If I Could See Dallas, Japancakes' formidable debut album, is very much a record of its time. Though there are hints and traces of the wonderful country-space rock that would become their trademark, the band obviously displays the rather common trademark sounds of independent rock, circa 1998. I bought this album when it first came out, and thought it was a bit too derivative of other bands I liked at the time--Tortoise, primarily, but also other bands, many of which are more obscure than Japancakes!
To be fair, though, If I Could See Dallas is Japancake's debut, and it suffers from the malady common to most debut albums: lack of focus. As a basic rule, a debut album should never be nearly eighty minutes long, especially an album that contains soft, gentle instrumental music. If two or three songs had been omitted, Dallas would have been a stronger, more cohesive album. It's hard to stay focused (and, well, awake) with so much content.
Faults aside, it's hard to criticize Dallas for its musical content. The band's trademark sound had yet to be fully realized; it's interesting to hear them take on more traditional post-rock, such as "Westworld" and "Elevator Headphone." And their country space-rock style can be heard on "A Short Mile" and the gorgeous twelve-minute "Elephants." But I have a special love of the final song, "Allah Rahka," an eight minute rock jam, full of sitars, drums, violins, and a swirling psychedelic melody.
If I Could See Dallas is an enjoyable record, though perhaps too long. Its length does not negate its quality, and the record definitely set the marker high for the band's future.
Listen To: A Short Mile"
If I Could See Dallas is available now on Darla Records
Labels: Darla Records, Japancakes, Reviews J