Rivers Cuomo and Scott Murphy's Album Sung in Japanese: Does It Work?
Hung up on a Japanese girl, but you never date her? You never even summon the courage to talk to her, but you worship her from afar? It happened to Rivers Cuomo, and he got Pinkerton out of it. I'm guessing the same thing happened to Scott Murphy.
While you've heard of Weezer and the rise from the ashes success of their sophomore effort, Pinkerton, you may not have heard of Murphy and his band Allister. But Allister is one of the few bands that can honestly say they're big in Japan. So it seems perfectly natural that two dudes hung up on heavy guitars and Japanese women might get together and write a bunch of songs... In Japanese... And turn it into an album.
Scott & Rivers was released on March 20, and quickly shot to number one on the Japanese alternative charts. It's not surprising that the Japanese culture would eat up American style pop-rock, especially with the hipster geek credibility that Cuomo brings to everything he touches. There are songs that would be perfectly at home on a Weezer album, albeit with the lyrics sung in Japanese by Cuomo. I must admit it's a little like watching an old John Woo movie dubbed in English. You recognize and appreciate the style of the work, it's just a little bit off-putting when you try to ingest critically.
Does it work? Cuomo hasn't lost his touch. On the album's first single, "Homely Girl," Rivers sings half the chorus in English, "Just love, love, love my homely girl/She just turns me inside out." The guitar and pop sensibilities are the same, it's just that Rivers finally talked to the Japanese girl, and married her (Rivers married Kyoko Ito in 2006).
The big surprise, for me, are the breaks from the pop-rock moneymaker that is Cuomo, et al. "Owari Nonai Kono Shi" is pure synthesized house music straight from the seizure inducing Gaga/Ke$ha/(insert single name dance music diva) canon. And it's catchy as hell. So for all you tortured songwriters who've ever thought to cash in and write a dance hall number, here you go. Time to put down the gluten free cheese puffs and get your lazy ass off your faux suede couch and start programming your samples.
It remains to be seen if America can get down with rock stars catering to foreign cultures. It seems that Japan is cool with it. Japan has a healthy history of clamoring for anything Americana, and Rivers Cuomo epitomizes the American struggle. He's the underdog, and he's the rock star. But he'll never stop being the underdog.
Scott & Rivers Track List:
1. Break Free
2. Homely Girl
3. Freakin' Love My Life
8. I Need Somebody