Plenty has happened to Guitar Vader since their last long player “From Dusk”. They’ve moved from Berry Records, their home since their early cassette-only days, and signed to Plugs House. Miki Tanabe (guitar and vocals) and Shozo Ujuan (bass and vocals) have now also been joined by a full-time drummer, Yoshifumi Suzuki, who has helped to stabilise their sound.

“Dawn” is the first release for Plugs House and features the unmistakable sound of Guitar Vader: catchy rock and roll with a touch of groove and plenty of Japanese quirkiness. Guitar Vader often sing in English but their grasp of the language is shaky at best, leading to bizarre couplets such as:

That little bird suit you
Ring roll rock n roll Star!

from the track “Bird Ship”. In an interview with Pixelsurgeon a couple of years ago Miki defended Guitar Vader’s decision to sing in English: “It doesn’t matter, as long as it sounds good!” But singing in Japanese or English, Guitar Vader manage to write fresh-sounding songs that bounce along thanks to Miki’s inspirational guitar playing and Ujuan’s solid, melodic bass.

“Dawn” starts with the synth and drum machine sounds of “Satisfy”, a song about, uh, well I’m not sure, but it seems to be about love, confusion and nervous passion, with Ujuan and Miki singing “I love you satisfy” in a happy, rousing chorus.

This is followed by the odd sounds of “Mysterious Dirty Girl” an upbeat rock song in Japanese with a chorus in English that sounds like the Stone Roses would if they’d discovered a sense of humour:
You have nothing to worry about
Mysterious dirty girl!

Next is another Japanese song with a chorus in English: “Bird Ship” followed by the insanely catchy “Blue Velvet” showing off how well Ujuan and Miki harmonise on the chorus which comes crashing out of the speakers.

Guitar Vader slow things down for “Mahiru No Tuki” the only song on the album completely in Japanese. This is followed by the close harmonies of Miki and Ujuan singing “Leave Me Alone” with Ujuan’s distorted chugging bass locking down this catchy rock and roll number.

“Everyday” is probably Guitar Vader’s most mature song to date, with the plaintive chorus of
Everyday it’s OK
Evryday it’s Sunday
Everyday it’s OK

and makes you realise how far Miki and Ujuan’s songwriting has come since the days of “Good morning Mr. Three Cats” (Still one of my favourite Guitar Vader tracks, though!) You can hear the Beatles influences, but they always sounds like Guitar Vader and nobody else.

The album closes with two remixes. The first is a remix of “Cutting Evil Smile” from the previous album by Inti de Manes from Spain. At first the remix doesn’t sound like too much of a radical departure from the original track; then halfway through there’s a sinister sounding breakdown and the track begins to writhe and wriggle in an interesting way. Better yet is the Kidkut remix of “Satisfy” which bookends the “Dusk” album. It’s a real reworking of the track giving it a lithe sensuality. Very sexy.

Ujuan seems to be singing slightly more on this album than on previous outings, where the vocal duties have been more evenly split between himself and Miki. Miki’s distinctive, girlie vocals are one of the things that helped define the sound of Guitar Vader and I’d like to have heard her sing a bit more. But Ujuan also has a unique voice, too, and on most tracks Ujuan and Miki sing well together so it’s a tough call.

Overall, Dawn feels more like a long EP than an LP, with the remixes fleshing things out. Hopefully, this release was simply so they could get the ball rolling at Plug’s House and a proper album will follow soon. As it stands, “From Dusk” is probably the better album, even though “Dawn” has some amazing songs. “Satisfy” and “Mysterious Dirty Girl” are probably two of the best Guitar Vader tracks ever and are worth the price of admission alone.

It’s a continuing shame that Guitar Vader albums are not more easily available in the West. For more details on how to get hold of them, contact Plugs House. Hopefully we’ll be able to announce details of an exclusive live date in the UK by Guitar Vader. Stay tuned!

Guitar Vader
Dawn (2003)

Genre: Rock and Roll
Record Label: Plugs House

Pixelsurgeon Verdict

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