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Album Review

Monoral's third studio album (and second to have an international release) breaks little new ground, but their musical style is rich enough for Via to avoid the "been there" tag. The band has moved away from reconstructing grunge from scratch, which they busied themselves with before; this time, they simply deliver a bag of forceful rock tunes with lyrics about life and relationships, enough strong riffs to demand attention, and a good deal of quieter parts to allow for some contemplative moments. The no-nonsense but non-macho approach is pretty close to American alt rockers like Audioslave and Thornley, although they only share general stylistic similarities: Monoral copy neither Tom Morello's funky chugging, nor Thornley's "getcher jugular" assault. Instead, they mix dynamic tempos with drawling vocals of the kind favored by British bands — Muse in particular comes to mind, since Monoral have channeled them a bit on their previous album. However, Via doesn't feel British at all, because it's totally devoid of gloom and spleen. Its positive vibe is the only thing it really shares with the J-rock scene, but here it comes across like honest optimism, not the obligatory smile preset to appeal to happy-go-lucky teen fans. To top things off, Monoral's songwriting is in prime form: the album is short, filler-free, and laden with a reasonable variety of moods and tempos, from the head-on hard rock charge of "You" to the quiet midtempo "I Don't Mind" with its Police-like guitar. Via may be a black sheep when it comes to the J-rock standards, but there are few bands Monoral will lose to when it comes to plain quality.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

While nominally belonging to the J-rock movement, Monoral don't really have anything to do with the style, playing an alt-rock/grunge mixture with eyes set on Muse and Pearl Jam instead of upgrading '80s music like so many of their compatriots. But this is only fitting, because the duo is comprised of two half-Japanese musicians fluent in English (a fact heavily employed in their own music): Ali Morizumi, who handles guitars and bass, is half American, although he grew up in Tokyo; and Anis Shimada,...
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  • £7.99
  • Genres: Rock, Music
  • Released: 30 September 2008

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