While they have appeared on numerous compilations and one full-length release, the Japanese group known as the Polysics have only just had their first album released in the United States. Neu is only the second release of theirs to show up in domestic record stores, the first of which, Hey! Bob! My Friend! being a compilation from various random tracks that the band produced over the years. Of particular note, the American release has one track that Japan's release did not with its final track.
Neu is a a very loud, very noisy disc. Like many of the finest Japanese bands, there are lots of blips, beeps, keyboards, and English lyrics that are almost beyond comprehension. In other words, it's good clean fun for the whole family.
The first few listens through can be a bit of a trial, as the maiden voyage of any Polysics song through your ears will most likely result in some sort of violent reaction. It's an album meant to be played loudly, and anything less than a bass-fueled rampage results in a fairly lifeless experience. Like a lot of great punk-esque bands, a lot of their songs can sometimes bleed together, and the end result may sound like a 40-minute remix of one or two songs. Of course, with a few listens, it's easier to pick out various tracks but that requires that you dig this sort of music in the first place. Which, of course, you should... but this is not an album that will appeal to everybody due to the sheer delightful fury that drives songs to an abrupt, noise-filled conclusion.
The lyrics are amusing and rowdy if and when you can decipher them, they're a little esoteric. If this was intentional or just a result of the language barrier remains to be seen, but it's not like it matters. It's the music that's the star here, and the added punctuation of the yelling and screaming is far more important than any actual meaning given to the words being yelled or screamed. Of particular note is Plaster Caster, a track with a beat very similar to the fairly obscure Devo song Uglatto. As style of the Polysics and many of the songs they cover point to their being fans of Akron's favorite spudboys-turned-admen, this seems like a fairly obvious nod to the original boys in yellow.
The most jarring track on the album is the final cut, a bonus track that sounds nothing like the previous 13 songs. BLACK OUT FALL OUT sounds more like a J-Pop song, or perhaps a mellow number meant to be played over the end credits of the film, it's the one song that really, truly, does not belong here. Still, it's more interesting to listen to than the average American pop song, and despite being in Japanese it still has a great sound that anyone willing to give it a chance may enjoy.
In Japan, Neu had very similar cover art, except the kid on the front was in black and white with the same red/pink background. The US version includes lyrics, it is not known if the Japanese version did as well.
If you're in the market for something loud, different, and reasonably cheap you should look no further. As this album is on a small label, or if you want the original Japanese release it's an import, it may take some searching. You can order it directly from the label for about US $8 or get it from your local music stores for under $12.
November 3, 2003