PUFFY AMIYUMI – “Boogie Woogie No. 5”

Two young Japanese girls, stumbling around a stark white film set in torn jeans and sneakers (among many other outfits), with boys dancing around them in khakis, and a pale imitation of a Gene Krupa drumbeat bounding about in the background. No, this isn’t the newest Gap commercial – it’s the video for the newest single from Japanese pop duo Puffy AmiYumi. “Puffy AmiYumi,” says their website bio, “are more than just a chart-topping pop group. Much, much more. They are, quite simply, a cultural phenomenon.” In Japan.

I’m still not sure why MuchMusic has taken to showing this video every so often, but I’m grateful. (If anything, it’s one more reason why the Canadian MTV has it all over the American version.) The song itself isn’t much to crow about – imagine Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5” (surely, you remember Lou!) cheesed up with Casio trumpets and other teen-pop production trinkets, and then essayed by two pixieish Japanese girls, barking the lyrics like pep squad castoffs trying to audition for the team while locked in the janitor’s closet. It’s an out-of-touch focus group’s version of Pizzicato 5 – all the superficial aspects (the beats, the attitude, the ethnicity), but not one whit of style or panache. It’s a mess, yes, but it’s a glorious mess. Watching the video unfold (or unravel) makes for some choice entertainment, the likes of which can only be found in endeavors that strive for something just not quite in reach.

The really funny thing, however, is that someone, somewhere, thinks that THIS is the single that will break the group. In North America. According to the official Puffy AmiYumi website, their album (Spike) was released on this side of the ocean in the past month. (At least, in Canada – no word on a US release date, unfortunately.) More spelunking reveals surprise after surprise. Stations in St. Louis and San Jose are charting this thing at #1? CMJ is charting this thing, too? There’s a review of this album at PITCHFORK? Oh, boy. I can only imagine what praise critic Spencer Owen spread on his side of the toast:

“…upon listening to their fifth LP and first U.S.-released effort, Spike, it isn’t too hard to imagine why they’re so popular. There’s not a single second of art to be found.”

Well, hey, now – if you’re in the mood to admire art, why the hell are you shopping at Target?

PS – I do recommend sneaking over to the Puffy AmiYumi site and checking out the sound samples of the album (assuming you are Shockwave-compliant, that is). If you can only click on one track, I recommend mousing over “Love So Pure”, a track (in English, for you folks in the audience suffering from mild xenophobia) that screams P!O!P! in the way that the best Posies & Big Star songs do. I would not be surprised to learn that this is one of the tracks former Jellyfish Andy Sturmer – their “godfather” – helped birth. That’s right – TRACKS. Tracks with big guitars, big drums, and big melodies ripped from the fakebook of your favorite pop group (whether they be dodgy or upstanding). The snippets from the website sound glorious. Get clicking.