Various Step Right This Way

Step Right This Way is American indie label Parasol's second compilation of Japanese pop music and it covers an awful lot of ground - there are 17 songs from 11 bands and the quality is fairly high throughout. It was compiled by Maki Kobyashi, owner of Japan's Lazy Cat Records and several of the bands also have other releases licensed to Parasol, so you can find more. There is a big Western influence on many of the bands - Stone In My Head borrow heavily from the Go-Go's "Our Lips Are Sealed" for "Tetsuo Iron Man," before turning up the guitars and recruiting a bank of effects pedals. Summerhead follows a similarly heavy route while Stereo Lounge also prefer the louder side of life. Everyone else favours jangly guitars and those tend to be the stronger tracks - the pick of the bunch comes from the Hide Aches, with two-minutes of pure pop bliss and Blueberry, Very Blue with their breathy female vocal harmonies. Elsewhere the influences are all over the place, from Felt (as shown by Rotary Music) to early Everything But The Girl (on The Port), with nary a bum track to be found. This is an enjoyable CD that acts as a decent introduction to at least one corner of the Japanese pop scene. (Parasol)