Sep 23, 2016

This glorious split features two of Japan’s finest! Kumagaya’s Gleam Garden are equal parts heart and teeth. The first of their five songs for side A, “Wasting Time,” channels The Pillows if they played post-hardcore, at once pop and punk and garage and indie and indefinable. “Vision in White” is similarly upbeat and catchy, but with a palpable undercurrent of youthful frustration and ennui that prevents it from becoming cloying. “Spring Storm” somehow introduces both a hint of twang and a swinging doo-wop beat without stepping on its own feet, and “Last Exit” goes deeper down the rabbit hole of garagey roughness, while preserving the dreamy pop emotion Gleam Garden express so well. The final track, a cover of Bobby Bland’s 1961 ballad, “I’m Not Ashamed,” is a satisfying crystallization of the early ‘60s influences lurking beneath the surface of the four previous songs. Its borrowed lyrics perfectly recall the bittersweetness that defined much of the era’s pop music, while the band’s loose, relaxed playing makes it feel fresh. Side B is inhabited by six raucous songs from Toyama’s Tony’s Bite, who lean hard into their classic punk roots while exploring post-punk tones and textures on the opener, “No Reply.” “Rough Fight” is aptly titled, a rowdy rock’n’roll anthem for delinquents. The bouncy, spacey “Primitive Eye” lightens the mood a bit, while “Right Thing” gently shreds your face with its killer riffs. Tony’s Bite cram the largest amount of attitude into their shortest song, the barely one-minute “Virgin Soil,” creating side B’s standout track. Finisher, “I’m Empty,” is a cover of fellow Toyama band, Sub Stream, ending the whole fun affair on a high note you can’t help but dance to. –Kelley O’Death (Snuffy Smiles / Brassneck,