This is gonna be a glaringly biased review. You’ll struggle to find two-bit reviewers such as myself who won’t offer to cover an album by a band they love. And as far as I’m concerned, my beloved Osakan noise spirits Afrirampo can do no wrong. They belong in a stratum of magical musicians that draw a smile so broadly across my face that I don’t even recognise what a bad song by them sounds like. This is annoying because WE ARE UCHU NO KO (We Are Kids of the Universe) is a genuinely thrilling album, so just pretend that you’ve read this first bit.
For many they’d be an awkward sell. Shrieking, immature Japanese girls combine tribal and difficult sonic punk-something or otherness. Lets go with this: they’re insanely fun! In a bloody great river of melancholy and taking oneself too seriously, two noisy, unintelligible girls shouting and generally being unruly about music, all the while rocking with total abandon is a truly excellent thing.
If you’re familiar with Afrirampo then WE ARE UCHU NO KO is much of the same, albeit in a finely produced, varied and expansive package. The first disk retains that unabashed, chaotic and exciting immediacy of their early albums. Here songs are polished, timeless in their assortment of doomy-punk riffs, caterwaul shrieking and crazy tribal drums. I don’t know what the hell they’re saying, but I join in with the “AFURIRANPO!” and “POPOPOPOPOPO!” on ‘Sore Ga Afrirampo’. I know and smile at the constant reaffirmation of who they are. I love a band that does that.
It’s this stock that makes them great. ‘Tou Zai Nan Boku’, featuring their call and response lyrics atop the hugest raw guitar, gives the whole affair a pure and enticing characteristic. It’s like listening to two rambunctious and brave young anime explorers preparing for war after playtime.
WE ARE UCHU NO KO isn’t all so loud either. ‘Egolo Island’ is quite considered, and paves a way for an Afrirampo that play with melody on a whole new, yet familiarly audacious level. ‘Whyto’ is gentle, playful and displays a tender side to the duo that you’ve always known lies behind that brash.
From there the album takes a more somber, reflective tone, playing, as it does like an inevitable goodbye. ‘Yah Yah Yeah’ and ‘Sunwave Dance’ have an air of sadness, the duo calling out to each other, seemingly lost and separated on the latter. ‘Hoshi No Uta’ (parts 1-5) are expansive and experimental, in parts chaotic to glorious inhibition. Too soon you’re onto the final part. The most coherent, funny, sad and beautiful piece of music on WE ARE UCHU NO KO.
What makes this album even more perfect is that Afrirampo have indeed disbanded. And who can blame them? This is a fine swan song. Where it was all too much, too chaotic, too tribal, too screamy, too noisy, too magic, too stupid, WE ARE UCHU NO KO is all of these and more. There’s no other side. No bullshit. I’ll miss it greatly.