Recommend if you like: Fruity Pebbles
Expectation: British pop trio KKB is an interesting group to say the least. Drawing inspiration from J-pop, video game music, and children’s TV, the group is so incredibly bright and optimistic sounding that they are probably unlistenable for anyone who had a negative reaction to Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared. Bonito Generation is the group’s sophomore release.
- Waking Up – You are going to be embarrassed about how much you like this song. The melody and lyrics are so sunny that its genuinely hilarious, made even funnier by the allusions to children’s TV themes (“Get up, get up, what’s that in the sky? Could it be, its KKB!”), and the horns sound legitimately great.
- Heard a Song – Sarah Midori Perry’s rapping is funny every time; her diction perfectly imitates songs from kid’s TV and movies, as does the story she tells (which goes absolutely nowhere).
- Graduation – Its strange how excellent the production is underneath Perry’s tongue-in-cheek contributions. It makes for a strange reminder that KKB was Lobban and Bulled’s idea in the first place.
- Fish Bowl – Just when you think you’ve got the group figured out, they throw in some rock & roll, complete with live drums, electric guitars, and layered vocals- for about 18 seconds. Then the guitar does its best imitation of a record scratch and the group goes back into their more upbeat pop sound. As if to further mock the listeners who perked up for rock-influenced chorus, the next time through the hook sounds distinctly chamber-pop.
- Big City – This served as a turning point of sorts for me; the sound is every bit as sunny and sweet as the tracks before it, but with the rapping replaced by a smooth synth line I found myself unironically appreciating the music.
- Break – If you make it this far in the album, its too late for you. Expect to feel extremely conflicted about how much you’re enjoying this for the next 7 tracks.
- Trampoline – I really liked the bait-and-switch with the lines that could be construed as metaphor on their own but are quickly revealed to literally be about jumping on a trampoline. Also, the chopped vocals at the end are nuts and its awesome.
Overall: After several listens, this album left me with so many questions. How much of what KKB does is ironic? Are the bilingual lyrics meant to recreate the limited comprehension of a child’s mind? Or is the group attempting to expose Western audiences to J-pop? Or maybe they’re actually hoping to find an audience in Japan? Most of all, how could they possibly have known that this music would actually find an audience anywhere?
Bonito Graduation sounds like if the notepad from “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared” and the little girl from “Lazy Town” made a collab album with Passion Pit. It toes the line between inanely stupid and subtly brilliant so closely that I’m not even certain on which side they stand. The group explores an instantly familiar, ubiquitous musical style that is nevertheless completely neglected in both mainstream and underground musical circles. Their music instantly conjures childhood memories, but evokes no nostalgia. The group is an endless series of contradictions, all made the more confusing because I fully expect to listen to this album again in the future and I don’t know why. Its as if the lyrics and melodies intentionally reject every standard of what makes music “good”, while backing them with conventionally outstanding production. Its masterfully constructed garbage, drawing into question how greatly the artists’ intentions can be said to impact the quality of the music. I don’t have that answer, but I choose to believe that the group knew exactly what they were doing.