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Album review: Arizona's Tokyo Electron reaches the end of the highway

December 17, 2009 |  2:04 pm

Tokyo Electron Four years after its self-titled debut album on Jay Reatard’s Shattered Records, Phoenix's Tokyo Electron has finally returned with its much-anticipated sophomore, full-length  “AZ-238.” A co-release from FDH Records and Certified PR Records, the album is the fuzzed-out brainchild of Ryan Rousseau, on lead vocals and guitar with help from guitarist Steve Sleaze, bassist Daniel Ricardo and drummer Kyle Cunningham.

More textured, introspective and sinuous than the first record, “AZ-238” finds the fearless Arizonans laying down 10 tracks of blistering garage rock ‘n’ roll that move nimbly from lithe psychedelic behemoths like “Don’t Need You,” with its reflective and delicate opening, to full-frontal garage rock attacks like “You Can’t Save Me” and “You Don’t Remember” (which has a distinct Billy Childish influence). “I’ll Be Back,” with its rolling, almost country and western rhythms and haunting lead guitar riff, is also a standout. Rousseau's wounded vocals and the band's brash instrumentation conspire to create an atmosphere of musical malaise and disenchantment that carry the album forward and aloft like desert thunderclouds threatening to douse the dry ground below.

The band’s live shows have grown sparse with Rousseau devoting more time to his other act, Earthmen and Strangers, and drummer Cunningham leaving Phoenix, making it quite likely that this will be Tokyo Electron’s final release. It’s only fitting, then, that the album is named for a desolate dead-end 20-mile country highway in Arizona’s Maricopa County that terminates at the junction with State Route 347.

-- Jason Gelt

Tokyo Electron
"AZ-238"
FDH Records/Certified PR Records
3 stars (out of four)

Photo credit: FDH Records

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