Kero Kero Bonito, the group known for its cute dance hall sound with a blend of J-Pop, is back with a new EP that explores different sounds for the group.
Kero Kero Bonito broke out with their LP Bonito Generation in 2016. Known for their humorous and borderline childish sound, the group was recognized for blending Japanese and English lyrics and their blindingly bright and poppy synth melodies. Released Feb. 20, the TOTEP EP is the first release from the group since a handful of singles in 2017. While their venture into new sounds mostly succeeds, some tracks feel too short and not fully realized.
The first song of the EP, “The One True Path,” is distinctly different from other KKB tracks as soon as you hear the first synth lines, as they are much more moody and darker than usual. A hard driving bass line reduces the “dance-ability” compared to a normal KKB track. An extremely dissonant organ solo characterizes the gloomy mood of the song, standing in sharp contrast to the sweet, hopeful and optimistic lyrics.
“Only Acting” begins in familiar waters for KKB fans as it takes a lyrical storytelling approach, working through the experience of acting for the stage. The track picks up halfway through, where chorus-filled guitar chords blaze behind the upbeat vocals, giving a fun and catchy pop punk feel that KKB totally rocks. Another surprise happens in the latter third of the track, where KKB employs “glitchy” and looping vocal effects, and adds reverb and screams to the drums and vocals.
The glitchy and eerie mess at the end of the previous track blends perfectly into this beginning blasting chorus of “You Know How It Is.” Another heavily guitar-driven track, static fuzz and reverb-heavy backup vocals fill in the background as more pop punk influenced vocals take the foreground. An almost lo-fi effect occurs as there is a very distinct messiness to the track without detracting from the stickiness of typical KKB choruses, except more reminiscent of the early 2000s rather than early 2010s. A very nice guitar solo caps the track, which is a first in the KKB repertoire, and it really raises the energy on the song nicely, giving a very welcome instrumental portion to the otherwise straightforward pop punk track.
The final track, “Cinema,” is the most underwhelming within the EP, with heavily reverberated synth chords and a drum machine creating too soft a color for a KKB track. The guitar also returns, although a lot mellower, just putting out occasional chords and occasional bright riffs. The track feels like KKB is experimenting with a style that they don’t fully have a grasp on yet. Not only does it feel short and undeveloped, but it is extremely derivative of a style created by West Coast artists such as Drugdealer and Mild High Club. “Cinema” is just the opposite of the explosiveness and ingenuity expected from a KKB track.
TOTEP steps in a different musical direction in this EP. Although there is still a cutesie element to this EP, KKB experiments with guitar driven tracks, darker synth elements and some unique sounds, as in the end of “Only Acting.” These new sounds mesh interestingly with Kero Kero Bonito’s typical ultra-poppy lyrical style. Although it leaves some tracks feeling underdeveloped, it leaves excitement for a future LP when Kero Kero Bonito has had more time with these sounds.