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Album Review
Attention Please / Heavy Rocks

Attention Please / Heavy Rocks
by Boris

Sargeant House

Review Date
28th June, 2011
Reviewed by
Ricardo Kerr

If you look up “ambitious” in the dictionary you will find a picture of Japanese noiseniks Boris right next with the word’s definition. The trio have released 17 proper albums in 15 years and almost as many live albums, EPs, and collaborative albums on top of that. These albums have all been “heavy”; be they feedback drenched marathons (Absolutego), sludgy metal operas (Amplifier Worship), or just messy rock and roll (Akuma No Uta). Heavy is what they do. This year Boris have graced us with two albums, releases simultaneously, that show off very different sides to this enigmatic beast. Heavy Rocks, not to be confused with their 2002 album of the same name, is indeed heavy rock and Attention Please allows guitarist Wata to take the reins and drive the band down a new road.

Heavy Rock starts on a high note with the thunderous doomy riff that starts ‘Riot Sugar’, a big steaming slice of 80s metal by way of Alice in Chains. ‘Riot Sugar’ is the archetypal song on this version of Heavy Rocks: blues-metal crunch meets overcharged rockabilly riffing with a touch of the punk fury found in Akuma No Uta.

Elsewhere some more of the 80s creeps in like the borderline glam harmonies on ‘Leak – truthyesnoyesnoyes’ or the twin guitar charge of ‘Tu, La, La’. Then, without warning, all the air is let out. A full 20% of the album resides in the low-key dirge ‘Missing Pieces’. Sure it gets louder (a LOT louder) at the halfway mark, exuding white noise and percussive thunder, but it doesn’t make the song any more fun. In fact the entire second half is a mixed bag. Twinkling post-rock interludes (‘Key’) butt up against garage rock howlers (‘Window Shopping’) and endless, long-winded astral jams (‘Aileron’). The result is jarring and emphasises the accidental nature of the album as a whole. Heavy Rocks concludes with the teasingly brief ‘Czechoslovakia’ which sounds remarkably like classic era Metallica.

Intentionally little thought went into this album. This makes it raw and loose but also means it lacks a lot of the heart and (dare I say) humour of many other Boris albums. All of that heart, luckily, has been poured into Attention Please. Although she has sung plenty over the years this is guitarist Wata’s turn in the spotlight and she runs with it. Her ghostly lilt certainly does grab your attention (Please), sounding like Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon. This album leans more towards angular side of garage rock. This is a new look for Boris but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. The emphasis has gone from riff-heavy bludgeon to ethereal tension. The heavy is still there – as in the saw-toothed bassline of ‘Party Boy’ or the retro thunder of ‘Les Paul Custom 86’ – but it is being channelled in a new way. Wata plays a less prominent role when the volume amps up, not being able to outmatch a full Boris guitar assault. Its ok, nobody else could either. The album ends on a sumptuous note with the gorgeous ‘Hand in Hand’, Wata purring all the way through distant wailing feedback.

Boris’ MO has always been to push the boundaries of heavy music. Sometimes these boundaries are pushed too far but I am glad they were pushed anyway. The legacy of Boris has afforded them the room of some missteps. Heavy Rocks simply cannot live up to either 2002’s version or its sister album, Attention Please. But a band as diverse and innovative as Boris can never be counted out and both of these albums are exactly what they were intended to be, warts and all.

Attention Please: 7.5/10

Heavy Rocks: 5.5/10


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