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CD REVIEW

TsuShiMaMiRe “A, Umi da”

by James Hadfield

“You’re pretty stinky, aren’t you? Well, I’m gonna love you anyway,” sings TsuShiMaMiRe’s guitarist/vocalist Mari on “Mike Smell Kunkun.” It takes a brief moment to realize that she’s talking to her microphone, not some hygienically challenged boyfriend.

“A, Umi da” (“Oh, It’s the Sea”) is the girl trio’s major label debut, and it’s been a long time coming. Formed in 1999, TsuShiMaMiRe attracted muted interest on the local toilet circuit before finding a more receptive audience in the U.S., where they’ve played over 150 gigs since performing at the SXSW music festival in 2004. Their profile there rose further at the end of last year when they released a collaboration with The Powerpuff Girls, a cartoon trio of superpowered kindergarteners with whom the band claim to have much in common. Make of that what you will.

“A, Umi da” doesn’t deviate a whole lot from the template established on the band’s previous indie label releases, mixing exuberantly executed punk and rock with acerbic, tongue-in- cheek lyrics. Even if you can’t understand what they’re singing, the music is immensely appealing in a cheap, sugar rush way. The two-punch opening combo of “Ganpeki no Ue no Ippon Yubi Souchou” and “Time Lag” sets the tone with heavy garage-punk riffs and histrionic vocals that ride high in the mix. Elsewhere, they come across like an unhinged version of Tokyo Jihen. The 6-minute “Ken’aku Shoppingu” (“Ominous Shopping Trip”) has a catchy pop-punk hook at its center, but it’s bookended by sections of PiL-style postpunk discordance and demented vaudeville.

While it’s all fun, TsuShiMaMiRe remain a band best seen live. For details of their nationwide tour, which runs until July 20, see www.myspace.com/tsushimamirejp