MUSIQUE BOUTIQUE: TEKE::TEKE, Moon, Chai, The Go-Go’s

Welcome to Audiofemme’s monthly record review column, Musique Boutique, written by music journo vet Gillian G. Gaar. Every fourth Monday, Musique Boutique offers a cross-section of noteworthy reissues and new releases guaranteed to perk up your ears.

TEKE::TEKE’s Shirushi (Kill Rock Stars) is a wonderous musical potpourri. One minute it’s raging indie rock, next you’re dropped into a surf rock setting, followed by the kind of twanging guitar that brings an Enrico Morricone soundtrack to mind. It’s a whirling dervish of delightful sounds.

The seven piece, Montreal-based group started out as a Takeshi “Terry” Terauchi tribute act, assembled for a one-off gig at a psychedelic music festival (Terauchi being a legendary Japanese rock guitarist). The performance generated such excitement, they decided to stay together, quickly adding original music to the mix. The blend of Western rock gear (guitars, bass) with Japanese instruments (koto, shamisen, shinobue) gives the band a distinctive sound, unique and intoxicating.

Each number is rather like a mini-movie of its own. “Dobugawa” is a romantic, languid number, enhanced by the cool, whispery vocals of Maya Kuroki. But don’t be fooled; the wild “Barbara” comes tearing in right after, with Kuroki morphing into a bold, confident singer to match the propulsiveness  of the music. “Kizashi” has a hypnotic, industrial drone. The remarkable “Kaminari” starts out in a folk-influenced vein, before the sound drops out entirely, and a short flute line leads into a gorgeous, largely acapella vocal from Kuroki, before a sort of Euro-surf rock beat takes over (and all in four minutes!). This is creative cross-pollination at its finest, TEKE::TEKE busting through musical boundaries to come up with something truly imaginative.

Moon’s Shine is so mighty, you’d never guess such a thunderous sound could come from just two people: LA-based musicians Chelsea Dawn (vocals, drums) and Dan Silver (guitars, synths). The title track, which opens the EP, is a glorious stomper, Dawn delivering the good news with righteous fervor, as the musical backing steadily escalates from a single pounding beat, then ushering in the guitars, keyboards, and other noise to rock it all up. “Never Cross Me” is just as bracing, a fiery proclamation of strength. “When it comes to life experiences, we both have many stories to tell,” is how Silver puts it, “and some days you just don’t want to mess with us.” Point taken.

It’s not all sturm und drang; the rest of this release is more lowkey, though the intensity of Dawn’s vocals means there’s always an undercurrent of tension. “Sweetest Magic” and “My Oh My (I’ll Take You Home)” are love songs of exquisite yearning. “Down By the Water” is a slow-burning number about the true salvation that comes from within: “Down by the water, down by the sea/I found religion/the religion is me.” This is soulful gothic rock that reaches out and grabs you.

There’s a song on Chai’s third album, Wink (Sub Pop), that’s actually titled “Nobody Knows We Are Fun.” Well, that’s something that could only be possible if you’d never heard anything by this Japanese foursome (two pairs of twin sisters), as even the briefest listen to one of their songs makes it clear that their prime directive is to keep the party going.

In comparison to the exuberance of their previous albums, Pink and Punk, Wink is more restrained (the words “mellowest,” “minimal” and “introspective” crop up in the press release). This is a reflection of how the album was created, the band members collaborating over the phone and on Zoom, and recording using Garageband. “Donuts Mind If I Do” is a laidback ramble. “Wish Upon a Star” is a sweet lullaby, with singer Mana only backed by a single pulsating beat, a bit of keyboard, and vocal harmonies from the rest of the group. The cool “Maybe Chocolate Chips,” written by Yuuki, recasts her moles as chocolate chips (“I’m a fickle cookie/Bitter coffee makes it even more sexy”), with Chicago rapper Ric Wilson dropping in to add a bit of an edge.

Then there’s the flipside. The lively “PING PONG!,” with its video game beats and beeps, references a game the band members couldn’t play during the pandemic. The bright “ACTION” was inspired by watching TV coverage of the Black Lives Matter protests in the US. The light pop of “It’s Vitamin C” (it opens with a giggle) is a breezy delight. This is a record that celebrates life’s simple pleasures, from salty salmon rice balls to wearing pink.

Seventeen years after the release of Talk Show, the Go-Go’s finally went back into the studio to make a fourth album, God Bless The Go-Go’s. In celebration of its 20th anniversary, the album’s been reissued on Eagle Records. It’s a sweet pop treat that’s perfectly timed for summer release, providing just the right soundtrack for those carefree, sunny days.

The opening blast of “La La Land” is like an update of “We Got the Beat,” a pen portrait of Southern California life with its allusions to earthquakes and the vagaries of fame. This is a more robust Go-Go’s, the band’s musical chops tighter and tougher, songs like “Stuck in My Car” (another very LA experience) and “Throw Me a Curve” honed until they bristle. Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong even drops by to co-write, play, and sing on the brisk “Unforgiven.” It’s the first time the album’s been released on vinyl, and the CD/digital versions feature two bonus tracks, “I Think I Need Sleep” and “King of Confusion.”

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