Mercurial darlings Boris continue a period of prolific output, following up on last year’s EP misfire for Southern Lord with a pair of records, each of which spotlights a different current fascination of the power trio.
Attention Please focuses primarily on the coy vocals of guitarist Wata. When she’s previously contributed to some of the more sing-song-y parts of the band’s garage-oriented outings, her singing has proved occasionally winning (although the weird Hello Kitty-ish fascination one notices from some of Boris’s male fans is disconcerting to say the least). But unlike previous output, the ten tracks on Attention Please are slick, synthesized, almost club-ready vamps (or at least that seems to be their aspiration). The affect may be intentional but for the most part I found them to be drowsy, forgettable, head-nodding throwaways with at least a passable amount of textural variety but very little in the way of memorable song-writing. Occasionally the combination of influences proved moderately diverting, as on “Hope” (with sort of My Bloody Valentine-ish vocals, faux strings, and a typical up-tempo churn). And some of the trippier, more textural pieces (like “See You Next Week” or “You”) will recall passages from Flood or Mabuta No Ura, aqueous and drifting. The sparing use of peaking feedback and mega-distorted lines on tracks like “Tokyo Wonder Land” seems a bit of a tease, because of the distractingly bad recording sound. And with the acoustic version of “Aileron,” I’d begun to wonder if Attention Please was analogous to a KISS solo album.
The second disc, and the second Boris record to be titled Heavy Rocks, is a bit more like it. Even if the record finds the band going over ground already covered fairly well on Atuma No Uta and Pink (and to a lesser extent on Rainbow, with guitarist Michio Kurihara, who guests here, along with Mammifer’s Faith Coloccia, Isis’ Aaron Turner, and The Cult’s Ian Astbury), it’s a reminder that they can be good fun. The tunes still aren’t anything too memorable (though in fairness that’s never been Boris’s particular forte), and the frippertronics and sonic detail on songs like “Galaxians” makes things less ordinary than they might otherwise be, ranging between fairly standard chugging and brief breakdowns intended to sound heavily narcotic. And there are some true head-scratchers even here: “Jackson Head” sounds like a children’s TV theme song (not a good one), and “Czechoslovakia” is a buzzing, near piss-take on black metal (if I want that, I can listen to Cephalic Carnage, thank you very much). But they also emphatically hit the mark a few times on Heavy Rocks. There’s some invitingly downer melancholy on “Missing Pieces” and especially the sweeping, electric reading of “Aileron,” with Kurihara’s intense lava lines a highlight. And for sheer visceral fun, I dug the squalling, Torche-like “Window Shopping” (with excellent “doo doo doo” backups from Coloccia).
Inconsistent at best, this pair of discs isn’t enough to make me dismiss Boris outright. But they’re certainly going through a self-indulgent phase.