With their clever 1994 semi-hit, the kitschy yet endearing medley
"Twiggy Twiggy"/ "Twiggy vs. James Bond," the Pizzicato Five became the
first Japanese-pop band of the '90s to successfully invade U.S. airwaves.
Unfortunately the track screamed of novelty and now -- five years and
three albums later -- the P5 are a household name only to hipsters,
college students, and J-pop fanatics.
The Pizzicato Five are a sound kaleidoscope: a playful fusion of disco,
rock, hip-hop, electronica, lounge core, exotica, cartoon theme songs,
'60s-era soul, go-go beats and whatever else they can think of to throw
into the pop-culture blender. And although the band may already have
reached its popularity peak in the U.S., the Tokyo duo -- which consists
of renowned DJ Yasuharu Konishi and frontwoman/fashion diva Maki Nomiya
-- have been superstars in their homeland since the mid-'80s.
The Pizzicato Five formed in 1985 when sound engineers Konishi and
K-taro Takanami released a 12-inch single playfully titled "Audrey
Hepburn Complex." By the time they released their first LP early the
following year, Pizzicato Five in Action, the P5 phenomenon had
built momentum. The next five years saw a variety of personnel changes
capped by the departure of Takanami. Konishi, however, pushed onward and
in mid-1990 welcomed Maki Nomiya.
The P5's newest album, International Playboy & Playgirl, is only
the band's second full-length LP of all-new material to be released in
the U.S. (the earliest offerings were greatest-hits collections culled
from the P5's vast catalog). The first was 1997's Happy End of the
World, which was rooted in drum & bass and had a darker hue than
what fans had come to expect from the twosome. It was a good, but not a
International Playboy & Playgirl is considerably stronger. The
sound is bigger, more lush. The use of strings, harpsichords, and multipart
harmonies give it a decidedly Burt Bacharach sheen. The LP boasts far
more highs than lows as it -- in the spirit of all P5 releases -- genre
jumps from one track to another. The recurring thread remains the sprightly
colored delivery and bouncy, danceable grooves.
The duo wander into previously uncharted territory, including mambo on
(RealAudio excerpt) and smooth jazz on "Drinking Wine"
(RealAudio excerpt). The album's upbeat sing-along opener (a sing-along if you are proficient in Japanese, of
course), "La Depression," the loungy "I Hear a Symphony," the
horn-propelled "A New Song" and the delicate "Concerto"
(RealAudio excerpt) rank as highlights.
Overall, this is P5's second-best domestic release. 1994's Made in
USA (y'know -- the one with "Twiggy Twiggy") remains the album to
But when comparing International Playboy & Playgirl to Happy
End of the World, Pizzicato Five fans should rejoice -- happy days
are here again.