Sunday, May 30, 2010

Serani Poji's Laughing Frog

One of my favorite albums so far this year is Merry Go Round Jailhouse, the first work in five years by the unit Serani Poji (it went into 'hibernation' in 2004), and “Laughing Frog” is one of its best tracks.

Like other songs on the album, “Laughing Frog” is at first listen pleasant, catchy girl pop, but the lyrics are quirky (among the other tunes, for example, “Robot's Happiness” is about overcoming the fear of death and avoiding uncertainties by becoming a robot; “Toward the South” concerns a seven-year old girl planning her escape to a southern island with her groom-to-be). This one is a meditation on lies: it has to do with a man who was once a rock star that wrote popular ballads that were filled with falsehoods, and one day a witch in the audience cast a spell on him so that everytime he told a lie, a frog would pop out of his mouth. So now he lives away from civilization, selling his frogs for a living.

The album reminds me of Soutaisei Riron's Hi-Fi Anatomia, both in terms of its eclectic mix of music styles, and the unusual lyrics. In the past, most bands wrote songs about things they feel, or what their lives are like—these two units and other recent bands have more fun with the lyrics, using them to create stories. I wonder if this is an emerging trend in Japan, and if so, whether it reflects changes in musicians' attitudes toward song-writing and its purpose, and if so, what's behind that?

Serani Poji was formed at the end of the 90's to make songs for a Sega video game called Room Mania #203. A Sega employee named Tomoko Sasaki wrote the tunes. (A Wikipedia entry on her says she was also the creator of a song called “Dreams Dreams” that's considered a legendary classic for retro-gamers all over the world...) In previous Serani Poji albums other girls were in charge of the vocals, but in Merry Go Round Jailhouse, Sasaki herself does the singing. As far as I can tell, the unit rarely, if ever, plays live.

In one of those slap-my-forehead moments, I realized only a few days ago that in early Serani Poji songs, the vocalist was Yukichi, the singer for one of the bands I love most, Cecil. In the first album she's listed as 'Yuki', but, still, I should have realized that's who it was. For years I'd been listening to both Cecil and early Serani Poji, thinking to myself, Japan has such sweet female vocalists—when in fact, at least for those two units, there's only one sweet female vocalist involved. Still, she does sound a little different when singing for Serani Poji compared with Cecil: the former seems more stylish, whereas with Cecil she sounds like the most perfect girl-next-door who ever sang.

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