Kero Kero Bonito’s Intro Bonito: A Nastolgia Fueled Fever Dream
I wish I had discovered Kero Kero Bonito last year. If I had, their record Intro Bonito would have been a shoo-in for my prestigious TOP WHATEVER OF 2014 list. But, my ignorance means they didn’t make the cut, so I owe it to them to give this release a comprehensive analysis.
KKB comes from an interesting new generation of musicians who have their roots in electronic music, production, and remixing. Emerging from the same crowd as Spazzkid, Meishi Smile, and Maxo (whose excellent Dragon Ball / Hokuto no Ken theme song cover can be found here) KKB manages to channel nostalgia for retro video games and fandom of Japanese pop music into something wholly unique.
Despite the trappings of contemporary pop music, KKB sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before. The sing-alongs and call-and-response pull me into the songs in a way few other bands do. The figurative audience participation is reminiscent of a Japanese rap group called Love and Hates, helmed by two charming women, with which KKB also shares a few other surface similarities. The experience delivered by Intro Bonito is rooted in familiarity but feels completely alien. Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled, the group’s two produces, pull liberally from video game soundtracks. The sub-three minute songs are rife with familiar noises and jingles, including superlative use of Mario 64 samples in a standout track, “Sick Beat.” Vocalist Sarah Midori Perry’s baffling lyrics delight the mind’s eye. They range from rapper’s braggadocio (about Perry’s video gaming acumen), to keeping a small, cute, crocodile “warm and moist” (metaphors, anyone?), to a downright unsettling song about violent conflict between cats and dogs (which appears on the album twice - once in English and once in Japanese).
It’s a special moment when fans of formerly stigmatized niche hobbies can find their childhood represented in art, and Intro Bonito proves to be an immensely satisfying listen for geeks and nerds everywhere in the same way one might enjoy hearing an 8-bit mash-up of the Dragon Ball and Hokuto no Ken theme songs. However, Kero Kero Bonito aspires to loftier aesthetic goals. KKB is a group that uses the memories and sensibilities of someone who sat alone in their room playing Playstation JRPGs and doing the deep dive into Japanese idols and turns it into music that is engaging for any discerning listener.