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School of Liberty

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Album Review

Ten years into its career, the band that had regularly been declared Japan's answer to NOFX returned again with another gleeful sonic blast of fairly derivative but thoroughly enjoyable melodic punk-pop. Nicotine's English lyrics are as charmingly nonidiomatic as ever ("You're one of the suspects on the day/We need a rescue for all the prey," etc.), but their big, hooky chord progressions are pitch-perfect and their harmonies soar joyfully over a solid wall of heavyweight guitar noise. Nicotine's ska influences have receded almost to the point of invisibility; only the brief, skanking bridge on "Dream of Summer Days" betrays any lingering aftereffects of the band's early ska roots, and that's too bad — a more ska-oriented album from these guys would be lots of fun. But you'd have to be a real curmudgeon not to get a kick out of this album as it is. Highlights include the album-opening "Perfect Crime" and "Get the Liberty," a probably unintentionally funny song about eternity, fun, war, and adolescent striving. Recommended.


Formed: 1994 in Tokyo, Japan

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Originally starting out as a self-described "indie/alternative" act in 1994, Nicotine were first introduced to punk and ska upon their first American tour during the summer of that year. Immediately after returning to their native Tokyo, Howie Sato (vocals/guitar), Yasu (guitar), Full (bass) and Naoki (drum) drastically altered their sound to something that was a lot more aggressive and fast paced, while at the same time melodic and catchy. Eventually, this "new sound" resulted in their first mini-album...
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School of Liberty, Nicotine
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