Ogre You Asshole is not a band that plays by the book and creates easily marketable pop rock. Rather, these four chaps do what they want and sound how they want. Which is apparent on their latest album, “New Kind of Man.” This is not a friendly pop record. But that’s not to say it’s bad. Far from it.
While you won’t get the driving guitar-led hooks of their 2007 album “Alphabeta vs. Lambda,” you will get 36 minutes of totally laid-back, chilled-out background music. This is an album to listen to while you study, read a book or lie on a beach and doze off.
It’s beautiful in parts, quirky in others, and from the outset, we’re aware it isn’t standard guitar, bass, drums and vocals fodder. It’s synth-heavy, from programmed drums to wobbling bass and in-your-face keyboards. But (at the risk of making enemies) the “real” instruments are still there in the mix.
The album opens with the title track, with a mellow intro of sedate drums and bending guitar notes before the vocals come in, dripping with outdoors echo and sounding mournful. It’s a moody song with a minor chorus and some interesting bass and guitar. But I pity the band’s drummer, Takashi Katsuura, who is mostly on simple 4/4 duty. And that’s where he’s stuck for much of the album.
More guitar bending and sliding follows on “Morning After Morning,” a quirky track with some great chord changes in the verse. The vocals are back indoors, sitting almost uncomfortably right next to your ear, but with Manabu Deto’s shaky and vulnerable delivery, they’re really quite calming.
The high point of the album is “Each The Other,” which is a feel-good track from the start, with its solid bass and drum intro and constant tooting circus organ throughout. With great vocal delivery and more inventive guitar and bass work, it’s a fun song that will bring a smile to your face.
But what goes up must come down. The following track, “Somehow Being Myself,” is undoubtedly “let’s add another song so we’re out of EP territory” material. More synth bass, more guitar effects, more 4/4 drums. The ending, appropriately, sees the song fade away — it certainly wasn’t going to burn out.
Every album is allowed an iffy song, though. That one aside, we’re really in quite strong territory. There’s even some nostalgia to be had. “Me and Your Shadow” somehow manages to channel the soundtrack to ’90s video game classic, Streets of Rage. It’s truly atmospheric, and if you close your eyes you could be wandering the streets of a seedy part of town after dark.
Funk plays a big part here too, mainly in Takashi Shimizu’s basslines, which throw you all over the musical scale like a rollercoaster. But the weirdest reference point for me comes on “Too Good To Be True.” It opens with ’70s sci-fi tones before you’re suddenly dropped into a novelty Caribbean beach rhythm a la Black Lace. It’s infectious, but did you really ever want to be reminded of “Agadoo” again?
The band’s guitarist and bassist must have had the most fun with this album. The drums soon become stodgy and dull, while the vocals continually meander between excited and bored.
That said, this album is worth listening to, especially if you have time to sit and relax while doing it. The only issue is that I can’t see it working live — it’s just too chilled out.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5