Bo Ningen - Line the Wall - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Bo Ningen - Line the Wall

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2012-10-08

Sticking to the formula which made their self-titled debut such a treat, UK-based Japanese pysch-metal-punk mentalists Bo Ningen deliver another collision of barely controlled riffing, atonal sound experiments, helium-voiced gibbering, larynx-shredding screams and, well, just bucket-loads of unhinged fun.

Line the Wall, then, is mostly a case if 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it', which, when your sound is as expansive, full-on and explosive as Bo Ningen's, will do just fine. So opener 'Soko' is a rumbling, psychedelia-and-Krautrock-flecked garage rock blast; 'Hanken' is all strutting, staccato guitar stabs and pounding drums; the stunning 'Daikaisei Part 1', meanwhile, sounds like Hawkwind being covered by a Japanese teen band, which is, of course, wondrous.

If anything has changed from their debut, it's that the band allows for less cosmic noodling and indulgence. Whereas their debut struggled to cling onto its ragged urgency, sometimes meandering into inconsequential, if lovely-sounding, drones and solos, Line the Wall sees Bo Ningen, while not exactly practising anything as square as restraint, exercising a sharpened sense of focus and control.

This is most evident on the brilliant, constantly evolving 'Chitei Ningen Mogura', which moves from early Yeah Yeah Yeahs-style garage punk snarl to full-on Ozric Tentacles cosmic rock. The riffs and echo-slapped vocals endlessly spiral out into space but the rhythm section, always the most vital component of any space rock group, remain locked into the groove. The result is a work of impressive maturity from an outfit who were previously mostly happy to riff like gurning bastards.

As on their debut, Bo Ningen's secret weapon is the surprising bubblegum sensibility they possess, something which means that after a few listens you are struck by the nagging melodies in songs such as '32 Kaiten' and the excellent industrial rock of 'Shin Ichi'. I'd call it 'sing-along' if I had any idea what they were singing about. It's a gift they share with the likes of Deerhoof and even Bjork: what at first seems like deranged noise eventually emerges and warped, intuitive pop.

Unfortunately, the album's weakest moments are it's longest: 'Ten To Sen' sees the band reverting to cliché, lapsing into soporific drones and strumming for seven long, interminable minutes. 'Daikaisei Part 2', meanwhile, contains some great riffing and commendably bat-shit vocals, but it's nothing they haven't delivered with a greater punch elsewhere and the fretwork at times becomes more Status Quo than Hendrix.

The album closes with the desolate 'Natsu No Nioi', which starts as an ominous, minimalist whisper before a soundworld of moaning, echoing guitar and submerged glitches reveals itself. Then Bo Ningen go and surprise you again by breaking into a proper, heartfelt ballad - and bloody lovely it is too! By wrong-footing the listener like this in the final minutes of Line the Wall, Bo Ningen leave you wondering where they might go from here while feeling very excited at the possibilities.

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