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Album Review

Zazen Boys' self-titled debut album is in many ways a straight projection of themes that guitarist/vocalist Mukai Shutoku first began to develop with his previous band, Number Girl, particularly on the album Num-Heavy Metallic with its increasing use of funk and dance rhythms as well as elements of traditional Japanese music. Nevertheless, there's a lot more going on in Zazen Boys, with Mukai's vocal style moving further from the tortured yowl that was a defining feature of much of Number Girl's output and diversifying into a kind of ranting stream-of-consciousness near-rap — as on "Usodarake" and "Yureta Yureta Yureta" — that is partly reminiscent of New York's the Lapse and even flirts with a soul-style falsetto on the opening track, "Fender Telecaster." Throughout the album there's an urge to experiment and move away from the limitations of punk rock, although "Cold Summer" still retains a lot of the Pixies influence of Mukai's previous band. It's also worth noting that for all the unusual arrangements, genre hopping, and stop-start rhythms, Zazen Boys' most unifying characteristic is how accessible it is. A preponderance of heavy Led Zeppelin-style guitar chords and Steely Dan funk workouts gives much of the album a familiar-sounding 1970s vibe that prevents it from getting bogged down in experimentalism for its own sake, but also perhaps prevents the band from taking its experimental tendencies to their logical conclusions. As it is, Zazen Boys comes across as an interesting step along a road, but by no means the finished product.


Formed: 2003 in Tokyo, Japan

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Named after a form of Buddhist meditation, Zazen Boys first appeared as a side project of Japanese musician Mukai Shutoku, the guitarist/vocalist of alt-rock band Number Girl, as an opportunity for Mukai to express some of his more diverse and experimental musical urges at a time when his other band was riding the crest of its breakthrough into the mainstream. After Number Girl's demise he revived the project, taking them to new levels of critical and commercial success and proving a critical link...
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ZAZEN BOYS, Zazen Boys
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