Heavy Rocks or Heavy Rocks - which do you prefer? Boris have outdone themselves and decided to make figuring out what the hell’s going on in their massive discography even harder – not really, but with both Heavy Rocks Mark II and Attention Please sharing alternate versions and duplicate versions of tracks with their new album New Album it seems like a spreadsheet with a Venn diagram element would be the best way to catalogue everything. Earlier in the year Boris managed to team up again with Merzbow for Klatter, which showcased the softer side of their collaborations (and managed to create the chance for a compelling reevaluation of Akuma No Uta), and for all I know have another three releases planned for summer and a remake of Walrus/Groon with Stephen O’Malley set for Thanksgiving. While their recent propensity for intense fecundity has proved a daunting but worthwhile timemuncher, the main draw for keeping up was the knowledge that these two albums would drop. For some reason the cover of Attention Please intrigued me as it focused on Wata and painted her all early 2000s Gothic Lolita mixed with some modern couture, and the promise of a new purple version of Heavy Rocks seemed interesting. Well, the time has come. How schizoid type can Boris get?

Boris has gone J-rock. And not like the pillows J-rock, but shoegaze/electronic-infused/Wata is singing lead vocals J-rock…that’s the part that is most shocking. The fact that some of these songs are completely and totally enjoyable is no new news, and as a whole AP offers an interesting look into the ever expanding list of experimentations by Boris. Within the confines of a pop/rock standard, their usual residency of sludge/stoner/heavy metal stands vacated and slightly sad as so many newly emptied houses do. This can be blamed on the severe and total shift, the cold water shock of absolute shift numbing the reaction at first then gradually warming up. Luckily Boris remain skilled songwriters/soundcrafters, and Wata’s voice, light and fluffy as meringue and as Loveless as need be, is actually pleasant and enjoyable to hear sing actual melodies for the genre…even if the Midori fan in me wishes that ‘See You Next Week’ kicked into full gear and had her screaming over it all. What makes Attention Please work is the (expected) straight faced dedication and professionalism with which the band handles this shift, much as their style on Vein bordered either true crust punk or true Hijokaidan depending on what version you got. As a shoegaze album, this is pretty good – but as a rock album, let alone a Boris rock album, it’s a bit of a letdown atmospherically, with ‘You’ catching up the works and ‘Party Boy’ adding in electro in an unsettlingly non-party manner. ‘Hope’ and ‘Spoon’ manage to stand out as SINGLE MATERIAL and two of the top tracks most worthy of excess replay. If nothing else, this amalgamation of influences and stylistic shift has added to the list of styles Boris can play and Attention Please demands time to sink in.

Boris has outmoded their titling system. I thought it was difficult to keep versions of Smile, Vein, Pink and even Alter in order, making the otherwise easy busywork of tracklisting a nightmare with annotations for international differences, pressing differences, and label differences that all have bearing on the music. Great, now there are two versions of Heavy Rocks, one OG Orange and one Grape Drink Purple…and the latter shares a track with Attention Please but it’s a new song completely…something tells me I need to start making charts more detailed than the above proposed spreadsheets now. Despite the bizarre feeling of my mind reeling gently as I come to terms with one of my beloved Japanese bands’ tangled webs of releases, the second serving of Rocks keeps up the tradition of albums with that title living up to the heavy aspect. Of course, while Heavy Rocks was a landmark album for Boris and helped define their sound and ability, Heavy Rocks relies on equal parts guitar assault and hummable chorus for an album that explores the musical approach of Attention Please as much as Feedbacker. ‘Window Shopping’ utilizes Wata’s voice (here singing Stereolab “doot-do-do-doo”s) while adding in a fleeting sludge jam and emphasizing the revved up Bacchanalia of thrashing a guitar – and holy shit, it actually works in the most pleasantly confounding manner. Even with throwaway chorus pusher ‘Jackson Head’ (a bizarre dance/hair/visual kei/Boris amalgam) and the guilty pleasure of ‘Tu, la, la’s Megaman X-ish lead riff (seriously, Flame Mammoth or Boomer Kuanger anyone?) serving as distinct and total changes from centerpieces ‘Missing Pieces’ and ‘Aileron’ (version II, the 13 minute one), the emphasis on thicker guitars and a greater favoring for, well, metal choices does manage to act as antidote for the sometimes overly saccharine melodic tendencies of Attention Please - and the combination of both albums compliment one another as an end outcome. That out of the way, ‘Missing Pieces’ may be the most promising track here, relying on moody strums, accordion (or bandeolon) swashes, and tastefully dynamic drumming as much as the ability to stretch out over 12’22”. Luring in with the lighter and darker mood before finally releasing into a pent up explosion of quiet rage and thick, beautiful noise, the song serves as a reminder of what this trio can do when given the right emotional air. Powerful, delicate, heavy, and armed with stainless steel claws, ‘Missing Pieces’ alone makes Heavy Rocks worth the cost of admission. ‘Aileron’ keeps pace and length, more slowcore than hardcore but never dull, the exact farewell that foils and contrasts against ‘Czechoslovakia’ and its speedy assault that closes out the album on a promising note.<.p>

As far as Boris releases go, this duo isn’t the worst. Attention Please comes off as a grower, or the sort of thing to close out a day filled with J-rock, Deerhoof, and Christine 23 Onna, an experiment that sees success in its difference but suffers slightly as a result of this chance operation. Frustrating? Sure, but if you’re a Boris lover, this is kind of what you expect – you have no expectations. Of the two, Heavy Rocks is a clear victor thanks to a better hit ratio (9/10) but does ultimately come off as less Heavy than Gazey, a gauzed and hazily fogged take on the heavy sound that accomplishes both styles (metal and shoegaze, sometimes combined since the two are not mutually exclusive) with success but mixed return. Should this spirit of inventiveness and torrential output continue, Boris may claim 2011 as the year they reinvent the wheel and replace it with hoverboards, if you acquire the drift. Until winter comes, the souped up hybrid stage they are currently at will suffice.

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