Friday, August 14, 2009

The Pillows - An appreciation

I been in a musical-state-of-mind lately. After coming back from an exhilarating Sunday at Lollapalooza, I've gone through my two hard drives' worth of tracks I've randomly disproportionately torrented collected over the years, discovering gems I somehow never bothered to click on while going through things I haven't heard in a while. Somehow I hadn't listened to anything by The Pillows in two months, two months in which I've failed as a human being. I've promptly put Little Busters, Runners High, Happy Bivouac, and My Foot on loop over the last few days.

Additionally, I checked today to make sure that The Pillows haven't released anything new, because they're so damn prolific. Indeed, no albums with exclusively new material have been released, but two twentieth Anniversary albums were recently put out, titled Once upon a time in the pillows, and Rock Stock & Too Smoking the pillows that equally draw from their entire career, including their older, pre-1997 stuff that often goes unmentioned here by their Stateside fans. These two collections themselves don't amount to anything much. One thing I've always found about The Pillows is the all-around strength of their albums from song to song. These two collections are but a trivial sampling of some of their singles. Frankly, no "Greatest Hits" collection can do The Pillows justice, because you just gotta listen to all of their albums to get a full experience. However, what Once Upon and Rock Stock mark is absolutely huge. The Pillows have been together for twenty years since their inception in 1989. Twenty fucking years, a stretch that is not marred by a single temporary breakup or hiatus. And not only have they been able to enviably stay together for so long, they've been consistent the whole way through. I'm not saying that everything they turn out is always balls-to-the-walls awesome, now. In my opinion, they've never been able to match their brilliant output from 1998 to 1999. My Foot is flanked on either side by some less than imperative albums. But, they've never turned out anything truly substandard. Yes, their sound may stay stagnant at times, and the criticism that they do some "recycling" is valid, but every single one of their albums, without fail, has left me in a cheery, optimistic mood by the end of a listen. So long live The Pillows. I'm truly happy they exist, and I hope I get to see them live once before the day I die.


  1. 1998-1999? You mean 1995-1999...or even back 1991-1995 (which is arguably their most interesting period) or extend it to 2002 for some folks. I can't believe you left out Please Mr. Lostman man. It's probably their most sublime if not their most sincere effort.

    I honestly can't sit through most of their newer material past 2002... maybe in small doses. I guess you can call me a jaded fan nowadays.

    As far as their shows go they'll range from good-to-awesome energy from what I've been to in their limited but annual US touring. I'd like to see them in Japan as they generally play a more rounded set list rather then sticking with FLCL and recent album fare.

    I'd throw in a couple other Japanese bands that do some of their recent styles of music more creatively but it's mostly a case of apples and oranges anyway.

  2. I guess that's what not understanding many of their lyrics gets me. Their 98-99 stuff for me personally has some of their sickest and most energetic riffs.

    In terms of the "other Japanese bands," could you name some? Really like to check these guys out.

  3. Speaking of energy...

    A lot of what made the Pillows great in the 1995-2002 was because of how Sawao used a lot of the great eclectic experimentation in their 1991-1995 days as a base to run through in a more modern alternative rock lens.

    I don't quite know your music tastes but here's some other bands you might dig:

    You may be familiar with this:
    This is a band that is a bit influenced by the Pillows though.

    There's a bunch of good Japanese music to find out there but unfortunately they can be hard to find at times. Let me know if you want get hooked up or something.