Hi everyone, Marc here! So, I’ve decided in lieu of editing together more highly involved music review videos, and also in order to promote more readers on our website, I’m going to be transitioning my album reviews into a text format where I’ll be able to say and do more with what I have. This also frees us up from certain copyright issues that would really hurt our channel if they were ever to be deemed outside of fair use. That being said, some points of note: at the end of each review I will try to embed a method of listening to the album or at least a link to where you can buy it, so be sure to check it out after the jump on today’s review to see what I mean. All that being said, let’s begin!
Until recently, the Sweden-based music streaming service Spotify was known for having a stellar and broad collection of music from all over the Western world, but was somewhat lacking when it came to music from Japan. Thankfully, in recent months some more popular Japanese acts like BABYMETAL, Perfume, and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu have had most or all of their collections added to Spotify for our listening pleasure. One band that isn’t necessarily as visible in the West as those previously mentioned is a four-piece outfit from Tokyo called Gesu no Kiwami Otome (ゲスの極み乙女。), whose first two EPs were recently added to Spotify.
Gesu no Kiwami Otome, roughly translated as “Girl at the Height of Rudeness”, was formed by former Indigo la End frontman Enon Kawatani in 2012. The lineup consists of Kawatani (vocals, guitar), Kyuujitsu Kachou (bass), Chan Mari (keyboard) and Hona Ikoka (drums). Initially signed to Space Shower records where they debuted with two EPs in 2013 (Dress no Nugikata and Odorenai nara, Gesu ni Natte Shimae yo), in 2014 they moved to the Warner boutique sub-label Unborde where they remain to this day. Since signing to Unborde they’ve released another EP and two full-length albums, Miryoku ga Sugoi yo and Ryousebai.
Gesu no Kiwami Otome describe themselves as “hip-hop/progressive”, but I think that’s hilariously inaccurate and wildly limiting. As a whole, their sound is terrifyingly hard to describe, incorporating elements of sentimental indie rock, jazz, hip-hop, and drum and bass among a million and one other things to create a sound that is a sentimental, energetic journey beyond genres and musical boundaries. On one hand, Gesu no Kiwami Otome could be held in the same vein as talk-rock bands like Cake and Art Brut for the way Kawatani uses the combination of his soft voice and guitar as a rhythm instrument, and on the other hand they could be considered just as melodic and sentimental as the Killers in the way that they tug at your heartstrings and make you sing along regardless of whether or not you actually can.
Putting the question of genres aside, there’s one undeniable fact about Gesu no Kiwami Otome that keeps me endlessly entertained: the level of musicianship across the board is absolutely mind-boggling. Every single player is at the absolute top of their game on every track, enacting complicated and rhythmically challenging performances with a seeming ease that is terrifying. While musicians will have a special appreciation for the complexity of Gesu no Kiwami Otome’s catalogue, even those who have never picked up an instrument in their life will be forced to admit that the precision demonstrated on their studio albums and live performances makes Gesu no Kiwami Otome one of Japan’s most intriguing new faces.
I understand that my usual tendency to be hyperbolic is on full display here, but I promise that this only has to do with their insane musical skill and nothing to do with the fact that I have a massive crush on Hona Ikoka, their dummer. Seriously though, who could blame me?
Unfortunately for western audiences that have already discovered Gesu no Kiwami Otome through their myriad music videos on YouTube, only their first two EPs are available for listening in high quality on Spotify currently. However, Dress no Nugikata and Odorenai nara, Gesu ni Natte Shimae yo offer more than enough musical splendor for diehard fans wanting to listen to their first-ever releases, and offers a very succinct summary of the band’s spirit as whole for new fans. In addition, while Dress no Nugikata’s five tracks are very much the length of a standard Extended Play, I’m much more prone to referring to their second EP Odorenai nara, Gesu ni Natte Shimae yo as a mini-album for its length of eight tracks total.
Odorenai nara, Gesu ni Natte Shimae yo is my favorite of the two, and the one I would recommend as a starting point before seeking the rest of Gesu no Kiwami Otome’s catalogue of singles out on YouTube. It begins with a track called Killer Ball, a portmanteau of “mirror ball” and “killer”. Killer Ball is a perfect representation of everything I love about this band, blending elements of samba, disco and piano rock with Kawatani’s dreamy vocals to create a frenetic and speedy package that has the listener dancing and reflecting in equal measure. As if all that weren’t enough, keyboard player Chan Mari shows off her classical chops by including an excerpt of Frederic Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu with little pomp, circumstance or explanation. It’s nothing but weird, quirky bliss.
A track called Mochi Girl follows the opener up with a completely different vibe, all synthesizer and punky guitar. It sounds a lot like a song KANA-BOON would do, a band that is very much Gesu no Kiwami Otome’s contemporary in sound and age. Mochi Girl goes even faster than the opening track, featuring blistering guitar riffs and hilariously campy vocal additions by the rest of the band. It leans much more on energy and danceability than sentimentality, which I heavily approve of. Everyone needs to have fun sometimes, right?
By far my favorite song on the album is Gesu na Sankaku Kankei, roughly translated as “Sleazy Love Triangle”. It’s quite a simple and sentimental-sounding song, but the lyrics bely an interesting perspective on relationships as it seems to me that Kawatani is singing lovingly about a boy either in the context of a gay relationship or from the perspective of a girl. Either way, the subject matter mirrors the quirky and sometimes silly way vocals are used as a combination of melody and rhythm to accentuate the deep layers of the instruments. This track lacks Kawatani’s guitar completely and instead focuses on Chan Mari’s piano backed up with Kachou’s speedy, punctuated basslines. Of all the songs on this EP, I guarantee this will be the one that will beg you to sing along with the chorus more than any other.
Overall, western fans will be able to find music videos for numerous Gesu no Kiwami Otome songs on YouTube with little to no problem, as long as excessive hiragana doesn’t intimidate you. However, those wishing to hear their earlier work in a much higher audio fidelity should give these first two EPs their time, especially Odorenai nara, Gesu ni Natte Shimae yo, as it is representative of all that I love about this band. I’m incredibly happy to see that Gesu no Kiwami Otome is finally getting some of their due recognition in the west, as when I discovered them some time ago from digging through YouTube, they didn’t even have an English Wikipedia page yet. Now fans like me can only sit and hope that, due to their increasing popularity and demand in the west, the rest of their fantastic catalogue is added to western streaming services and online music shops. Until then, we can be content with what we have.
Listen to Odorenai nara, Gesu ni Natte Shimae yo: