10:51pm

Sun May 15, 2011
First Listen

First Listen: Boris, 'Attention Please'

You can't really accuse Boris of slowing down. The Japanese heavy music trio hasn't released a proper "rock" album since 2008's Smile, but in the interim put out a split 10" with the pop-metal band Torche, a collaborative EP with The Cult's Ian Astbury and an excellent series of seven-inch singles called Japanese Heavy Rock Hits. But still, rabid Boris fans (and they are the collector types, mind you) have been waiting for something more substantial. Attention Please is just one of four — four! — Boris albums coming out this spring. Its release coincides with that of Heavy Rocks (not to be confused with the 2002 album of the same name) and two Japanese-only titles: another collaboration with noise master Merzbow called Klatter, as well as New Album, which frustratingly mixes tracks from Attention Please and the new Heavy Rocks with other material. Completists, the ball's in your court.

Attention Please, out May 24, is not only the best of this new Boris batch, but also a far-ranging leap forward for a band that felt stuck on Smile. Anchored by lead guitarist Wata, Attention Please is the first Boris album to exclusively feature her intimate vocals. After her scant but enjoyable vocal contributions on 2006's Rainbow, the focus is welcome.

The great thing about Boris has always been its noncommittal attitude toward style. On one album, the band will serve up mammoth-sized drone; on another, soft electro-pop with sky-pealing guitar solos. On Attention Please, style runs the gamut from one song to the next, but the album never loses momentum. Songs like "Hope," "Les Paul Custom '86" and "Spoon" belong to a lost 4AD record, conjuring images of surfing the Aurora Borealis in a Camaro, denim-jacket collars flipped way up. It's shoegaze for moody skate punks. Featuring Wata's most alluring croon, "Party Boy" is a minimal four-on-the-floor dance romper for glam-metal geeks with teased hair. And "Tokyo Wonder Land" is a song that could have only come from Boris; it's got a head-bobbing lullaby groove on a Casio beat throttled by Wata's ceiling-ripping guitar solos. Despite Boris' wide sonic interests, everything comes together coherently on Attention Please, the band's best record since Pink. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.