J-Rock Reviews

Review by Marc Bowie


Released on January 24th, UNISON SQUARE GARDEN’s MODE MOOD MODE is a swirling stew of musical flavors and genre mashups played with consummate skill and carried off with panache. Like watching a master carpenter expertly carving a post, it’s very satisfying observing these accomplished craftsmen go about their trade.

Although more crooner than belter, the besuited and well-coiffed Kosuke Saito’s pleasantly light, but not lightweight, voice pairs well with his tastefully melodic guitar parts. Equally capable of adding colorful fills or brief but cutting solos, Kosuke plays rock guitar like it should be played, with a deft touch and a quick pick.

Drummer Takao Suzuki is the motor in the USG sports car and makes enough noise behind his kit for any three drummers. His drumming is so relentless, a bit like the Hot For Teacher intro but carried throughout the song, that you wonder if he’s overplaying and wish he’d pull back just a bit. But, he’s so good, on point, and integral to the band’s sound that you miss him on the few songs where he’s more beat keeper.

Tomoya Tabuchi’s bass playing, like his stage antics, is both energetic and fun, and he makes full use of the fretboard. All three musicians labor in service to the tunes, which mine sources from pop-punk to jazz to funk metal and often feature choruses bigger than an IMAX screen. The first part of the album is sequenced so tightly, with songs coming at you in such quick succession, that the experience can be a bit overwhelming. Repeated listening helps reveal the nuances of the music.


Own Civilization (Nano-mile Met)
The leadoff track opens with a sinister inverted surf riff before switching into pounding grunge mode and serves as a good signpost for the aural assault to follow.

Dizzy Trickster
Punkier than the punkest punk, Dizzy Trickster lives up to its name, as Takao unleashes a dizzying array of quasi-martial, rapid-fire snare and cymbal work. Kosuke closes out the tune with a short metallic solo.

Orchestra Wo Mini Ikou
Featuring an appealing descending chord sequence on the verses, the song shifts to surround sound on the chorus and brings in the titular orchestra (or synth plug-ins) to expand the sonic palette. For me, the mid-song guitar solo conjured up Wes Montgomery of all people!

Fake Town Baby
It sure is a fake town, baby. Tomoya’s questioning ode to what’s real and what’s not served as the second season opener to Kekkai Sensen and is another punky sing-along delight. The accompanying video complements the fiery playing with a whole lot of fire.

A mid-tempo tune with lushly sentimental vocals, Kosuke’s solo lends an appropriately jazzy touch.

Silent Libre Mirage
With an earwormy circular chord pattern and locked in bass and drums, this one cooks

MIDNIGHT JUNGLE has a shuffling beat and a slightly back alley bluesy feel (even if it’s not strictly a blues). You can imagine USG as the house band in one of Raymond Chandler’s chrome and neon clubs on Sunset as Marlowe goes about his world-weary business of sorting out the bad from the merely amoral. Comes complete with steam train whoo whoo’s.

This stuttering funk workout is a refreshing Freaky Styley contrast to most of the other tunes on the album and features nice slap and tickle bass playing and pitch bending guitar.

Invisible Sensation
Another single release off the album with a cinematic feel and a double-time break in the middle.

Yume Ga Sametara (At That River)
As close to a ballad as the album boasts, this one has restrained drumming and a very pretty melody with a sweetly singing guitar solo.

10% roll, 10% romance
The band’s math might be off a bit, but it still adds up to another anime opening theme with some nice organ work and an emotive vocal.

Kimi No Hitomi Ni Koi Shitenai
Closing out the album in Broadway show-tune style, the band rocks along with horns and a comping piano for a rousing finish that just needs a bow from the trio to put the cherry on the sundae. The video has an Ok Go playfulness and lots of gliding camera work.

As I go through life I find I’m wrong about many things. Perhaps you can empathize. Like me, you’re too early or too late for the train. You think running a 10K race can’t really be that hard. You tell yourself that the milk in the fridge isn’t that old, that it’s fine. All learning experiences. But, I’m not wrong when I tell you that MODE MOOD MODE is very good and well worth a listen.

All in all, they pack so much diverse music into the forty-eight minute running time that the album seems longer than it is despite the pace. That’s to the good, though, as it’s top quality stuff with plenty of lodged in the brain songs married to sharp as a tack guitar, bass and drum playing. Give it a spin or a stream.

UNISON SQUARE GARDEN Website: http://unison-s-g.com/
UNISON SQUARE GARDEN Twitter: https://twitter.com/USGinfo
UNISON SQUARE GARDEN Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UnisonSquareGardenOfficial/
UNISON SQUARE GARDEN Blog: http://unison-s-g.com/blog/member/