Van Tomiko: Van.

Do As Infinity, like many bands, is greater than the sum of its parts. When the duo announced it would break up in 2005, it seemed Do As Infinity had run its course. At the same, it was difficult to picture Van Tomiko and Owatari Ryo in another context.

Owatari’s band, MISSILE INNOVATION, didn’t have much innovation, and Van? Her solo career looks like a lot of bad planning.

First, she springs a solo album, Farewell, in 2006 with no singles to precede it — an odd course of action for a pop star in Japan. Then she releases a series of promising singles that … don’t lead to an album. Rather, she spends two years releasing covers before those singles are collected onto an album.

And the resulting work sounds like … Do As Infinity.

Sometimes you can’t help but be who you are.

If it were considered a Do As Infinity album, Van. would probably be its best in a long time. (It’s actually a lot better than the resulting reunion album, ETERNAL FLAME.)

Farewell was too genteel for the strength of Van’s voice. She could hold her own against Owatari’s muscular guitar work, and her solo debut was too watered down to pose such a challenge.

Van. the album put Van the singer in a familiar, albeit proper, context — pop with a harder edge.

"Flower" opens the album with a guitar riff that could have sprung from Owatari’s fingers. "Utopia" owes a lot to early Do As Infinity single "Boukenshatachi", while the mix of heavy synthesizers, fake sitar and loud guitars on "carry out" would have fit well on New World or DEEP FOREST. Oddly enough, the album’s title track is an instrumental.

A majority of the album is culled from the singles preceding it. The "Flower" single is here in its entirety. Van fans will probably feel a bit cheated to hear so much familiar material.

Despite the seemingly throwaway nature of the album, Van. has a lot more cohesion and far better performances than the bulk of the singer’s interim solo career. This album was the one with which she should have started.

But if it weren’t for the circuitous nature of Van’s output, Do As Infinity probably would not have gotten back together. I, however, am still waiting for that reunion to pay off.