/

CD REVIEW

MacDonald Duck Eclair “Kono Tokimeki Ima Sugu”

by Patrick ST. Michel

Special To The Japan Times

“Kono Tokimeki Ima Sugu” (which translates loosely as “This fluttering of my heart, now”) serves as a bit of a homecoming for hyper-speed pop trio MacDonald Duck Eclair. Their third album and first in five years comes out on K.O.G.A. Records, the label responsible for releasing the band’s debut single in 1999. Despite this full-circle move, MacDonald Duck Eclair’s latest finds them sounding virtually the same as they did when they started at K.O.G.A. “Ima Sugu” flirts with poppier structure, but does so without forfeiting the breakneck pace established on earlier releases.

The main draw of MacDonald Duck Eclair’s work has always been the merging of sugary twee pop with the speed of hardcore techno. Early highlight “A O N” dashes out of the gate with a beat that seems like it should trip over itself, with lead singer Michi Kuninaga adding pleasant chirps and a bright keyboard contributing some warmness. “Beep Sweep” explores similar terrain, hard-hitting drums battling against nursery-rhyme singing. These moments make MacDonald Duck Eclair sound like fellow J-pop spaz EeL. But whereas EeL’s songs fly off the rails at almost every turn, most of “Ima Sugu” strays close to the edge without ever flying over. “Touch Me,” “Tic Tac Mac” and “The Shining” could all easily make left turns, but the band keeps them from breaking out, resulting in some of their most pop-sounding work to date.

“Ima Sugu” sputters when it leans too heavily on frantic noise or cuteness, becoming too muddled or sometimes just plain annoying. They wisely break up the formula with two well-executed slow songs and “Clarion,” the album’s high point. Here, the group push their usual electronic barrage to the corners in favor of driving, straightforward rock that ends up being the catchiest thing on the album. MacDonald Duck Eclair may not have changed much since 1999, but this experience, alongside some new wrinkles, make “Ima Sugu” a compelling listen.