Riot On The Grill might be their be first U.S. release, but don't be fooled; Ellegarden aren't new to the game. These J-punks have been pumping out infectious, crowd-pleasing tunes since 2001, but only in Japan. Grill is America's first taste of Ellegarden, and they sure cook up pop-punk just the way we like it: melodic, cheerful with a hint of angst, and predictable, yet meaty, four chord anthemic choruses. But what's that aftertaste? Oh, it's blink-182.
Search "Ellegarden live" on Youtube and it's easy to see by the oceans of people that vocalist Takeshi Hosomi could have an army of loyal fans at his disposal to do his will. It's easy to understand why: Ellegarden's brand of pop-punk grabs your ear by it's lobe and urgently yanks you into a listen. Youthful effervescent melodies sparkle and shine from track to track ("Red Hot," "Marry Me") even if you don't know Japanese ("Missing," "Niji"). The choruses are huge, addictive and will remain on your tongue long after you've turned off your iPod (or respective music playing device).
Part of Ellegarden's charm lies within their unintentionally amusing, and sometimes confusing, brand of English. One might assume the meaning of phrases like "I got a red hot chili blows it away," "I'm just a snaking-fighting snake," and "He's just another stupid in the next life" were lost in translation. But you have to give the guys credit for singing a majority of their material in their non-dominant language. Granted, his singing in Japanese does sound stronger. It's almost as though he possesses two different voices.
Though they might get you on your feet and rocking an air guitar, Ellegarden still only managed to write an album that was done before by multiple bands we were listening to when they were only getting started. Hosomi's vocals are often reminiscent of a an 'Enema of the State'-era Tom Delonge, in addition to musically sounding like blink-182, Sum 41, and Allister (who they are currently sharing a stage with in Japan). Their latest album, Eleven Fire Crackers, just hit shelves in Japan November 8th but there's no telling when this one might come statewide. It took nearly a year for Grill to hit our shores. On their fifth album they might be singing, and playing, a completely different tune.
Music snobs would throw this into the pile of failed nameless pop-punk bands who also wrote about growing up, the one that got away, playing video games, and hating school. As cliché as all these topics are, the truth is that they are always relevant. So while the rest of us lethargically lurch off to another day of work in the real world, Ellegarden is appealing to whole new generation of unpopular misfits who are still holding onto the hope that they might get a date with that special someone. Hey, I like Pavement, Sufjan, and Broken Social Scene too, Mr. Pretentious Indie Kid, but it's OK to smile a little. Believe it or not, but music can also be fun! Cheer up. Don't let indie become the new emo.