When I first listened to Supercar’s 2002 follow-up to Futurama, because it retained so many of the elements one would expect from an album of theirs, my immediate reactions were rather dismissive, as I’d go through each track thinking “God, this is such a Supercar song”. But the more I listened, the more I realised “Wait, I LOVE Supercar – that’s surely a good thing”. And it is a good thing indeed, as the charging guitar-rock Supercar of old is virtually non-existent here, with the experimentation of Futurama expanded upon, refined and, ultimately, bettered.
Beginning with the stirring strings-led Starline, the sound crafted on their sixth (and penultimate) album is a wonderfully dreamy mix of ambient rock and electronica, ten tracks in all that sit together beautifully. While there are characteristics of their earlier sound (most noticeable in the pop-rock stylings of Otogi Nation), this feels like Supercar at their most free, which translates into the airy quality of much of the album. Futhermore, the zippy electronic triumvirate of Strobolights (which contains no guitar whatsoever, unusual for a typically guitar-based band), I (with high-pitched vocals a-plenty) and Yumegiwa Last Boy (featured prominently in quirky Japanese comedy-drama Ping Pong) sees the band almost enter dance music territory.
Even with these upbeat tracks, there is still room for their more moody side to be released, particularly the soaring Aoharu Youth, and Nijiro Darkness, which manages to be both haunting and hopeful, poignant and pretty. At just ten tracks, the quality remains near consistently high, though there are minor dips in the shape of Silent Yaritori, a perfectly decent track that feels like a lacklustre coda after the brilliance of Nijiro Darkness, and, Warning Bell, which, when taken out of the context of the rest of the album, sounds a little ordinary.
But as a whole, Highvision represents Supercar at their peak of creativity and genius (well, I’ve yet to listen to their final album, Answer, due to stupid Sony copyright protection), making their break-up even more upsetting. Two years later, and interest is still high, with the recent release of a 10th anniversary music video DVD and a re-release of their first album Three Out Change. None of this will convert naysayers, but if you’ve yet to sample their unique sound, Highvision is a wonderful place to begin. And then return to again and again.
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