Hard Nips are one of those bands with a firmly established mythology. For completion sake, here is the recap: Four Japanese women—Gooch, Hitomi, Yoko, and Saki. From different parts of Japan—Okinawa (Osaka), Nagano (Hitomi), and Osaka (Yoko), and Long Island (Saki)—met while living and working in New York City and started hanging out at Yoko’s bar, where they would drink and joke in Japanese.
Presumably. They’re actually a little fuzzy on what language they would converse in once the drinks started flowing. At some point in 2009, they drunkenly talked themselves into starting a band despite none of them ever having played an instrument. They figured it out though and in 2010 released their debut LP I Shit U Not.
Hard Nips’s debut is good. A little unbalanced, but still diverting in its dedication and self-assertion. Constantly reaching for the brass ring of inspiration that forms the bases of their sound. Namely, the punk and new wave of the late ’70s and early ’80s.
Hard Nip’s third and most recent album, Master Cat, is different in a few key ways, but primarily in the fact that it is tighter and probably closer to the band’s original conception of their sound. By that I mean, they really sound a lot more like the B-52s on Master Cat than either the Ramone or a glue-hosed version of The Fixx. And frankly, It’s gratifying to hear Har Nips achieve this level of proficiency in pop song structures and comfort with their instruments.
It’s worth pausing here to note the specific whistling, jangle, and shimmer of ’60s Japanese rock has found its way into Hard Nips’s sound on Master Cat, as this is not something that was noticeable on any of their previous albums, but is foregrounded here in a way that feels very natural and beautifully integrated. The jaunty, spacey quality of B-52s is threaded through the needle’s eye of Japanese psyche on the title track, as well as on the electric slither of “Anaconda.”
Kind of like how the band’s members have made a home for themselves here in the U.S., sounds from Japan have now managed to migrate and thrive in their mix of distinctly American influences. At this point, they’re no longer playing in others styles; they’re performing in a fashion all their own.
However, if you’re really just here for the glossy, early-punk-inspired songs, don’t worry; they are fully represented on Master Cat, but with Hard Nips’s signature twist. “Blender X” has a sun-kissed, drive-time, FM vibe with a brush of Bangles-y hooks. “Workaholic” quivers with a weird, chastising charm like a Missing Persons’ track that never made it onto Spring Session M. “Alternative Dreamland” rides a disarmingly calm, noirish groove that is struck in various places by a surprisingly sharp, Sioux Sue vocal melody. And “Motto” borrows a few Cars chords to tie together its slam-surf buoyed demands.
You can buy and stream Master Cat via Bandcamp below: