Shihatsumachi Underground May as Well Be the Future

All right, I’ve played this song three times now and still feel like it’s beyond me. Somebody stuck a blues guitarist into the booth during an OK Computer-era Radiohead recording session, gave the resultant track to idols and walked away with a devilish grin. The result? The lead from Shihatsumachi Underground’s first EP:

I told you that you were going to like them!

Despite only recently debuting, Shihatsumachi is finding room in the crowded idol scene to do different, interesting things. Just this song, in fact — composed and lyriced by legitimate scenesters, with a clear vision in mind instead of hitting over-used tropes over the head, or relying on lowest-common-denominator sounds virtually focus-grouped out of an idol composition stew — is both fresh and familiar all at once, as it doesn’t fit into very many people’s ideas of what idols should be doing musically, but it recalls a lot of positive moments from modern rock of ages past and present.

It’s like Jim’s earlier comment: This is such a mature, conscientious sound compared to a lot of what all else happens in idol, even the good stuff. The nearest contemporary equivalent that I can think of is probably HAMIDASYSTEM, though they’re coming from different corners of a stylistic playing field, or maybe my beloved Dots. The MV works so well with it, too — look everybody, art direction! — that I’m struggling to think of any one idol-related release so far this year that puts such a pretty bow on their presentation gift wrapping.

I am neither an expert nor a spring chicken, so I feel like there is at least some merit in this: While there will always be some room for loudool, we may be approaching a moment for the more experimental rock-sounding set, where the genre blurring that got so many people excited in the first place jumps to a completely new level of creativity and sophistication. Many an ex-idol is working as an avant garde DJ these days, and many and more are the existing or debuting idol projects that scoff at easy routes toward the same exhausted piles of wota cash and media attention. This is the kind of thing that can reinvigorate a scene, and I am very glad to have it.

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