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Pop Music Review

Cool Puffy AmiYumi Leaves the Kitsch Offstage

July 08, 2002|Marc Weingarten

Japan is the world capital of cute culture, a place where the Hello Kitty cat is emblazoned on commercial jets and designer jeans. Puffy AmiYumi isn't quite as ubiquitous, but it comes close.

The adorable female singing duo is a vertically integrated industry unto itself in its native country, with variety shows, toys and countless print and TV ads driving the sales of its records.

With its first domestic release, "An Illustrated History," and a U.S. tour, Puffy AmiYumi is feeding the ravenous appetites of American cutie-pie pop fans.

At Spaceland on Friday, however, Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura proved to be something more than a melt-in-your-mouth confection.

Unlike Japanese pop bands like Pizzicato Five and Cibo Matto, Puffy AmiYumi doesn't play the kitsch card.

Its music is steeped in the buoyant tunefulness and steely synthesizers of late '70s New Wave, but the band's approach is refreshingly guileless.

Backed by a strong quintet, Onuki and Yoshimura doubled up on the same vocal lines, so that they sounded like a single multi-tracked voice gliding smoothly over the plucky, guitar-stoked melodies.

The band's lyrics were willfully dumbed-down cheers for young lust, the beach, girls gone wild and other such trivial teen pursuits.

It was like watching the coolest kids in high school commandeer a pep rally.

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