There’s nothing wrong with trying to emulate your musical heroes. If anything, it’s very often the thing that spurs one to pick up a guitar in the first place. But when it comes down to essentially sounding note-for-note the same as your idols, and the only major difference is that you’re singing in a different language, something doesn’t quite add up.
And that’s Japanese folk rockers doa in a nutshell. One spin of their debut original album, open_d, confirms that, as soon as Crosby, Stills and Nash finally pop off into the hippie heavens, these guys will swoop down and claim their flower-laden bodies like vultures, all for themselves alone, to worship and adore.
Everything from the genre and setup of the music to the band’s actual name (a combination of the band member’s names lead vocalist Daiki Yoshimoto, lead guitarist Shinichiro Ohta, and bassist/songwriter Akihito Tokunaga) suggest that ‘influence’ doesn’t begin to describe the relationship they have with CSN.
The songs follow a similar style to their forefathers as well; a mixture of acoustic/electric hard rock, mild touches of folk rock, piano-driven ballads, and other wanderings into country, funk and even metal, all glazed with three-part harmonies.
The opening tune can also be seen as the bastard son of Find the Cost of Freedom, both being brief numbers, opening with some meandering acoustic guitar workouts until slow, ominous vocals hove into view.
But if you’ve been paying attention to this review, you’ll notice that I haven’t said these guys are bad. Fortunately, this is the one thing that saves them from being the CSN tribute act they surely were in their early days (their debut recording, a demo E.P, features seven cover songs of various artists, four of those songs being Ohio, Woodstock, Helpless, and Find the Cost…).
Another thing is clear from listening to open_d; these guys know how to rock. Shiro no Jumon, Haru Ichiban Ni, Jiyuu To Iu Mei No Brand, and Eiyuu rock with grinding riffs and swaggering backbeats, harder and heavier than anything CSN ever came up with.
The remaining numbers fly through a mixture of above-mentioned styles, and all prove just how effective the acoustic/electric/light/shade style of music can be. And these guys know how to sing as well.
Their harmonies may not be as sweet, or even high, as the ole’ granddaddies, but they still know how to give their vocals a good workout, which is perhaps more than can be said for the music itself. The music is catchy, yet simple, with the vocals right up in the mix.
And that’s something else appealing about this group over CSN; their songs are short and sweet, none of them barely touching the five minute mark, which makes for far more engaging listening than the songs CSN would often drag out to 10 minutes in length, those poor tunes!
So, overall, these guys may wish they were born in the 40’s so they could raise hell and rock out with the rest of ‘em throughout the 60’s, but they have a warm charm all their own. The album itself has a snug, live-in-the-studio atmosphere, and completely lacks in pretence (though that may not be quite try, who knows what these guys are singing about, after all!).
It’s a great rock album, and nothing more.
If anyone’s interested, I can put up/email you download links to the album and the singles released from it, as they all sport fairly decent b-sides.