An accusation that a band’s songs all sound the same is usually ignorant, lazy criticism. Themes, motifs and imagery recur in the work of all groups from the Beatles to Glasvegas. But standing at the back of a motionless crowd watching electronic dance band Fujiya and Miyagi, their set did seem at times to be variations of the same song, rather than variations on a theme.

This could be for accounted for in a number of ways: Singer or whisperer, David Best delivers all the songs in the same deadpan style; keyboards are dominating throughout or, obviously, that all the songs are the same. Anyone listening to the recent 'Lightbulbs' album would know this is not the case.

Part of the problem appears to be technical; Best is at his most animated when trying to persuade the sound desk to turn his guitar up, which much of the time is either inaudible or very low in the pecking order on the mixing desk. Because, while ostensibly an electronic band, Fujiya and Miyagi are most effective when the traditional instruments come to the fore or are at least given equal prominence with the keyboards. Best, when you can hear him playing, is a great guitarist.

Perhaps to make up for, or to emphasise the band’s undemonstrative style, Fujiya and Miyagi play in front of a projected backdrop of space invaders and animated arrays of dice and dominoes. In many ways they are a modern retro band, heavily influenced by artists such as Kraftwerk or NEU!, who were writing a soundtrack for the future, probably 2008 or thereabouts.

The contrast between Best’s guitar work and voice are startling. His singing is, soft, conspiratorial, even sinister and emphasized by understated hand movements that are more like the articulations of a manifesto than emotion. He then slashes away at the guitar with aggressive intent.

The highlight, which made the rest of the set pale in comparison, was 'Knickerbocker'. One of the few times that Best’s voice can be comprehended with an unsettling, nonsensical mantra: “Vanilla, Strawberry, Knickerbocker Glory/I saw the ghost of Lena Zavaroni.” Here they achieve completely what they do not quite manage in the rest of the gig; a balanced interplay between electronic and acoustic, where the smooth layer of electronic keyboards rhythms are ravaged by not only Best’s guitar thrashes, but accelerated by insistent drumming and bass playing.

Undoubtedly, Fujiya and Miyagi are a compelling project with a concept based on the subversion of popular culture. Naming themselves, it would seem, after a character from 'The Karate Kid', and fusing electronic keyboards and electric guitars and whispering lyrics as much about their onomatopoeic quality as their meaning, they are an intriguing concoction.

But, 'Knickerbocker' apart, they really lack, and need, songs that stand out from one another.

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Commenting On: Bush Hall, London, 24/9/2008 - Fuyiya and Miyagi

ie London, England

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