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News (Japan Version)
Tokyo Incidents (Tokyo Jihen)
News (Japan Version)
This professional review refers to News (Japan Version)

Tokyo Incidents may have officially disbanded in 2012, but it feels like they've never really gone away. Ringleader Sheena Ringo is prolific as ever in her solo career with guitarist Ukigumo in her backing band. The band even reunited for "EGO-ism" and "JIYU-dom" on her latest solo album, Sandokushi.

Fortunately for fans, goodbyes in the music world are often not truly goodbyes. Eight years after their supposed swan song, Color Bars, Tokyo Jihen has reunited with their comeback EP, News.

Tokyo Incidents started out as an exercise that could've just been renamed "Sheena Ringo and Her Backing Band," but the band eventually became a true team effort as Sheena relegated composition duties to other band members. Like Color Bars, the band's comeback EP features five new songs, with each member offering a composition and Sheena covering lyric duties. While Color Bar felt like a farewell party in which the band let loose their musical inhibitions, News is the unexpected sequel that completes it.

Ukigumo kicks off the EP with "The Lower Classes" (track 1). The continuation of "The Citizens" from 2007's Variety, "The Lower Classes" begins with the funk-pop style of its predecessor before diving into something more playfully chaotic. Keyboardist Izawa Ichiyo, who shared a large chunk of composition duties with Ukigumo on the band's previous albums, offers the Latin-tinged acid jazz number "Leap & Peal" (Track 2). Its dense arrangement and breezy melody make this the fun return to form that fans have been expecting.

The most spirited track of the EP is "The Scarlet Alibi" (Track 5), composed by Sheena herself. The theme song for the latest Detective Conan film, "Alibi" offers a thrilling noir-soaked rock number that is reminiscent of "Assassin's Assassin" (her collaboration with Soil & "Pimp" Sessions) and "A Distress," the masterpiece from the band's debut album.

Those seeking to hear the band indulge in a more traditional rock sound will be comforted by the two middle tracks, bassist (and producer extraordinaire) Kameda Seiji's "Active Players" (Track 3) and drummer Hata Toshiki's feline-themed epic "The Cat from Outer Space" (Track 4). In addition to its fantastic sci-fi-inspired lyrics, "Cat" is also a wonderful throwback to the raw rock sound of the band's early albums.

News offers a little bit of everything that fans love about Tokyo Incidents, from imaginative genre hybrids to Sheena Ringo's obsession with song naming rules (all the song titles are seven characters long this time). Coming only months after Sheena's previous solo album, the EP works better as a satisfying completion of Color Bars and the band's most collaborative work to date. Hopefully, it's also a preview to what Tokyo Incidents 2.0 has in store for their fans.

by Kevin Ma

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