The Japanese band CHAI sound like absolutely nobody else. CHAI exist at the intersection of two different traditions — two traditions that may or may not be fundamentally opposed to one another. CHAI draw on the Japanese concept of kawaii — the sort of ecstatic cuteness that informs vast swathes of Japanese popular culture. Kawaii is there in Hello Kitty, in Sailor Moon, in Pokémon, and in Japan’s brand of explosively melodic homegrown pop music, among other things. But CHAI also draw on DIY music from around the world, and their frantic splatter-hooks have precedents in generations of chaotic guitar-rumble.
CHAI describe their whole aesthetic as “NEO kawaii,” and on their sophomore album PUNK, we get to hear what that means. CHAI sing in Japanese, and their bright, chirpy hooks might sound right at home on a slick, big-budget J-pop record. But musically, they pull from punk and new wave and art-pop and twee, and that kaleidoscopic giddiness sets them apart from everyone, everywhere.
CHAI will release PUNK next week, and we’ve already posted their early singles “Fashionista” and “CHOOSE GO!” And right now, the wild and fascinating half-hour album is now streaming in full at NPR. Listen to it here.
PUNK is out 3/15 on Burger Records. Pre-order it here.