Scrolling through my massive MP3 collection, I happened across a long lost pop-punk extended play I should tell you about. Hi-Standard is a Japanese band who were on Fat in the 90s. They sing mostly in mispronounced english, playing music stylistically similar to NOFX.
Their final release, 2001’s “Love Is a Battlefield” was 4 songs. The album art appears to be a magic marker drawing on a paper bag of two people kissing. All of the songs are love songs, hence the title. The simplistic nature of the lyrics, album art, and song structure all kind of add to the innocence of the band. In the opening track, they sing “can I say this is love? why don’t we just get lost in the wind” at the northern edge of the singer’s vocal range, kinda giving it a fun feeling. I would describe it as the Beach Boys played at punk pace, with english as second language singers. The flaws and missteps are all part of the package and give it a kind of beautiful awkwardness similar to John Cusack standing outside of your window with a stereo.
The 4 song length makes for no filler, and the last song stands out. It’s a cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love”. It starts slow and beautiful, before exploding into the screaming power of Japanese Elvis. It really reaffirms the beauty of the lyrics. I can’t think of any modern rock album that has this kind of innocence, without regressing into the vulgarity of mass culture. Perhaps the West is just too cynical, neurotic and obscurity-obsessed to have fun and sing love songs. We’ll just have to keep importing.