I was really impressed a year or two ago when I heard Colossal’s Welcome the Problems; I thought it marked a big change in the type of stuff Asian Man was releasing and made me hopeful that the once stereotypical ska label might be able to stretch and expand their roster. So when I saw Shinobu’s bio and the references to Weakerthans, Pavement, and Sebadoh, I thought that Asian Man had done it again. I guess not. Shinobu seems to be a band not living up to their full potential. Most of their songs just tread water as the singer tells a story that didn’t seem to interest me enough to even want to read the lyrics in the booklet. In a number of the songs, the vocals were just annoying; out of tune or either really flat. It seemed it was hard for a happy medium to be found for the band. And in some regards, like many of Sebadoh’s albums, some of the songs on Westward, Ho! come across as jovial wankery, the musical version of an incomplete sentence; or if it is complete, it’s using the wrong adjective or verb. In the end, it just doesn’t add up and makes for not only a disappointing listen, but a fairly annoying one at that.
–kurt (Asian Man)