Now Is the Time!
olysics’s fourth album, Now is the Time!, sees the Ritalin-deprived, Devo devotees from Tokyo beam up their spastic, arcade version of post-punk once again. But this time around, it’s not quite as much kooky fun. Is it simply too much of a good thing? Their cartoonish frenzy of frantic strumming and electronic bleeps and bloops sounds great at the beginning, but somewhere along the way it devolves into speedy, robotic monotony.
In Japan, it’s the gooey, Day-Glo aesthetic behind an artist that’s important. Musical acts are often judged on appearance—the quirkier the façade, the larger the fanbase. (Polysics’s tangerine spacesuits and goofy goggles are exactly what got them to the candy-coated core of Japanese youth obsession.) Watch these guys live in Tokyo or via YouTube and it’s near impossible not to be tickled by their darling spazzed-out automaton personas. Who wouldn’t be by the two female synth players, Kayo and Fumi, squawking in their native tongue and chanting in broken English with powerpuffed sweetness, while lead vocalist Hiroyuki Hayashi barks incoherent jabber like a demented Commander of the Enterprise?
Polysics’s bubblegum-rock works as novelty: Leadoff track “Tei! Tei! Tei!” is a guitar-heavy dervish packed with enough confused elements toppling over one another (Galaga synth swirls, chaotic chanting, guitar thunderclaps) to fool the listener into believing that this rather straightforward punk song is actually off-the-wall chaos. Similarly, the Anime silliness of “Ceolakanth Is Android” results in a goofy and indulgent grin on first listen, but on repeat becomes painfully reminiscent of Puffy Amiyumi.
By the fourth track, in fact, it’s apparent that beneath the ADD is a simple formula: awesome video game sound effects + dance-punk discord. The sole exception? “Jhout,” a funk-fried Talking Heads rave-up that moves the blood as well as the feet.
Automatons are not undeserving of plaudits. Mechanized electropop acts should be rewarded with warm-blooded heartfelt effusions—especially when they evolve beyond what they’ve been programmed to perform. Unfortunately, Now is the Time! short-circuits early, leaving us with an empty gimmick and a few good synth-zapped riffs.
Reviewed by: Jillian Crowther
Reviewed on: 2007-01-05