Boris’ ‘New Album’ will seem oddly familiar to their U.S. audience

It’s been an interesting year for Boris — for the band and their fans. If you were starved for new music from the band at the start of the calendar year, no doubt you are Thanksgiving-dinner stuffed about now.

Earlier this year, they hit their U.S. fans with two new records, the rock-powered “Heavy Rocks” (an album title they recycled from an earlier effort just to keep you confused) and experimental “Attention Please,” featuring vocals handled entirely by guitarist Wata. We praised both records on this site, and months later we stand by our assessment, even if we’re more in the minority with that opinion. The albums weren’t really praised as all-time-great efforts by many critics, and that seems based largely on how different the two records sounded from the bulk of the band’s catalog. Of course, Boris never were satisfied with sticking to one sound and always were all over the map, so the hand-wringing seemed a bit strange. But hey, to each his or her own.

Now comes a third new album, weirdly enough called “New Album,” that actually would be deemed an old album to their Japanese audience. That’s because two versions of this collection (via Daymare and Tearbridge) actually came out before “Heavy Rocks” and “Attention Please,” though we’re just now sinking our teeth into this thing domestically. Once you grab the record, you’ll also revel in the irony of the album title since “New Album” largely is comprised of different versions of songs that also appear on “Heavy” and “Attention.” You got all that? It’s a little odd, sure, but that’s Boris for you.

If you do like the material and direction on “Attention Please” and “Heavy Rocks,” chances are you’ll be cool with this album. It’s in the same vein and continues to take a gigantic step away from their noise drone and doom metal past. Yet, even when they’re lush and lovely, the songs are loud and probably will decimate your hearing live. It’s strange, however, taking on this record after their two 2011 domestic releases because “New Album” ends up feeling like a best-of remix effort with a couple of new songs. That’s not a complaint, mind you, just kind of how I perceived the record. Had I heard this one first (unemployment prevented me from indulging in the imports), maybe I would feel differently. All of that aside, I like this collection and find it really interesting and nicely trippy. It’s a great example of what I appreciate about Boris, in that they always keep me guessing and usually deliver.

Six of the songs you’ll know if you have “Attention” and “Heavy,” but you won’t recognize their new (OK, not  new, but you get what I mean) attire. “Hope” gets more chirpy and J-pop friendly, with Wata’s precious voice dressing the song perfectly; “Party Boy” is more synth heavy and has a bit of a disco touch; “Spoon” isn’t all that far removed and sounds just fine in this incarnation; “Jackson Head” is radically different, with more of a techno personality rather than a straight-up rock assault, and it’s the one track I definitely do not prefer over the one I knew beforehand; “Les Paul Custom ’86” is just huge, with big synth waves and programmed beats, and it’s a really interesting new perspective; and “Tu, La La” is loud and flattening, making Boris seem as dangerous as any song on the three albums they put out this year. As for material U.S. fans won’t know from the band’s two domestic discs this year, “Flare” and “Looprider” bookend the record and are kind of tied together with a melody line. Both are really catchy, with “Flare” having a pop-punk touch and “Looprider” coming across as more muscular. “Luna” is the longest cut on here, and it’s a mix of outer space dreaming and metallic, blast beat bombast.

How you feel about this collection likely will depend on how tolerant you are of Boris’ constant re-tooling and rejiggering. None of their albums sound alike, and they’re constantly in reinvention mode, though it seems like maybe they hit on something with 2008’s “Smile” because all three of their 2011 efforts at least can be discussed in the same paragraph with that album. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve heard from the band this year, and I don’t mind being in the minority on that. I also don’t chalk it up to fandom considering I’ve outright rejected the last two Mastodon albums, and that band always reigned as one of my favorites. Boris is a fun band, a loud outfit, and a daring trio who refuse to be chained. I hope that never changes, though I do dream that next time around they’ll go down a different road instead of doing retreads of what they delivered this year. I’m not terribly worried about that.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.inoxia-rec.com/boris/

To buy “New Album,” go here: http://hellomerch.com/sh/index.php?page=shop.browse&category_id=157

For more on the label, go here: http://sargenthouse.com/