Japan Today

by: U.K. Subs

By the time of Japan Today, the U.K. Subs were attempting to forge a new style, mixing their classic R&B-punk sound with the sleek roar of '80s hard rock. The result was a hodgepodge. Sometimes, as on "Japan Inc." and "Comin' Back," the mix works perfectly. Other times, such as on "Skateboard Billy" and "Sex Object," the band attempt to return to the snickering wit of their earlier records, but the ham-fisted music smothers the humor. On some tracks, the band even sound in danger of becoming a rather generic hard rock outfit. ("Angel" sounds like a lesser AC/DC song). Musically, the band expands their sound into realms never even considered. "Thunderbird," an ode to cheap wine, mixes Irish fiddles with their trademark pummeling guitars, and "Surf Bastard" is patterned after Jan & Dean. The tracks are charming enough, but lack the sting of earlier Subs classics. What's more, the attempts at humor seem more out of place here. On earlier Subs albums, the jokes served to balance the band's occasionally strident politics, but here the humor serves as no counterpoint, since the hard rock tracks are saddled with nondescript lyrics. Japan Today isn't really a bad album -- it's superbly played, well-written guitar rock -- but compared to earlier Subs classics, it's something of a letdown. ~ Victor W. Valdivia

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