Review: The Nelories, or, The Greatest Band You’ve Never Heard***

Mellow Yellow Fellow Nelories
Mellow Yellow Fellow Nelories

I talk to a good number of people who are into indie* music, and am always thrilled to find others who are fans of the more obscure bands I enjoy. There is one band, however, that I find to be less well-known than any other: The Nelories**.

The Nelories were a Japanese duo of Jun Kurihara (accordion) and Kazmi Kubo (guitars), and were only active in the early-mid 1990s. They used a lot of synths and drum machines to create a sound that would probably be labeled “alternative pop” or something of the sort. Sadly, their music had extremely limited exposure outside of Japan; while I cannot speak for other cultures, the frequency with which I encounter others who know about the Nelories here in the West is virtually nil.

Which is a serious shame.

In addition to being (in my opinion) undeniably fun, the Nelories’ music is certainly among the most interesting pop/rock music I’ve heard. Biographical info on Jun and Kazmi is scarce; despite the omnipotence of the Internet these days, most snippets I’ve seen about them consist of the same couple regurgitated sentences. I do, however, have a press release that accompanied their second single, which has a factoid that I believe provides an explanation for the two factors that make their music so fascinating to me: at the time of its release, they were both 17 years old.  The two factors are as follows:

  1. The music. Apart from occasional I-IV-V chord progressions, their songs for the most part eschew normal musical (especially pop) conventions, leaping from chord to chord (and time signature) in a manner that sounds inconspicuous, but leaves you baffled when you attempt to decipher the logic behind it. Regardless, it provides for a fresh take on the sound of pop music.
  2. The lyrics. For the longest time, I believed I had serious difficulty understanding their lyrics (which are entirely in English) due to their strong accents. While indeed true, this is only half of the situation. When I finally got a hard copy of one of their CDs (with a lyric booklet), I discovered that the lyrics themselves don’t make any sense.

I am fairly certain that the oddness of both the music and English words are likely due to Jun’s lack of formal training in either. While I cannot claim that to be a known truth, her young age at the time certainly lends some credence to that possibility.

The upshot of it all is a musical experience which is undeniably unique. Drum machines and other synthesisers form a bed upon which Kazmi riffs catchy guitar solos while Jun arpeggiates chords on her accordion; on top of it all, they sing lines like “You were a son of neutral blue / It was the colour of your talking”.

Listen to Neutral Blue

I highly recommend you start with their first album, Mellow Fellow Yellow Nelories, from which this track is taken.  As strongly as I feel about supporting great artists, hard copies of their music can be quite tricky to track down here in the West, and I do not believe there are official downloads of their material, so you may have to utilise other methods of obtaining their music; it is, however, worth it.  I admit that their music may not be for everyone, but you at least owe it to yourself to give it a shot.  You may just find that their personal blend of unconventional indie-pop and surreal lyric poetry fills a bizarrely-shaped hole you never knew you had.

And because I just can’t resist, here’s a final lyric snippet:

I don’t like your vagueness
You’re just unrestrained
I don’t like your lightness
You’re always hanging around

You’re always like a bubble of beer
And I get bubbly as well

*I realise the definition of “indie” is about as fluid as most stellar plasma, but you know what I mean.
**There are a lot of contradictory sources out there regarding the presence of “The” in their name; I will use it here for clarity.
***I realise the post title is a tired cliché, but it seemed apt.


ant lives in Portland, OR, and when not busy with his work at Reed College, loves collecting and listening to records, watching quality movies, and being an administrator at This Might Be A Wiki.

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