19 November 2011

Kobayashi: "Everything to Everyone"

I wrote this review sometime back, but had not sat down to edit and post … as I read through what I had written, listening to Kobayashi’s “Everything to Everyone” (17 June 2011) again, I was struck by something that I had not originally written: when you listen to all four songs in one sitting (as any collection of music deservers to be listened to!), there is a sense of cacophony, in a good way. We are all victims to making comparisons between what we know and what we are trying to understand / appreciate at the moment; what really got me about the “Everything to Everyone” EP is that the references I used to come to terms with what I was listening to were broad, that to really put your finger on exactly what you are listening to may be a bit difficult – which, again, is always a good thing. This independent act does not replicate any of the current clichés or trends, nor are they purists in the sense following only one genre of music – this is kind of music that indie artists should be making, and they capture the meaning of a quote by Boy George (yes, Boy George): “Art should never kiss the arse of conventionality.”

Kobayashi’s “Everything to Everyone” is a four-track EP, that easily finds itself traveling through various musical terrains; I would assume that many people would be content with labeling the collection as “alternative rock” or “indie rock,” but I think those labels fall short. For instance, “alternative rock” only comfortably refers to college-radio-style bands that have a propensity for 70s guitar rifts; while “indie rock” has been degenerated as term to single out rock bands that are content with sounding like one another and praying for a spot at Reading or Rock am Ring – not that a spot there would not be desirable. Kobayashi, as opposed to many bands out there, are seemingly mixing and mismatching musical references that others either never conceived or haven’t figured out how to pull off.

The first track, “Playing With Fire,” opens with the expected: “I’m gonna get burnt; I shouldn’t do this.” But quickly a bit of profundity: “There’s something wrong with me, but what if we weren’t the slaves of insecurity?” And that’s the universal truth we seem to ignore: we are not always playing with fire as much as we are coming up against our own insecurities. Laced with power chords, and shifting from steady to erratic drumming, the music during the verses are the power-laced parts of the arrangements, while the chorus gives way to big, 70s-esque grandiosity. It is both odd and welcomed to hear a song that shifts away from power chords during the choruses! The second track, “Public Persona,” with a sleek bassline and sprinklings of British 60s and 70s rock, has lyrics that can give any post-punk (revivalist) artist a run for the money: “Open up, open up, ‘cause I don’t recognize this face; it’s like we’re stuck, we’re always stuck, because we’re standing in the same place.” And later, “Always happy, always sad, I’m every thought you ever had.” The entire sense of fractured thought in lyrics (like the original stream of consciousness of post-punk) is brilliantly captured. The following track is “Becoming The Same.” As you listen to the music, you are originally confronted by a sound that is very reminiscent of the funkier 90s grunge bands, but then the chorus sneaks up on you – the most brilliant subtle shift I have heard all year! With the inclusion of a key arrangement for ambience and a piano for dramatics, the music (whether intentionally or not) flirts with the early industrial sound, with lyrics that work in perfect tandem with the music: “We’re all becoming the same in everything but our name, and in degrees of our pain, we make the likeliest gain.”

The EP closes with “On The Precipice,” and by far my favorite track! Most bands are not brave enough to make social commentary, and most that do are trite and cliché and condescending. But when we consider the world we live in, especially in terms of the world debt crisis and inequitable distribution of wealth, we have been here before, countless of times throughout history, most notably the 1930s. So when we consider what the world has become, Kobayashi is justified in singing, “We are on the precipice of something truly massive; it happens just like this when we are blind and passive. History does not play out on canvas, moving, vast; it creeps and sneaks, no doubt ‘til tomorrow is the past.” This is the stuff that anthems are made of, which is mirrored by the musical arrangements: this is definitely the most “angst” driven song on the EP (and longest –just short of six minutes). What really intrigues me about the music is how all of the arrangements play off of one another while not aiming at the same visceral effect. From the aggressiveness of the guitars to the laid back (nearing funk) bassline to the wistful keys, it is the brilliantly, ever shifting drums (that would make Queen proud) that pulls all of the arrangements together into a unified song.

I have been scratching my head about what the band could have been referencing with “Kobayashi” – amongst the endless possibilities, what came to my mind was a haiku by Kobayashi Issa: “Blossoms at night / and the faces of the people / moved by music.” No matter what you want to say about “Everything to Everyone,” Kobayashi has written and produced music that is stirring and moving, if you are willing to scratch the surface. This is not music that follows the trend, nor is this music that was randomly put together – this is musically dissimilar and disarming compared to what else is out there, full of universal truths and commentary that we scarcely admit to ourselves, let alone enunciate. This is definitely an EP you should take a very close listen to.

Track Listing:
1. Playing With Fire
2. Public Persona
3. Becoming The Same
4. On the Precipice

Keep up with Kobayashi at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook. Head over to their Bandcamp site where you can preview and download the “Everything To Everyone” EP.

Here is the video for Public Persona from the Kobayashirock YouTube Channel.

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