Comprising Japanese bassist Mariko Doi and British guitarist Tony Wade, Levelload have a mixed cultural background. But their sound is largely drawn from Anglo-American punk-rock tradition, with the spiky Britpop melodies of Elastica and the sultry garage blues of The Kills, combined with Mariko’s cooing and snarling, Debbie Harry-style vocals. In contrast to that, the title of this debut album, “Yellow Fever,” reveals that they’re not above the odd teasing reference to Doi’s Japanese background.
With a dozen tracks coming in at a little over 36 minutes, Levelload have clearly done their 3-minute pop math. “Yellow Fever” is at its most arresting where the angular, Gang Of Four-style, postpunk guitars are set in opposition to the skittering drum-machine rhythms of “Statik,” which gives a sense of eccentricity that the album would have benefited from more of. Elsewhere, the drum machine takes more of a back seat, although there is still no shortage of highlights, with the shouty chorus of “I Know You Know” being a standout pop moment and closing track “Comanche” packing a punch with its heavy, distorted guitars and relentless, minimalist synth-drum beat.
Levelload play several dates around Japan from March 12, including a televised appearance on Fuji Television’s “Factory” show (alongside Cornelius) on March 15. For details, see www.flightpathrecords.com.