REVIEW: 死んだ僕の彼女 (my dead girlfirend) - hades (the nine stages of change at the deceased remains)

In the past few years, shoegaze has seemingly come back to life internationally, inspiring some to dub several new American bands shoegaze revivalists, with new twists on the highly distorted, sometimes ear-crushing, sound of the genre, while shoegaze pioneers such as Ride (UK) and Slowdive (UK) have reunited. However, Japan has always maintained a niche scene since the Shibuya-kei greats Flipper’s Guitar and other bands with a more Madchester sound, experimented with the genre in the wake of Ireland’s My Bloody Valentine's famous Loveless. While the scene remains small, it is vibrant and far more diverse than many other places around the world.

1. 彼女が冷たく笑ったら 【prologue to the nine stages of change at the deceased remains】
2. 手を振って
3. hades in the dead of winter
4. danke
5. Hong Kong Police
6. I think about Mary Poppins
7. incarnation of pessimism
8. 彼女が暑くて腐ったら
9. yurikago kara hakaba made
10. 吐く息 【the last stage of change at the deceased remains】

my dead girlfriend (translated from Japanese - Shinda boku no kanojo) has been together for a while now (2005), but with no LP. Making use of two vocalists (female and male) along with a synthesizer, the band has a unique sound, and has been cast as one of the most promising bands on the scene. As everyone knows though, the first LP can be a challenge for many bands; a struggle to maintain a characteristic sound and album flow for ten tracks. However, the band successfully does that – and a lot more on this record.

The album opens with “Kanojo ga tsumetaku warattara”, which is not just one of the most dynamic tracks on the album, but overall, that this band has produced. Implementing synthesizer and acoustic guitar, the song has a unique texture, with entrancing verses and a feedback-packed chorus. Ishikawa (guitar) and Ideta (synthesizer) trade off on vocals in the beginning of the track, only to join together for the chorus. This well-executed deployment of both their voices to emphasize their respective strengths is true for the entire LP.

The synthesizer largely comes back out on “hades in winter”, opening the track before the guitars move in, drenched in distortion and reverb. This song largely encapsulates the success of the synthesizer and dual vocals on the record – the synthesizer is not forced on any songs, and in many ways seems to almost ride the waves of feedback the guitars are creating. While the dual vocals are not on the hypnotic level of the harmonization of dreampop/shoegaze band, Plastic Girl in Closet, it is one of the most notable strengths of the album.

Whereas most noise pop records focus more on the less-distorted melodic guitar, this album shows of the band’s talent for merging the characteristic wave of feedback common to shoegaze, along with a leading guitar that is more melodic. “danke” in particular is a great example of how the band layers the guitars on top of each other to create a varied soundscape that has remarkable depth. “danke” also demonstrates the band’s use of backup vocals at times, somewhat unusual to shoegaze. However, the band pulls it off, and even with the sheer amount of different sounds on the track, it is never overwhelming.

Tracks such as “danke”, and also “I think about Mary Poppins” and “Hakuiki”, show a band keenly aware of how to set their tracks apart from other shoegaze and noise pop bands. All these tracks have moments where they slow down, or rely on building up, and then dropping off (sometimes quite suddenly) into quieter, melodic moments. The maturation of this band’s composition skills is best observed on these tracks; while “I think about Mary Poppins” is utterly crushing at moments; it slows down into calm, peaceful moments, dotted by echoing guitars.

A final note about the album’s sound that needs to be mentioned is how well the band pulls off the noise pop side of their sound. Using a less-distorted melodic lead along with Ishikawa and Ideta’s voices to drive the song forward creates more up-tempo songs than the band previously had. Songs like “yurikago kara hakaba made” on the record demonstrate just how catchy this band can be, even while destroying your ears if the volume is turned loud enough.

Hades is a great shoegaze record, and I am stretched to think of a better candidate for shoegaze album of the year so far. This being said, I am left with a slight twinge of regret that not all the compositions here are as varied as the first track, which is dynamic in so many aspects. However, this album is a clear indication that the band has merged their early career's more pronounced emphasis on being a shoegaze band with what their website bio describes now as more noise pop. Indeed, many of the tracks are incredibly catching, owing particularly to the synthesizer and Ishikawa and Ideta’s voices.

A number of the most promising shoegaze bands in Japan such as my dead girlfriend have demonstrated a great variance in sound, with each album sounding unique, and a development from the previous. Certainly looking at my dead girlfriend’s career so far, Ixtab (2010), Underdrawing For Three Forms of Unhappiness At The State of Existence (2012), and now hades have all demonstrated new dimensions of the band’s sound. Personally, I will be interested to see if the band heads more towards a shoegaze or noise pop sound with their next LP. Hopefully there won’t be a ten-year wait like with this one.

Key Tracks: "Kanojo ga tsumetaku warattara", "danke", "I think about Mary Poppins", "yurikago kara hakaba made", "Hakuiki"

Official Site:

Note on specials with purchase: If purchased at Tower Records right now, you can get a free additional E.P - 夏八 e.p. - from the band. Village Vanguard in Japan is also running a special that you receive a music video DVD-R if you purchase there. 
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