FUJIYA & MIYAGI

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Lightbulbs

(Deaf Dumb & Blind)

recommendedrecommended 1/2

Brighton band Fujiya & Miyagi (no, not their names) are at their best when they're Kraut-rocking down the autobahn at precisely controlled speeds, instruments and vocals all interlocking like so many gears in a finely tuned engine. They're nearly as good when they're loosening up—just a bit, mind—to lay down cool, mechanical funk. The former mode is exemplified by 2006 album Transparent Things' introductory anthem "Ankle Injuries," with its locked-in chant of the band's name—the latter by the same album's breakthrough jam "Collarbone." Nothing on Lightbulbs eclipses these exemplars, but the album comes close enough often enough to make for a pleasant ride.

Most satisfying is Lightbulbs' opening track and first single, "Knickerbocker," in which singer/guitarist David Best piles on, in a near whisper, the odd lyrical references—knickerbocker glories (what Yanks call parfaits), Lena Zavaroni (a Scottish child star of the late '70s/early '80s who died of anorexia nervosa), Hans Christian Andersen, Diedrich Knickerbocker (pen name of "Rip Van Winkle" author Washington Irving)—like just so many layers of fruit and whipped cream. This kind of lyrical trivia is typical of Fujiya & Miyagi, but when the bass, drum, guitar, and synth grooves are just right, as on "Knickerbocker," it's easy to embrace all the rhythmically pleasant nonsense. Alternately, closing track "Hundreds & Thousands" works the motorik groove sans lyrics plus AFX-lite synths to fine effect.

Elsewhere on Lightbulbs, the band mostly dip into funk mode. On the rubbery bass strut of "Uh," Best trots out a ludicrous, scatty "sock it to me" with only slightly more than Nixonian levels of soul. But this is what's occasionally great about Fujiya & Miyagi: They make such ridiculous, nerdy moves—see also the silly scatting and lyrics of "Pussyfooting" and the Berlin-interpolation of "Dishwasher"—seem somehow very cool.