Fujiya &amp Miyagi – [Album]

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

There are few devices in the English language and arts more regularly abused by bands than irony. It happens so regularly that it would be easy to assume the logic behind it goes something like, “We've got this idea that we want to try, but would likely be mocked mercilessly if we pursued it. That would be bad, but it's so bright and shiny and interesting! How can we make it work? Maybe if we add irony, it'll be a hot commodity but, if it does flop, we can just laugh it off and say no one got the joke.”

The logic is exactly as dodgy as it sounds, but it happens pretty regularly – and it seems to be the guiding principle behind Ventrilloquizzing, the fourth album by English synth-and-Kraut rockers Fujiya & Miyagi.

It should be conceded that F&M are no strangers to the “ironic rock” construct and all of its' contrivances; half of the band's name came from that of a character in The Karate Kid, and the group has regularly goofed on fans in myriad ways since forming in 2000 but, this time, they just take it a little too far with not enough to back it up. This time, the band attempts to get darker as Tricky has done before, but without the benefit of any muscle or swagger. On Ventrilloquizzing, the band is as fey as ever, but singer David Bell has started trying to pick a fight with listeners and cajole them anyway.

This sort of schoolyard mocking begins right at the top of the record in the title track of Ventrilloquizzing as, in front of a stringy bass line and cheap-sounding synth, Best hisses lines like, “We've got nothing up our sleeves/ we can't even breathe/ we move our arms when you pull our strings” as if to call listeners out in an overly melodramatic way. It might work – if there was any sound in the song that seemed even passably ominous or menacing – but because the damned thing sounds so thin and cheesy, the song just falls flat.

So what though – right? Once is a fluke and would be forgivable, but Best keeps trying to push the same button; on the ten tracks that follow “Ventrilloquizzing,” Best keeps trying to taunt listeners and consistently comes up short. Tracks including “Taiwanese Boots,” “Minestrone,” “Spilt Milk” and “Pills” all play like the smallest man in a biker bar trying to pick on the biggest; it's funny because there's no hope of anything happening other than injury to that teeny, tiny voice. Even worse, the singer regularly proves that this “tough guy” mode is not a state he finds himself in and so comes off as a little insecure over really solid bass and drum parts. That isn't to say that nothing on Ventrilloquizzing is even sort of worthwhile (“Yoyo,” “Cat Got Young Tongue” and “Sixteen Shades of Black & Blue” aren't bad), only that the good moments are disproportionately few and far between stacked next to the multitude of really cringe-worthy and ironic ones.

So what are we looking at here? Really, Ventrilloquizzing could very easily have been pared down to an EP's worth of really solid material, and then the rest could have just been left in the vault. No one would have thought less of Fujiya & Miyagi had they put out a really, really good EP instead of a really, really soft LP, but some bands just need to learn the hard way that it isn't the amount of music you release, it's the quality of what you put out there. This album represents the lesson that many headstrong bands convinced of their own superiority have had to learn that lesson the hard way – Fujiya & Miyagi isn't the first – and that's the really ironic part.



Ventrilloquizzing is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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