The Japanese independent scene evolved through a multitude of forms in the ’80s and ’90s, ranging from the psychotic sonic excursions of Boredoms and Fushitsusha and the noise brutality of Zeni Geva to the garage rock of Teengenerate, the pop-punk of Shonen Knife and the twisted disco of Pizzicato Five. Somewhere on the outskirts of all this lies Nelories. Led by Jun Kurihara (vocals, accordion) and Kazmi Kubo (guitars), Nelories match a left-field naïveté with the arty cabaret style once epitomized by England’s new wavey Monochrome Set. Also of influence on Nelories is the French style of yeye bubblegum pop.
Although not fully bilingual, Kurihara insists on writing all of her lyrics in English, which results in songs that are, at best, abstract. “The Chestnutfield Family” (from the Plasticky EP) includes such lyrics as “Father get up at 5:30 every Sundays/Then he drives to Golden Valley to play golf/He grins with Louis Vuitton bag in hand/Saying ‘Todays a good day I’d like to go out for eat’.”
The Nelories’ debut album, Mellow Yellow Fellow Nelories, consists of two of Plasticky‘s four tracks, three of Banana‘s four and five other songs. One theme popping up in many Nelories songs is Kurihara’s obsession with high fashion; in addition to that Vuitton citation, she namedrops designers Lacroix and Versace in “Emerald.” Nelories go so far as giving Gaultier his own theme song in “J.P.G.” Each and every song is a joyful romp.
Nelories’ sole American release so far is the four-song Waiting EP, issued by the subscription-only Hello Recording CD-of-the-month club. “Waiting,” “Banana” and “Plastic Sky” all come from the group’s Japanese records; “Bubbly” had previously appeared only on a British single.
Recording in London, the group augmented their sound on Daisy with the help of Monochrome Set’s frontman Bid as producer and occasional second guitarist. “A Girl in a Checkered Dress” reveals a strong understanding of Everything but the Girl; “Eyes & Shoes” finds Nelories moving into their own vision of smoky nightclubs and torch singing. The highlight, however, is “Garlic,” which could have been lifted from an early-’80s Monochrome Set record.
On Starboogie, the duo tries out a number of new styles. As improbable and incongruous as it sounds, Nelories leapfrog successfully from the Velocity Girl-like alternapop of “Service Area” to the electro dance of “Popstars” to the gently swaying “So Anyway I Sing” to (if only Nelson Riddle had done the arrangement) “The Shooting Pictures.” Some songs, like “White Volkswagen,” simply don’t make any sense; at the album’s funniest point, “Blue Flower” vacillates between elevator music and brassy bombast.