Local Wire

Puffy AmiYumi

"We ain't no Harajuku Girls/We just straight-up rock 'n' roll," Puffy AmiYumi sings on "Call Me What You Like," the opening track from their eighth studio album. The song primarily expresses the female Japanese duo's desire to be taken seriously as "rockers" — a tall order given the kiddy-fluff nature of Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, the incredibly popular Cartoon Network show they inspired; it may also be a subtle retort to Gwen Stefani's recent, borderline-racist fetishization and cartoonization of Tokyo street culture. Not that Puffy isn't mining another culture for ideas, too, since most of their songs are Dr. Frankenstein-esque amalgams of riffs and melodies from familiar American and British songs — "Call Me What You Like," for example, references Def Leppard's "Rock of Ages," The Knack's "My Sharona," and about a half-dozen numbers from Joan Jett's catalogue — but it's hardly annoying, offensive, or exploitative; they're operating in the time-honored musical tradition of taking what's come before, filtering it through their own vision, and spitting it back out (in both English and Japanese, in this case) in new shapes that're almost always fun, if not terribly groundbreaking. It's actually pretty easy to stop playing the "Spot the Rip-off" game and just sit back and enjoy, guilt-free, the vintage Motown girl-group vibe of "Etude," grimy garage-punk anthem "Go Baby Power Now" (which features Jon Spencer), and a bunch more songs that unquestionably rock.
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Michael Alan Goldberg