EP Review: KICKASSRAY’s Hold Water

KICKASSRAY are young, loud and fun. The few songs they released prior to this EP were energetic and filled with that good Japanese pop-punk sound, as if every song is a part of a summer mixtape. The new EP Hold Water, whilst maintaining that youth, brings in an element of maturity; a summer break winding down if you will.

The pop-punk scene in Japan is a strange phenomenon, but an endlessly entertaining one. The lyrics are all in English, occasionally with a less than perfect grasp of the language, but the emotions and the meanings are all still there. They swear, they yell, they talk about ex-girlfriends and existential crisis that hit after you leave school, and they do it all in a language that their audience normally doesn’t fully grasp. But their energy doesn’t come from just the lyrics – their performance and dedication are where the audience connects.

KICKASSRAY’s lyrics aren’t perfect poetic English, but they don’t need to be; their lyrical flow doesn’t feel awkward, and the band, despite being very young (with the youngest, drummer Kota at 16), certainly have talent in creating a fun sound.

The opening track ‘Hourglass’, which they released a music video for, is fun, but with aggressive undertones, reminiscent of early Title Fight. The track features guest vocals from Narumi, member of hardcore band United Front, and the video was directed by Imamura Satoshi, former member of pop-punk band Something Holiday. The networking found in not just Japanese pop-punk, but the genre in general, is incredibly apparent here.

Also present on the EP is a remastered version of their song ‘Six Years We Walked’. The track, which was one of their biggest songs before the EP, just begs for moshing, filled with everything you want from a pop-punk song – gang vocals, an up tempo beginning complimented by a more emotive end, and even a spot for the vocalist to shine through the music when it all dies down. A much better mixed track than the first iteration, their sound quality has certainly improved over time.

The final track on the EP ‘Sleep’ forms a very fitting end. It’s a more depressing song with guitar bordering on ‘twinkly’ midway through, shades of the mixture of pop-punk and emo found in the American scene. Images of leaving, of movement, with “Walk down that road” being the final words of the EP, take us out both literally and figuratively.

A well put together debut EP for KICKASSRAY. Their sound is already growing to be their own, drawing from hardcore, emo and punk influences to create something that’s a lot of fun, holds a lot of meaning, and deserves some of your time. Pop-punk in general isn’t to everyone’s taste, but the sound that the Japanese scene has begun to build that harkens back to the early days of the new-age of the genre, from the mid to late 00s, mixed with the unique vocals and very emotive performances create a sound that feels so fun, whether live or recorded.

The metaphor of the summer fits Hold Water perfectly, from the upbeat and energetic compositions to the mixture of melancholic and motivational lyrics that fit for personal issues and emotions that so many of us feel throughout our teens and early adulthood. It’s a very promising beginning for KICKASSRAY, and hopefully their sound continues to develop as their own.

Shane Dover

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