On my way to Scala at King’s Cross this Wednesday evening, I had already begun to piece together an intro for the gig review I was embarking on writing. Having listened to Kero Kero Bonito’s most recent album, the unashamedly infectious Bonito Generation (a follow-up to 2014’s Intro Bonito), on pretty much non-stop repeat for the last month, I figured I had a relatively clear idea of what to expect. I had planned to discuss the J-pop insurgence that has swept the globe. I had intended to talk about the twee delights of a band that describe themselves as “body-positive cartoon flute R&B”. Indeed, I had even contemplated a slight rant about the bizarre millenial obsession with kawaii culture. What I had not expected, however, was to be waxing lyrical about impeccable showmanship, a perfectly-picked support act, and the re-definition of cultural identity.
More fool me.
Warming the crowd is funky five-piece Oscar, led by the Keith Haring clad Oscar Scheller, whose dulcet tones are the love-child of Morrissey and Jarvis Cocker, set to a soundtrack that could easily be mistaken for the early works of Blur. A beautiful juxtaposition of miserable intoning and upbeat rhythms, Oscar harks back to the golden age of Brit-pop, and may just be the man to bring it back into the limelight.
And then the stage is cleared, the drums and guitars making way for a table laden with synthesisers and a collection of stuffed animals enough to create a Steiff Noah’s ark. The anticipation of the eclectic crowd is palpable, and, as two figures from the age of acid house, followed by a multicoloured miniature marshmallow, filter onto the stage, a roar of excitement resonates through the room.
KKB have clearly established themselves a cult following, and this, their first gig back in the UK, fresh of the plane from touring America, is home ground. With their instantly lovable electro beats, overlaid with the joyous ramblings of a bilingual Kate Nash, it is hard not to get swept up in the fun.
The powder-puff powerhouse of pep that is singer Sarah Perry is entrancing throughout. Like a humanised vocaloid, she flawlessly performs their cavalcade of catchy crowd-pleasers with all the energy of the most over-trained of J-pop troupes. Indeed, to Perry, performance appears to run deep within her soul, as she cheekily plays the audience during songs such as ‘My Party’ and ‘Flamingo’ with the seasoned confidence that even those thirty years into the business sometimes struggle to find.
Behind her are producers Gus and Jamie, who, along with their comedic Trev and Simon like personas, provide an astoundingly energetic backdrop, both musically and physically.
An evening with Kero Kero Bonito is a fascinating experience. This is a group melding cultures like no other; the grime of London meets the almost insipid adorableness of Akihabara in a bizarre cocktail that really shouldn’t work. But it truly does, and through the group’s passion, not just for music, but also for life, it is impossible not to fall instantly in love with what might just be the most utterly unique band of our time.
Long live the Bonito Generation!
KKB’s latest album, Bonito Generation, is out now via Double Denim Records