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Artist: Boris

Album: Smile

Label: Southern Lord

Review date: Apr. 29, 2008


Boris - "Statement" (Smile)


It’s hard to imagine a time when Japanese power trio Boris, or more specifically the discussion of the limited permutations of their records and assorted merch, wasn’t the stuff of fanboy wet dreams. But I swear – that time really did exist. Back before the onslaught of new releases, collaborations, reissues, and other assorted ephemera that seemed to pop up on a monthly basis in and around 2005/6, these three were pushing strains of doom metal, avant hardcore, and noise-kissed ambient drone into surprising directions with each and every release.

But after the particularly fertile period that birthed Flood, Heavy Rocks, the stunning Feedbacker, and the intriguing experiment that was both discs of Dronevil, Boris fell into a holding pattern, one that only broke in collaborative settings. Thus, while works with Michio Kurihara and Sunn O))) yielded incredibly textured high-water marks, albums like Pink plodded, locking into familiar riffs that the band had covered with more dexterity (and passion) a couple of years earlier. Oh well – that didn’t stop the band from releasing three separate double LP versions of that record and two slightly different compact disc editions. If anything, that became the band’s next focus – figuring out increasingly infuriating ways to release the same music with minor variations in as many different formats as possible, in successively smaller editions.

All of which brings us to Smile, Boris’ first album of new material in two years. Though excellent in brief parts, much of the album is still worrisome, at times specifically seeming to document a band running out of steam. Case in point: album opener “Flower Sun Rain,” a cover of a tune by the post-Group Sounds supergroup PYG. Boris easily sleepwalks through this one, holding more or less to the original winsome ballad, save for some massive speaker-crunch and a pretty blistering solo from Michio Kurihara. And that’s about it. Given that PYG is hardly an obvious source of inspiration for the group, especially considering the PYG’s status as a fairly artificial assemblage of fading superstars backed by an influential management agency, the song selection here is interesting, if not entirely inspired. But it still lacks any significant depth (although that might be tough to tell for people who haven’t heard the original), opting to merely graft a dose of heavy onto a song that never really needed it in the first place.

Things hardly pick up from there. Boris manages to summarize the more straightforward rock moments of their previous albums on “BUZZ-IN,” although without any sort of memorable riff upon which to pin the performance. “Laser Beam” moves along comfortably, but loses any momentum during a series of tawdry, misplaced drum machine and synth blasts in the chorus. “Statement” and “My Neighbor Satan” thankfully deliver, but with the former already available as a single and the latter a spot-on recapitulation of the band’s work with Michio Kurihara (who turns up here again), it’s all still a bit underwhelming.

The same cannot be said of the album’s fantastic closer, a heaping untitled track that features contributions from Sunn 0)))’s Stephen O’Malley. Far from any serious retread, this piece manages to synthesize a goopy ballad with a steadily encroaching cacophony of prickling distortion. While it’s not enough to save Smile as an album, it’s a wonder the track wasn’t released on its own, as opposed to being tacked onto the butt-end of a pretty underwhelming full-length.

By Michael Crumsho

Other Reviews of Boris

Boris At Last - Feedbacker / Live At Shimokitazawa Shelter DVD

Akuma No Uta

Pink

Attention Please / Heavy Rocks

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View all articles by Michael Crumsho

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