Elevate Difference

C'est La Dernière Chanson

When the songs on Maher Shalal Hash Baz’s latest release, C'est La Dernière Chanson, last longer than thirty-seven seconds, they are very enjoyable. The eighteenth record for the band is a two disc album consisting of a total of 277 songs ranging from a confusing eleven seconds of horns and drums to three minutes and one second of musical pleasure. Founded by Tori Kudo, the group is now centered around a core group of three musicians (Tori, his wife Reiko Kudo, and Hiroo Nakazaki), but Maher Shalal Hash Baz’s lineup has changed over the band’s eighteen years with a steady stream of incoming and outgoing talent.

The English translation of the Japanese group’s name seems as mysterious as it does in the original Hebrew. Taken from Isaiah 8:1 and 8:3, the name means, “Hurrying to the spoil, he has made haste to the plunder." Musically, however, the band has concocted a multi-genre dish of musical flavor. A catchy jazz base is typically sprinkled with folk and peppered with unique rock overtones. Many of the short songs are congruent in their frequent bursts of a-tonal arrangement, yet maintain an endearing quality. The occasional vocal tracks are equally intriguing in Japanese and English, whether you understand or not.

Currently, the only song available on the group’s Myspace page, "Joab," is longer (three times longer) than many compositions on C'est La Dernière Chanson and is from a different record. At the same time, it still gives an accurate taste of what you may be biting off with this newest release. Something about Maher Shalal Hash Baz’s noise is so painfully cute that even the parts that don’t sound good feel strangely pleasant.

I strongly recommend investing nine minutes in "Joab" to see whether or not you can live without this band.

Written by: Tatiana Ryckman, September 15th 2009