02 August 2018 (released)
11 January 2018
In the late 70s/early 80s when new wave bands were slowly unseating the old guard rockers and flash-in-the-pan disco divas on the charts, a certain vocal style emerged counter-intuitive to everything that had come before it. With the advent of bands like the B-52s, Joy Division, and Talking Heads a kind of speak-singing came to the fore to challenge the overblown theatric belting that was the focus of the rockers and the disco singers alike. The new kids on that particular block were over the grandstanding of FM radio titans and were looking for something different, in whatever package that came. So what followed were singers that eschewed the norms of melody and tonality and just spoke plainly, often creating disjointed anti-melodies with their matter-of-fact delivery. The branch of that subgenre has survived through today in certain veins of the post-punk landscape.
Japanese indie/post-punk group si,irene's latest EP BEES is composed of six quirky, bouncy tunes with singer Reed David's disjointed atonal rendition of their absurdist lyrics that explore the various facets of modern life. The opener and lead single 'awful pop song' is built over a classic indie movie song chord structure of clean guitar but played with a 7/8 time beat that gives it all a nervous energy, never quite catching up to itself. Reed's ultra-deadpan delivery further reinforces the theme of the title giving it all this tongue in cheek mood. The overtly expositional 'indispensable physiological function in a living body' tries to explain deep emotions through dense scientific terminology. It's like having a character from The Big Bang Theory explain their girl troubles. On first listen, the vocals feel far too unhinged from the melody to work but in some strange way, their disconnection aptly mirrors the frustration of our lover protagonist.
This is the constant debate going on in your head when you listen to si,irene. The band is clearly hot. There are sizzling breakdowns, innovative chord structures, and some bouncy good time grooves. By the last two songs, Reed's voice does become more integrated with the music, making for more fluid pieces allowing you to sink into the music. However, the question of whether he's being counterintuitive or he's just off plagues the listener throughout. That's probably what everyone thought when the world first got a taste of 'Rock Lobster'.