Italian Japanese are an alt-rock band from Southern California established by Allen Nicholas (lead vocals, guitar) and Chris McLaughlin (guitar, keys) and rounded out by additional members (Greene, Rodriguez, and Willis). While their debut LP The Lush, Romantic Weirdness would fit nicely in the iTunes library of teens and young adults around the country, it won’t leave a lasting mark on the listener who desires more depth.

 

The album has a pop-leaning rock sound with nicely produced moody atmospheric additions. Musically and production-wise, the album is quite solid (the percussion choices stand out especially), but the vocals and lyrics leave a lot to be desired. Nicholas’ vocals are straight-forward and don’t provide many points of interest. They’re often treated with what sounds like a breathy vocal double — like an odd attempt at Silversun Pickups or Smashing Pumpkins — which leads the songs astray.

The lyrics on the album often sound like they were written to fit the melody instead of in service to a genuine idea. Lines like “Can I crawl in your ear and rest on your brain” in “Polaroid You” will make you wonder, and the chanted chorus, “Painted faces on the wall/ Never fails/ Lipstick eyes/ Fainted savior down the hall…” in “Jaguar Paw” is simply perplexing, as is most of the rest of the song. These lyrics are hardly going to make your imagination run wild, and are more likely to make you question what the hell is going on. Writing such highly abstract lyrics places a song emotionally out of reach to the audience. This makes for an entertaining song that sounds nice at the surface, but neglecting the lyrical piece won’t bring listeners back for more.

The few songs that stand out more seem to be those inspired by a more genuine meaning. “Jeremiah” is a more delicate rock ballad about a friend’s brother who passed away. The song builds from acoustic guitar to a fuller sound with interesting guitar riffs and drums. “Le Pony” is an enjoyably upbeat song that’s actually about being in a relationship with someone addicted to prescription drugs. This sort of juxtaposition can be a very interesting tactic, but there’s nothing dark or dirty about the sound, making the whole song seem out of touch in light of the subject matter. It’s as if the music was written and locked away far before the idea and lyrics were conceived.

Aside from the negatives, there are no bad songs on this album; however they’re all fairly similar. The listener probably won’t leave with anything exciting to remember, while it also wouldn’t be a waste of time. Italian Japanese seem to have a decent following in SoCal and on college charts, but the bands with which they are compared (MGMT, Phoenix, Oasis) are certainly off the mark. This album could be a solid rock party sound track, but it won’t amaze the masses since there’s nothing extraordinary to leave a lasting impression

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