eX-Girl – Endangered Species

4 out of 5

Label: Alternative Tentacles

Produced by: Yoshiaki Kondo (recorded, mixed by)

A wonderful stew of noise and melody, picking and choosing bleeps and blasts from a grand handful of styles, Endangered Species is the first America-first release by Japan’s eX-Girl, and their last album before going dormant. The expanded roster and release decision might suggest a change to or streamlining of their sound, and while there were a handful of personnel changes and perhaps some inclusions of more palatable fare, the disc is still a lovely mess, albeit with some quite moving moments.

Endangered Species often exists in a mode of big beats and chanting: opener E-SA-YA is like a template for what Yamantaka / Sonic Titan‘s performance art/band would later get up to, with Pujeva turning declarative babble into a singalong mission statement, and follower New Pulse mostly stripping away all of the excess for just those two elements of drums and vocals. While New Pulse feels kind of at odds with the disc’s general intensity, the m.o. otherwise serves Endangered Species perfectly as a base, with the group finding plenty of range to add vocal and instrumental affectation atop. But when they step away from this formula, the album really shines, blending (lightly) elements of alt rock with industrial and pop in ways to don’t feel mish-mash, but rather some undiscovered style that instead birthed these other genres. And then some blissfully perfect moments like Venus vs. Gas Onna masquerade as the catchiest and sweetest of songs, even though the group’s inherent oddity is clearly behind the lyrics and the slight zigs and zags found in the music.

What’s most fascinating about Endangered Species is the way it exists on the _verge_ of true accessibility. It’s tuneful, and it’s chock full of memorable riffs and themes and damnable singalongable moments, but the group affects weirdness without forcing it; eX-Girl is just so stuffed with ideas and talent and yet can’t stop from remembering to pack all of that into whatever works best for any given _song_. Which, some sequencing questions aside, ends up working great for the whole album.