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Polysics - Now is the Time! Review

You must be hardcore to name your band after a synthesizer, but that's exactly where Polysics get their name from: the Korg Polysix, the first synth owned by frontman Hiroyuki Hayashi. Obviously to us, or to anybody familiar with the history of electronic music, the Polysics are heavily influenced by the hip electro-popsters Devo, and Hiroyuki claims that they make music "In the spirit of Devo." No better band to duplicate than the one that helped scoot synth rock along it's now glorified path, eh? Anyway, The Polysics are basically a guitar-driven rock band with heavily manipulated electronic components, and they call it "Technicolor pogo punk." I guess this means that new wave techno punk is back. Hooray! I was wondering when it would make its return.

Among their most obvious heroes, other bands they claim have had an influence on them are Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Neu! and Nirvana. Apparently if you have a chance to catch them live, they're known for their wild costumes and freaky energetic live shows. Despite the fact that claiming Nirvana is a little cliché, they have a huge following in Japan and the UK, and they are starting to catch on right here in America. Formally started in 1997 in Japan, Polysics have released several full length albums and some EP's, and show no signs of slowing down, creating "inflectional electronic sound that sticks and repeats itself in one's head." And they do it in such languages as Japanese, English, and their own 'space language.' Hopelandic anyone?

Now is the Time! is ultra-charged, lightning-induced, bizarrely layered Picachu rock that sounds like it could and very well may be the Teletubbies theme music in the year 3000. Pure synth/electro beats with blips and bleeps forming riffs run rampant throughout the entire album, layered with traditional guitar and drums succumbing to high-pitched squeals and screams with an occasional Adam Ant-like yodel, to make some of the most wild, weird, energetic, and most hoppable, boppable, punkable, thrashable dance music this side of the galaxy. My God some of this stuff gets out of control, but it's the most fun I've had listening to people make out-of-control music that I think I've ever had. I've not been to Japan, but I imagine this stuff providing background music to Japanese game shows and wild, wacky people dressed in multicolored, creepy-looking monster outfits having a friendship orgy with the contestants post-show.

Devo themes abound of course, but they're tactfully done, as in 'Wild One', where the sludge-pot of white noise a la carte is finally padded out to a rockable and listenable level, but with plenty of blip-blip-blips and tweet-tweet-tweets to enhance the digital factor. 'Super Sonic' starts a little like 'Whip It', with the heavy drum climaxes and drowned in background synthesizer and electric guitar to boot.

'Mr. Psycho Psycho' fits the album well, with short bursts of organ-based thrashing to chants of "Psycho! Psycho! Psycho!," then taking a left-field video game turn into practically another song, and churning into crashes, thrashes and cymbol hits behind that 'Whip It' theme again, then abruptly comes to a halt. Very fast, very furious, very good.

Some of the "fluffier" sounding material comes in the form of 'Skip It' and 'Baby BIAS', where we get to hear another side of the Polysics, mingling the Japanese version of 'Walking in L.A.' from Missing Persons with a catchy, Kylie Minogue-like chorus and a triumphant Vangelis-esque theme breaking waves in tune.

So, what's the down side to all of this? For some people, this stuff will just be way too over-the-top, especially for those uninitiated in Japanese pop culture, electronic music, Teletubbies, or any combination of the three, and even for those who like their music strange and quirky may need to take it with a grain of salt; hell, make it a teaspoon. The pacing of the album, unfortunately, suffers from repetition and monotony to the point of headaches, and the fact that 'other languages' are spoken (or sung, or squealed, or whatever) throughout the record don't help that fact.

If it all seems confusing, then I've done my job in explaining the Polysics. I guess they're not to really be understood or described in full until one has listened to them. If you like your electronic music on the quirky, bizarre and furiously energetic side, then you've arrived at your final psycho-Teletubbies-stompin' destination. Give the Polysics a listen. Just don't forget to wear your black rectangle "censored" sunglasses and/or space helmets for full effect. Oh, and for Pete's sake, give a cheer: new wave techno punk is back!

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Polysics - Now is the Time!

Label:Tofu Records

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