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Studio Power: Metafive’s “Don’t Move”

Leo Imai has found himself fronting two super groups in five years, following up his turn in Kimonos by joining up with the generation-hopping outfit Metafive. The names featured in this relatively new project — they’ve done live shows over the last couple of years, but only recently announced a debut album set for January — are among the most honest-to-goodness influential in Japanese music history: Yukihiro Takahashi (Yellow Magic Orchestra), Towa Tei, Keigo Oyamada (probably better known as the brain behind Cornelius and half of Flipper’s Guitar), Yoshinori Sunahara (Denki Groove) and Gondo Tomohiko (OK, not everyone here deserves a chapter in a J-pop history book…but good musician nonetheless!). And then Leo Imai up front.

That’s a lot going on, and with it comes a lot of inflated expectations. “Don’t Move” — released as a “studio live version” today — offers the first real look of Metafive’s forthcoming debut and it’s a mixed bag made all the more confusing by what to make of this project. The song has its moments, establishing a nice groove and a few nice twists and turns (good use of horns!), but suffers from what so many of these supergroup projects end up hurting from. The line-up looks stacked as hell, but who wants to hear Keigo Oyamada just play guitar when you can hear him star in his own projects? The names here sound great, but they are just playing the role of a regular band…with the spotlight falling on Imai. He’s made plenty of good songs, and his work with Kimonos was solid, but on “Don’t Move” he seems to be trying a little too hard to channel David Byrne (or, uh, James Brown) rather than show why Leo Imai should be upfront. This remains an intriguing idea and the album has plenty more tracks to wow, but “Don’t Move” makes the proposition seem a little shakier. Listen above.