There was a time when Mukai Shuutoku wasn’t the force of avant-garde nature he is today.
Wrapping up a reissue campaign commemorating what would have been the band’s 10th anniversary, Omoide In My Head 4 ~(Chin) NG & Rare Tracks~ brings together the flotsam and jetsom of Number Girl’s output.
Compilation tracks, demos, live tracks — the two-disc set charts the development of Mukai’s muse in more detail than Omoide In My Head 1 ~Best & B-Sides~.
Arranged in roughly chronological order, the collection starts with Number Girl’s earliest contributions to compilation albums. Tracks such as "Girlfriend in my Blood", "Space Girl ~Kasoku Souichi~" and "Oh, Candy" reveals more of an influence from the Ramones and Iggy Pop than from the Pixies and Sonic Youth.
Back then, Number Girl were lo-fi practioners, recording on an 8-track and sounding rough and primitive. Lo-fi, unfortunately, doesn’t capture the ferocity of the band’s sound, which producer Dave Fridmann would unleash on the group’s later work.
For this collection, those early songs have been remastered to sound every bit as strong as its subsequent releases. The performances, however, can’t hide the fact the band was still feeling each other’s abilitites out. They sound restrained and green.
The most interesting material on Omoide In My Head 4 is on disc one and covers the early era. Disc two contains a number of demos and alternate versions that don’t shed much light on how those pieces were created.
A version of "Mappiruma Girl" with Tabuchi Hisako on lead vocal is a nice addition, but the PV version of "Zegen vs. Underground" doesn’t reveal anything new.
Some of the unreleased tracks sound like other, better songs. "Knit" seems to have descended from the same creative DNA as "Sakura no Dance", while "Tourima Ride On On" is pale combination of "Abstract Truth" and "Trampoline Girl"
None of these newly unveiled tracks really stand out — there isn’t a sense that any of them should have appeared on the albums. "Gira Gira Hikaru" sounds promising in how Mukai seemed to be returning to the simpler writing of his early years.
The most fascinating track is Rei Harakami’s remix of "U-Rei" — Harakami’s stop-start electronics mixes well with the dramatic shifts of the original song.
Still, it’s nice to have some of Number Girl’s best compilation tracks in one place. "Tokyo Freeze" features Mukai’s first foray into rap, while "Samurai" is a staple of the band’s live set.
Omoide In My Head 4 probably could have worked better as a single-disc collection, but for fans, watching the evolution of Mukai’s muse is at the very least interesting, at the most, illuminating.