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Kero Kero Bonito Hop into the Ritz

In Music
ACTING OUT: Indie rock/J-pop hybrid Kero Kero Bonito come to San Jose for the first time this Saturday.

ACTING OUT: Indie rock/J-pop hybrid Kero Kero Bonito come to San Jose for the first time this Saturday.

About three minutes into “Only Acting,” the lead single from Kero Kero Bonito’s 2018 album Time ‘n’ Place, the whole thing falls apart. Like a CD player trying to read a scratched disc, the track skips on a fragment. A moment later it shuts down, pulling everything into silence. Then comes the noise.

Up to that point, “Only Acting” is one of the British indie rock band’s strongest songs to date, a near-perfect example of their unique blending of J-pop, chiptune and good old fashioned rock & roll. Opening with a shuffling drum machine beat and singer Sarah Midori Perry’s carefree singsong, “Only Acting” tells the story of an actress learning that sometimes acting is truthful, and that the truth is acting.

“I thought I was only acting, but I felt exactly like it was all for real,” she sings on the big Weezer-style chorus. “I sure didn’t know it hurt so bad, that no rehearsal could show you how to feel inside.”

It’s a little like a life-affirming version of arthouse anime film Perfect Blue, or a modern Through the Looking Glass story. Whatever it is, it arrives replete with video game-inspired keyboards and Casio drum presets. And though there’s still plenty to come in the surprisingly dense song (guitar solo, key change) before it all goes completely haywire, there’s already bits of weirdness that show up after the first chorus. Radio static, sub-audible acting instructions, a few freaky screams. You know, normal stuff for a lead single.

That “Only Acting” falls apart toward the end is more of a testament to the band’s playfulness than it is an act of alienating high art. For Kero Kero Bonito, art is play, and a playful mixture is the height of art.

Mixture, quite literally, is in the band’s blood. Born to a Japanese mother and British father, Perry spent her childhood in Hokkaido before moving to London. Suddenly in a very different country, Perry spent much of her teenage years on an internet forum for Japanese expats in England. It was there that she saw a post by two London musicians looking for a singer—two London musicians she now calls bandmates.

Released by Polyvinyl last October, Time ‘n’ Place is easily Kero Kero Bonito’s strongest release so far. For many San Joseans, the album will tick a lot of boxes. Transnational by design, bits of Britpop and grime creep in around the edges of the bright J-pop melodies, shimmering synths, and 8-bit skylines. The intro to single “Time Today” (one of their best) even makes use of the percolating alien cave sound-effect from the Earthbound soundtrack.

While they’re definitely the smaller of the two J-pop bands playing the city this week (the other being international phenoms Perfume), Kero Kero Bonito’s arrival in the city is a welcome sign that San Jose is becoming relevant for up-and-coming international touring acts. For this place, it’s about time.

Kero Kero Bonito
Apr 20, 8pm, $20+
The Ritz, San Jose

 

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