CD, self-released, 2007
“You can’t tell me what to do!” is a phrase commonly used by rebellious teenagers the world over when figures of authority ask or demand things in opposition to what the teenager has in mind. The improbably named Casey LeBleu appears to be a grown man, but still constructs his first catchy chorus on the “BADmachine” album from just those immature words. Inappropriate use of capital and lowercase letters has also become commonplace in recent years from younger artists lacking a certain level of maturity, and the awkwardly monikered japaneseCARCRASH also displays these habits. But such pedantry is rather mean and Texan musician Casey LeBleu, being neither Japanese nor sounding anything like a car crash, fortunately, has produced plenty of quite enjoyable synthpop moments.
However, bold statements in press releases – especially beloved of overconfident Americans – do not create a favourable impression, and while LeBleu may “visualize his music as a blend of Synth-Pop, Industrial and Knob-Driven Noise,” there is certainly no industrial or noise in this recording, “knob-driven” or otherwise. The strengths here are definitely in the musical compositions, in particular the driving rhythms, at times reminiscent of classic electro, and multiple layers of engaging synthetic sounds. What irritates though, in relation to the first complaint, is the unpleasantly gleeful and taunting nature of some of the melodies, like a child mocking some inferior rival. Singing is a difficult occupation and LeBleu’s voice is the major weak point of the album, partly in slipping regularly out of tune, but mainly in its thin and juvenile tone, which fails to live up to the strength of the music.
The plain black case of “BADmachine” includes a lovely, soft pink feather, which is a good gimmick to earn some extra praise. The first track, “Control: Shine,” has a good atmospheric opening bringing to mind the optimistic, forward looking attitude of Kraftwerk, before the above mentioned teenager speaks up. “Darkened Loneliness” could be the best bet for a dance floor hit on the darkwave scene, with sinister and urgent vocal samples over an insistent beat. The uncomfortably titled “Sugar Ice” is one of the more dramatic tracks with a powerful melody evoking strong emotions, while another definite highlight is the following track, “Silent Tears,” which switches between the uplifting chorus and a sense of danger in the verses. The remixes tagged on the end, courtesy of Hate Dept. and Information Society, seem to be worthwhile enough variations and certainly offer the more professional sounding production needed to get the masses moving. In conclusion, while I have been somewhat harsh in my judgement of japaneseCARCRASH, this is clearly a project with great potential to go far given the right amount of work put into the appropriate areas.
— Nathan Clemence