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CD REVIEW

Ego-Wrappin’ and The Gossip of Jaxx “Ego-Wrappin’ and The Gossip of Jaxx”

by James Hadfield

When Ego-Wrappin’ performed on Asahi TV’s “Music Station” show in July last year, singer Yoshie Nakano started their set by planting a kiss right on the camera lens, leaving a smudge of lipstick behind. It was the kind of insouciant gesture that the band do well: While their fusion of jazz, rock and Showa pop is by no means unappealing in itself, it’s the occasional flashes of something altogether more anarchic that really make it fizz.

This is Nakano and coconspirator Masaki Mori’s sixth album to date (and the first time they’ve given their backing band equal billing), and the opening 10 minutes or so sound very rum indeed. The curtain raiser, “Red Shadow,” has her barking English lyrics through a megaphone over a backing of discordant piano, rock drumming and free-jazz saxophone squawks. It’s followed by “Go Action,” which takes the kind of uptempo ska groove that used to be the band’s stock in trade and drags it into the nuthouse.

A little of this goes a long way, and it’s probably no bad thing that the rest of the album isn’t quite so wacky. The big-band swing of “Ame no Dubism” (“Rain Dubism”) could give Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra a run for their money, while “Whammy Kiss,” a bona fide rock number, allows Mori an opportunity to do his best Robert Fripp impersonation. However, it’s the multipart suites such as “Morning Star” and “Gakudan” (“Band”) that really impress and are the most productive outlet for the group’s hyperactive tendencies.