Fujiya & Miyagi
Deaf Dumb + Blind
he great geek swindle: you grow up poor, awkward, mocked; you learn to play guitar, maybe sing a little bit; you end up with the girls who once ignored you when the jocks start losing their hair (steroids!) after college. But what happens when the nerds grow up, learn to play guitar, but still sit in the back of the class planning Rube Goldberg-style revenge? (Besides write music reviews, smartass?)
Fujiya and Miyagi, a British trio posing as a Japanese duo, dwell in this sort of everlong geekdom, thumbing their nose at Kraftwerk from the corner of the bathroom and giggling mightily at Arthur Russell’s hard-won austerity. Should they exist in some not-so-far-fetched rock ’n’ roll high school, Fujiya and Miyagi would presumably get their asses kicked by the skaters, the Kraut-rockers, the electro-heads, and Disco Stu. LCD Soundsystem might jump in, but only if, you know, no one was looking.
F&M; aren’t hiding their stripes, either: they count “Ankle Injuries” and “Sucker Punch” among their song titles. In “Collarbone” they speak of tripping over their shoelaces, and in “Reeboks in Heaven,” the bonus track added to the US release of Transparent Things, they directly address their professor. Luckily, Transparent Things isn’t the result of repeated beatings, but the product of brainy upstarts who haven’t learned their lesson despite the repeated beatings.
F&M; deal in melodic, metronomic beats squatting on short drum hits and clubby bass, leaving enough room for the occasional slinging guitar lick. Transparent Things, then, sounds less the work of three programmers and more like a band that plays together and stays together—like Hot Chip holding it a little closer to the vest, maybe.
Only maybe, though: the slick funk of “Collarbone” relies on a trebly guitar cleverly turning phrase, while “Reeboks in Heaven” bites into a soulful Rhodes progression. The order seems to be less trance, more pop, a mandate supported by the slushy, funny little refrains that the band turns into sly sloganeering—“I look through transparent things / I feel okay,” “You can’t block a sucker punch,” and “We were / Just pretend / -ing to be / Japanese” are a handful of the mantras F&M; turn into poppy brainmush. When my iTunes rolls Transparent Things into Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow, the switch isn’t immediately apparent, as the repetition of the latter’s title sounds exactly like the type of goofball oddity F&M; would joke on, laugh about, then immediately flip into a ripping dance track.
Transparent Things easily could’ve moved into grey academia—dance music for people who don’t like dancing and the like—but F&M;’s grin is shit-eating and joyous, such that they end up making dance music for folks who like dance music. During “In One Ear & Out the Other” they mumble, “You’ve got to know your / Place on the food chain.” And they know theirs: in the back of the class, with silly putty and chemistry kits, making stoopid fun the smart way. Persistent little geeks, them.