Back in black (and white)
In the great tradition of automobiles and transistor radios, witness Pizzicato Five, proof positive that the Japanese are by no means through appropriating all things indigenously American and selling us back the improved model.
Forget Shonen Knife: Here’s a non-English-speaking group that is able to blend the blithe Top 40 bubblegum of the early ’60s and the Ecstasy-fueled sensuality of mid-’90s club music (among many other ingredients) with such knowing alacrity that their kitsch-en soup might have been poured from one of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s cans. It’s hard to remember any music quite so exhilaratingly counterfeited and reconstituted.
”He thinks modern art after Warhol all pretty much followed the same path.” That’s the group’s translator talking, paraphrasing P5 ringmaster Yasuharu Konishi. ”We’re in that area of replicating things rather than originating them. We don’t think it’s possible to be original,” says the interpreter. ”Except for Stevie Wonder,” pipes up Konishi, in a rare outburst of English.
Influenced by everyone from the Carpenters to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the P5 (actually a duo, rounded out by Konishi’s fashion-plate partner, singer Maki Nomiya) have crossbred many a genre in their 10-year history: Think Dionne Warwick meets Massive Attack — or a much shrewder Deee-Lite. Their new album — The Sound of Music by Pizzicato Five, which includes a few numbers in English — is a rich, slick dance-groove compendium that mixes bossa nova and Burt Bacharach-inspired melodies with plenty of throbbing bass lines and even techno touches.
”He says that in his home environment he listens to easy-listening and house music at the same time, or consecutively,” explains the translator. ”He doesn’t think it’s strange, the marriage of the two.” Plucky, these Pizzicatos.