‘Bonito Generation’ album review
By Carlos Bilan, Staff Writer
If sugar, spice, everything nice, and Chemical X were used to create the Powerpuff Girls, then you could say the same for the Powerpuff trio of music behind Bonito Generation. Except to get Kero Kero Bonito, you would have to replace the ingredients with video games, anime, and everything pop music, then break a bottle of Chemical K for “kawaii”—the Japanese word for cute. Shortened as KKB, with their name coming from the Japanese onomatopoeia for frog croaking and the bonito fish, the London-based electronic trio is led by vocalist Sarah Midori Perry, with Jamie Bulled and Gus Lobban as the producers.
In the band’s debut LP, Intro Bonito (2014), they introduced who they are and gave us a preview of what new things they could offer musically. Whereas in KKB’s second LP, Bonito Generation, they create a bright and hyper-pop musical world. It’s an audacious and ambitious statement that this is their sound, as they invite the listeners to “Go on a Kero Kero journey,” a line from the album’s opening track, “Waking Up.” Perry also says in Japanese, “To everyone in the world, we deliver that international fun sound,” and this is evident when you realise that the album is a hybrid of J-Pop and Western pop. Not only that, but Perry raps and sings in both English (with her English accent) and Japanese, which is an eclectic signature style.
All songs from the album are penned by Perry and her lyrical style is cleverly tongue-in-cheek, with lyrics that flow nicely through her playful raps. She uses the Japanese language as a poetic device to keep the rhymes going. Despite this, they are still consistent with the song’s message, which makes it brilliantly executed. For example, in the cheerleader chant track “Graduation,” Perry says, “Hey teacher, leave those kids alone, さいごのチャイムがなってるよ (saigo no chaimu ga natteru yo).” Perry makes a reference to Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2), which talks about how teachers tend to make students do a lot of work, and then continues in Japanese that “the last chime is ringing,” or in this case the school bell, so it’s time to go.
The album has many highlights, such as “Trampoline,” their recent single, which has a breezy verse that slowly builds up before breaking into a bouncy and infectious chorus built for radio. Their music video for another single, “Break,” shows Perry in a bright outfit sitting like a mannequin on a pink chair around London and places they visited on tour, which complements the song’s laid-back atmosphere. “Lipslap,” the album’s lead single, also has playground chant verses and a wonky dance production. “Picture This” is another potential hit, thanks to its infectious melody. It sounds like it could even be used as a theme song for an anime like Ranma ½, because of the graceful Japanese flute and cheerful production. The deep cut “Big City” has a soaring tune with mostly Japanese verses and a melody that is reminiscent of the closing credits in anime, due to its optimistic tone. The only criticism I have of the album is the less than two minutes long “Fish Bowl” due to its abrupt ending, which is a shame because it is really catchy and has a lot of potential.
By pop standards, Bonito Generation is probably the best purely pop album of 2016. It incorporates different genres such as dancehall, electronic, house, a dash of EDM, and synth-pop, yet it is sonically cohesive. In addition, it does not really comply with the trends of what is in the Top 40 nowadays. Bonito Generation has the sound of future pop music written all over it. As a result, this makes Kero Kero Bonito a trailblazer, having the purpose to deliver a uniquely mood-lifting experience.