It was very interesting to see the rise in popularity Fishmans gained this past decade. Not a lost group or record by any means, but undoubtedly a project that got it’s Western audience due more recently than upon their heyday in the 90s. I was always curious seeing this pop out of the blue and have so much of the music community at large glue themselves to this group, some even regarding Fishmans as among their favorite groups. I happened to listen to the live version of this at the tail end of their extremely praised 98.12.28 男達の別れ (98.12.28 Otokotachi no Wakare) before my time with the studio album. I feel some of the magic is missed without this solid context, but really at the end of the day the best I can take away from this is that it is a pretty and dreamy Pop record.
The first and last two tracks are beautiful pairs of enveloping Neo-Psychedelia. The interweaving melodies and slow-developing rhythms of music boxes, keyboards, and guitar over dubby percussion give this group a distinct flavor. Shinji’s vocal delivery here is purposefully utilized as another piece in this layered flow of music, soulful as it pertains to it’s character but almost inconsequential in meaning to my ingorance of the Japanese language. The track listing here is in a way somewhat meaningless, however not to a fault. I can’t imagine hopping into different tracks willy-nilly. As the album title somewhat implies, this is a long play through and through. Each track really flows seamlessly from once to the other and maintains it’s momentum extremely well.
I guess where I’m lost on what I’ve heard from Fishmans now and in the past is just trying to squeeze some lasting enjoyment of the record, something that exists outside of active listening to the record. While I love the intricate rhythms and subtle dynamics that develop over the course of the record, it comes off as entirely too jammy. A long studio session that never lands anywhere so to speak. Perhaps that’s why the live version hits so well, they really become one unto themselves with that sort of environment. It is also quite imbalanced in that regard, tracks one and two are both beautiful in form before transitioning into the third experimental cut. Lots of varied percussion and synths, while impressive in composition, don’t amount to much in the album’s context.
What I’m really missing in this album is that “oomph”, that grand statement that acts as a climax or a closer. Instead all that I am left with is a bookend of the previous track’s melodies with some additional little flair tied to it. Maybe one day I’ll “get” Fishmans, but at least where I stand as of writing this review is that while I do enjoy listening to this record, I wish that I had some more record or more energy to grasp onto for repeated listens. A pretty experience but something I believe to be just a bit less than the of it’s parts over the 35 minute run time