The combination of Osaka punks Midori’s furious performances with their fans’ robotic, idol-band type synchronized dancing makes them difficult to pin down. On the one hand, they sell themselves as Osaka’s answer to J-pop legends Judy And Mary. On the other, their music is a chaotic mixture of hardcore punk, psychobilly and swing jazz. Not really the stuff major-label dreams are made of. It would be easy to dismiss the J-pop posturing as another tedious example of hackneyed punk irony if they didn’t seem to take it so seriously. At a Tokyo live show earlier this year, they brought the idol Ai Otsuka’s keyboardist and the guitarist from J-pop band My Little Lover onstage and they performed completely straight-faced, even as vocalist Mariko threw herself about while clad in a school-girl costume.

However, on “Second,” (confusingly, Midori’s first full-length album), Mariko loudly informs “This is punk music!” The J-pop inclinations may gleam through in Mariko’s occasional lapses into baby-voiced crooning and the influence of Shiina Ringo, but there is always a brash screaming assault waiting around the corner. “Second” is a good, weird punk album, but the fact is that while Midori are happy to flirt with the imagery of idol pop, they lack the inclination and perhaps the talent to write the genuinely memorable pop tunes that would see them really do some damage in the mainstream.

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