I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first got a hold of this album. I knew Mike Park’s work at Asian Man Records well, first discovering them some seven years ago when getting into the early part of AJJ’s discography. I am peripherally familiar with the Bruce Lee Band that Park himself is best known for and I’ll admit I hadn’t heard Maura Weaver, the other half of Ogikubo Station, at all. The debut EP of the group hadn’t gotten onto my radar at all, so I was going into the venture mostly blind.
The easiest way to describe Ogikubo Station to my ears is “ska without the horns.” To some that may sound like a paradox, but if you listen to their first full album We Can Pretend Like you’ll hear what I mean. The rhythm and tone on the guitars and flailing drums leave space where you can fill in the horns in your mind should you choose to. Particularly on “Drowning In The Watering Hole,” you can hear the upbeat punk that ska is essentially based in that was so popular in the 90s.
The ska-ish numbers like that and “Sounds of Yesteryear” are punctuated with acoustic songs like “Strong As You” and “The Radio Plays,” the most notable of which being “Prettiest One,” which is unique on the album in that it utilizes the slide guitar (pedal steel maybe?) to great effect. I think these are the strongest parts of the album, especially when contrasted with the more active songs like “Rest Before We Go To War.” “Let The World Know” is a very good use of this style to end the album. The piano punctuates the guitar well and the refrain about positivity leaves a good taste in the ears. Some of these numbers I think could benefit from an additional six strings on the guitars but perhaps there was a uniformity that Ogikubo Station was going for that that instrument would have diminished.
The album can feel like a throwback. Nostalgia for those who love 90s pop or punk (not necessarily pop punk). The emotional landscape of the album is very positive, utilizing major scales almost exclusively in a way that feels novel to someone used to hearing the blue note across everything they listen to. The chorus in “Rest Before We Go To War” shouting “Hey!” definitely hammers home that positive energy.
The big flaw with We Can Pretend Like is that the songs can be shorter than they lend themselves to. “Strong As You” in particular feels like it’s trying to tell a 3 minute story in a 1:34 song. But perhaps it is better to leave the audience wanting more than make them turn off the album by outstaying your welcome. Lord knows We Can Pretend Like left me wanting more Ogikubo Station.
We Can Pretend Like by Ogikubo Station is out August 24th via Asian Man Records.
Greg von Teig is a musician and author living in Brighton, Massachusetts. His expertise is classic rock, folk punk, and the blues.