Most stories start young, and the album opener “Boys” smashes the youthful symbolism into our ears with the insistence of a chatty jackhammer. Soaking in the influence 1980’s anime theme songs, the track plays out in the manner of an aural bildungsroman, pent up with youthful zest and simultaneous pining for that same youth, for the days when Mario soundtracks and Nobuo Uematsu were the edges of our musical hemisphere. There is something both glorious and sad here, and for all its energy the Youth is always undercut by the disruptive static of Nostalgia, i.e. Death.
The album progresses and the coin flips. Already-heavy harps and half-murdered words slam-slump into something that’s either tranquil or corpse-like. Atmosphere paralyzes the melodic energy of the first track, leading us from “Boys” to “Girls.”
“Girls” begins with some cut/paste piano serenity that makes me wonder if World’s End Girlfriend is banking off gender stereotype, but shit let’s give Mr. Maeda the benefit of the doubt and say he’s playing with the cultural schema of gender roles. Just as “Boys” subverts the ‘adventure spirit’ of boyhood with the persistence of Nostalgia/Death, “Girls” underlines meek piano with the distraught longing of moaning bass. The power continues in its own quiet way, as if a karaoke track from Florence + the Machine beat the shit out of Imogen Heap with a cello.
The album carries on, a broken robot rebooting with the same slow sadness of the last interim track, and we see the oscillating duality of the whole between Nostalgia/Death and Defiance/Life. But now that we have passed both boyhood and girlhood we arrive firmly at adult rebellion, i.e. the rippling, distorted voices of the bonus track “Frank Zap X Amen Japon Brothers.” The composer sews his feverish haze of sound bytes into relentless locomotion (think Philip Glass in a bad mood dressed like those fucking awful clowns that scare the living shit out of me but, for some reason, entertain six year olds). The track is the raucous Mr. Bungle equivalent of “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night,” but as inevitable as death comes the next track “R.I.P.”
By the end of the album even the defiance of the artist has decomposed, and we are presented with the final paralysis of “R.I.P.” The whole song gets under our skin with moody atmosphere, a trance that has nothing to do with dubstep and everything to do with Bach. But just when we think that dick with the scythe is going to get the bottom line, World’s End Girlfriend gives us a surprising outlet. Chanting, as in the Gregorian kind, appears as spirituality in the face of death, and even the grave seems to give way to tweeting birds. Unity appears, nature erodes out from the static, and we are reminded that Death is another name for Resolution, for Completion, for Harmony.
I did not expect to end this on a positive note.
Girls/Boys Song Tracklist:
5. Frank Zapp X Amen Japon Brothers (bonus track)
6. R.I.P. (bonus track)