The November’s 7th album is called Angels
Who: Yūsuke Kobayashi (vocals, guitar), Kengo Matsumoto (guitar), Hirofumi Takamatsu (bass), Ryōsuke Yoshiki (drums)
What: Art Rock, Post Punk, Shoegaze, Dream Pop, Noise Pop
Where: Tokyo, Japan
Why: Angels is the most substantial album to come out of Japan in 2019. This is not an achievement accomplished by razor-thin margins or wavering indifference, it’s a proclamation screeched into a tin can coming from the back of your conference room. Arresting, startling, and a completely unforeseen revelation about the anarchist spirit of your co-workers. Sure I know of The Novembers, they’ve been some of the most stalwart contributors to Japan’s new shoegaze revolution, releasing a string of highly functional and pleasant shoegaze albums since 2008. Sure I know of them, but I have never particularly cared much about them. They existed in a space, in a box, between the lines.
Sometime around 2016 I discovered Suicide’s self titled 1977 album. Anyone familiar with it will know that it is one of the great musical masterpieces, and of the first albums to begin those punk to post-punk transitional years. They will also know it as one of the most lopsided albums ever created, playing three near perfect songs (“Ghost Rider”, “Rocket U.S.A.”, and “Cheree”) before pushing into the more experimental and difficult second half. Those first songs were the perfect marriage of synthetic tones into propulsive punk music, especially “Ghost Rider”. I remember thinking at the time that those songs were, in their own dated way, the most punk-rock songs ever made, completely unconcerned within even the burgeoning punk-scene’s rigid sonic boundaries. Completely singular and anachronistic.
The perfect description of The November’s new sound, or lack thereof, is their cover of “Ghost Rider”, kicking off the final third of the album, which sounds like the original song spit out into the moshpit of a Daughters’ show. Overlapping industrial and grind sensibilities played over noisy beds of synthetic textures and anarchic yelps. It’s what I imagine Alan Vega would have dreamed of had he grow up in the early 2010s. What follows is not more post-punk-ey skin-shearing in the vein of “Ghost Rider” or fellow barn-burners “Down to Heaven” or “Bad Dream”, but instead the albums lowest sinking dream-pop ballad “Close to Me”. The Novembers’ couldn’t be any less concerned with the rigid sonic boundaries I thought they lived in.
The Novembers are punk af.
This album is splitting noise pop pulled out of the dreck and mud of Los Angeles’ The Smell, sweat and spit out of The Kitchen, and transcendent shoegaze orbiting upward and outward from Tokyo’s city center. An all consuming work so far beyond the work that precede it, it necessitates questions of where The Novembers’ had been, and what had they been doing for the past ten years. Give praise to Angels when they appear, small miracles and big ones.