On their first full-length album, Kobe’s Mamadrive prove pretty good at capturing the energy and power of their live shows. Masako Shibuya’s strong voice leads the songs and her distorted bass lines work with Maika Sasakawa’s guitar riffs to weave counter-melodies around the vocal ones. The noisy and more complex indie-rock elements in their music show influence from 1990s alternative-rock acts such as Number Girl, while the emotional vocal style — and commercial accessibility — comes more from that decade’s J-pop and pop-punk scenes.
The first two songs on “Mousou Tengoku” (“Heaven Delusion”) immediately bring in the band’s urgent rock sound, but the album really gets interesting from the third track, “Welcome to Night,” a catchy — and even funky — faster number. The track starts with a drum build-up, then the bass line brings the funk in. The first hook develops with repetition of the word “hello.” Mamadrive then take a power-pop-style sudden music pause before bringing in a big chorus, a technique they also use on the first two songs, but on “Welcome to Night” it has a much more dramatic impact with Shibuya screaming the titular phrase.
The fourth track (another highlight), “Hebi no Onna” (“Snake Woman”) continues the power-pop idioms with controlled guitar effects, before fifth track “Kurai Yoru” (“Dark Night”) suddenly brings the pace down for a welcome break.
Just when you start expecting the speed and energy to come back, though, Mamadrive dish up the weakest song on the album, “Yoru no Bakemono” (“Monster of the Night”), which continues with a slower J-pop vibe. Thankfully, final track “Mousou Tengoku” brings back the energy, but this time Mamadrive are almost math-rock with tight stops, starts and changes. The music drops out for dramatic effect before the chorus blasts in once again, a repeated technique which has become predictable at this stage on the album.
In the tradition of all good ’90s albums, a secret song comes on after a couple of minutes of silence following the final track. It’s a quiet, emotional ballad that shows Mamadrive’s great sense of pop and melody, which also winds “Mousou Tengoku” down nicely.
Mamadrive play at Shimokitazawa Shelter in Tokyo with Tricot and Vola & The Oriental Machine on Nov. 2 ( 3466-7430) and at Fandango in Osaka with Tricot and Jin on Nov. 9 ( 6308-1621). Both shows start at 7 p.m. Tickets are ¥2,300 in advance and ¥2,800 at the door. Mamadrive will head to Fukuoka, Tottori, Hiroshima and Okuyama starting from Nov. 26 as part of an album-release tour. For more information, visit www.mamadrive.com.