bonito Generation’
‘Big City’ proves to be one of the most impressive songs on the album. The instrumentation is nothing short of amazing. The gliding lead synth belongs in the background of some vibrant, pixellated racing game in which you weave through the roads and alleyways of a bustling cityscape. Bonito skips down the streets, watching everyone walking by as she tells us that it’s a ‘blank canvas, made of concrete’, proving to us that she has the ability to make even the blandest imagery exciting and beautiful.
KKB decide to let us rest from all the jumping around and smiling we’ve been doing halfway through the album on the song entitled ‘Break’, the second single from the album. Though unfortunately for us, this song proves one of the most engaging on the album. A squelchy bassline plods around the landscape of the song, accompanying a mellow piano playing relaxing chords quite similar to that of lounge music. We hear Bonito leave a message to her bandmates informing them that she’s decided she doesn’t want to do anything on that particular day. The carefree image that the band conveys is impossible not to love, and is at its peak in this infectious song.
We jump back to our feet for the next song, that was the first single from the album. ‘Lipslap’ is KKB‘s ode to knowing the slang. Bonito’s lyrical performance is a lot more confident than we have heard on a lot of previous tracks. The influence of the UK music scene in this song is explicitly presented in the beautifully crafted dual-bassline. It sounds almost as if Bonito has beaten Wiley or Dizzee Rascal into the recording sessions of one of their newer, more club-based tracks. She raps on the rhythm extremely well and the beat explodes at the end, all the intricacies of the production on display.
‘Paintbrush’ see’s the band drop the rhythmic side of their aesthetic for a short and beautiful musical motif. A slightly distorted set of bells accompany Sarah as she sings gently. The melody is breathtaking, but these amazing melodies can be found on nearly every track, the band just know how to incorporate them into a number of different aesthetics, in order to achieve a range of different sounds.
The track ‘Picture This’ has one of the most interesting premises on the album. The song expertly weaves the band’s trademark, carefree and fun-loving instrumentation with Sarah’s obsessive compulsion to take a picture of every moment of her day. The beat and melody are as infectious as ever. However it is almost impossible, in songs like this, to not catch a hint of KKB‘s tongue in their cheek. Lyrics such as: ‘Pics are all I need, to show everyone, who I am, what I want to be’ or ‘don’t forget to show, everybody you’ve ever known’ infer that a more austere message might be at the heart of the song. This is completely contradicted by the bands positive and happy portrayal of it. Though these suggestions of a more sinister undertone to the song may just come from the band’s tangible connection to the PC Music troupe, known for hiding somewhat dark messages in a glistening, plastic wrap of major chords and smiling synths. And KKB do seem to be genuinely happy most of the time, especially on this track.
On ‘Bonito Generation’, the band have taken an aesthetic that many would think too shallow for an album, and made it engaging for all 12 songs. The melodic characteristics they employ are painfully catchy and invite both an easy and, sometimes, heavily analytical listen in equal measure. The band sound at their happiest and most innovative on so many of the tracks, and it should be no surprise, as they have given us a perfectly framed view into the world of Kero Kero Bonito.
‘Bonito Generation’ is out on the 21st of October via Double Denim Records