I remember going to Other Music in NoHo in 1996, which was only a few blocks from my office at the time on Lafayette and Prince. Which was, in turn, upstairs from the original Supreme skate shop. It was so quintessentially mid-90s, it hurts. To add, I probably read about this Yatsura album in NME or CMJ or a very early Pitchfork or some ‘zine I got stuffed in my tiny mailbox in my apartment once a month. This is to say I sought this album out based on a review of some sort that probably mentioned Pavement. Which, at the time, was an instant buy for me. Because — and I know this is sacrilege — I loved 1995’s Wowee Zowee and just wanted anything more that might sound anything like it shot right into my veins.
The thing that may have been part of this album’s undoing at the time was the confusion about the name of the band. I don’t recall if the review named them as Urusei Yatsura, or just plain Yatsura. Apparently named after a popular manga series, the band retained the name in Europe, but was forced to shorten it to Yatsura in the US and Japan. To this day I’m not really sure what to call them, but since I’m American I’ll call them by their US name. Thing is, back in the day when I’m flipping through the bins at Other Music and looking under “U” for Urusei Yatsura, I’m not gonna find them. And if I did indeed read that review in a European magazine like NME, that’s how they’d be named. But if I were reading CMJ or Pitchfork, I’d find them listed under “Y.” Seeing as I did indeed track down the album and purchase it, I must have known them as Yatsura and only later been confused by the split identity.
Now, with our Dewey Decimal System corner out of the way, I can wholeheartedly say that this album has a nostalgic drip for me that is like honey to a bear. It’s no secret that I’m an unapologetic pop-leaning indie rock guy. It’s not that I don’t love my post-hardcore and my harder stuff, but I find something incredibly pleasing about song structure and hooks. Messy guitars. Messy singing. Not over-produced, sloppy-but-endearing indie rock. And that’s exactly what Yatsura delivers on their debut, which heart-on-their-sleeve declares “We Are Yatsura!” And, look, I don’t know what Scotland was like in 1996, but if Trainspotting — which came out the same year — is any indication, things were pretty bleak. But, despite that, Yatsura put some sunniness behind their music. It’s not rainbows and puppies, but it’s also not a grey, dreary affair. There’s some bop to it.
And apparently it’s the bop that I love. Even if it’s in a Scottish brogue. Or maybe because it’s in a Scottish brogue. And, look, I know there will be one dude who randomly — and most likely accidentally — reads this review, but if I can help that dude discover his European SammyTales of Great Neck Glory (also 1996), then so be it. Because there is no better discovery than a band that kind of sounds like another band you like, but clearly has a very different thing going on. Even if that particular thing is only nostalgic to idiots like me who didn’t know the term derivative, or whatever they called Pavement wannabes back in the day. But, honestly, I don’t think that’s all that’s going on with this very entertaining indie pop record. It’s okay to be fun. And with songs like “Kewpies Like Watermelon,” how can you not be?