Admit it, you like Kero Kero Bonito, you like their sugary, sunshiny brand of electropop, their good-time vibes, their humour, and when Sarah Midori Perry raps in Japanese, you absolutely lose it. This is nothing to be embarrassed by, the English synth pop trio is so loveable (not likeable, loveable) that their 2016 breakthrough ‘Bonito Generation’ will butter you up until you consider the group a friend for life.
The album was built on quirks that KKB loved to ham up to their maximum potential, Sarah would write about graduating from university, trampoline-based recreation, loving your parents and more, while the production, handled by Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled, was full of bitpop plinks and plonks, wondrous pads, and a larger-than-life sense of colour you’d expect from a Wes Anderson movie.
But this ain’t your grandmother’s Kero Kero Bonito! In the lead-up to the release of ‘TOTEP’, the single ‘Only Acting’ was released, notably abandoning the electropop partway through, turning into a punk rock, guitars/bass/drums song. If you listen to ‘TOTEP’ before ever hearing the single, you’re in for an even bigger surprise, because the whole EP seems to be structured around surprising the listener, especially those already familiar with the trio’s core sound.
‘The One True Path’ starts the EP off, and it might already raise a few eyebrows, as the song doesn’t really rely on the cutesy, bubblegum elements that ‘Bonito Generation’ was built on, instead becoming a little more philosophical, as the song seems to be all about searching for a clearer future, trying to find that one true path. The aforementioned ‘Only Acting’ follows, continuing the electropop before turning the entire project inside out with its distorted guitars, including a beautifully-executed solo before the chorus turns into a glitchy breakdown outro.
The glitchy outro noise of ‘Only Acting’ self-destructs and immediately kicks off ‘You Know How It Is’, a song that stays garage rock all throughout, with fuzz and drive and chutzpah, and a surf rock-style of guitar and rhythm – it’s so fuzzed-up it’ll make Ty Segall blush! ‘Cinema’ then returns the computerized approach that was cruelly stolen from the band as they recorded only ‘Only Acting’, but a little too solemnly and self-reflectively to make for a fitting KKB song, but perhaps a fitting final bow for such an explorative project.
To pull off the twists and turns you’d expect from a conceptual, full-length album on an eleven-minute EP is special – it’s surreal, it’s a surprise, something Kero Kero Bonito seem to be full of.
‘TOTEP’ is out now via Kero Kero Bonito