While Nisennenmondai hit the noteworthy decade watermark this year, I only became aware of them last year while trying to plot my 2008 SXSW. The one track I heard was enough to send me into the kind of hype overdrive that only a music blogger or a Christmas list making five year old can know. I didn't know what type of show these three Japanese women were going to put on (their first U.S. release, 2008's Neji/Tori, was composed of their first two EPs: Sorede Souzousuru Neji and Tori) but I knew it was going to be amazing and probably life changing. Alas, my fest was equal parts over ambitious and disaster prone and I missed them. My emotions cooled in the intervening year and I did my best to move on. Even so, my heart still skipped a beat when I saw that Destination Tokyo was out and I jumped at the chance to snag a copy.
I tell you all this not just because I like talking about myself, but to show just what type of insurmountable expectations this record was facing from the second I received it. Listening to Destination Tokyo was kind of the aural equivalent of dating a high school crush ten years after the fact. It probably would be categorized as a fine experience but it wasn't going to take me back in time and make me a quarterback. So it was that my initial reaction was unfairly negative. I was expecting immediate satisfaction and was instead given the most sophisticated Nisennenmondai material I had experienced. Where the material on Neji/Tori represented a dirtier and more primal reveling in noise, Destination Tokyo is polished and represents a shift towards clear and precise orchestration. At first I considered the underlying song structures frustratingly repetitive. It was obvious that the songs were full of interesting ideas but it seemed equally obvious that they didn't seem to be going far enough. I was being desensitized to what should have been alarmingly frenetic lines. There were countless moments where the build up seemed to be positively pleading for a climax and instead Nisennenmondai would continue past the expected breakdown point and alter an element ever so slightly in order to release some of the tension, denying me the gigantic rift I felt entitled to.