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Sunday, Feb. 15, 2004

LISTENING POST

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Aiha Higurashi


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If Aiha Higurashi had pulled a Kurt Cobain, nobody would have been surprised. As the singer, songwriter and guitarist of punk prodigies Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her, Higurashi was the essence of the brilliant-but-burning-up rock star. Distilling her dysfunction into a series of bluesy, hard-rocking releases that brought comparisons to Jon Spencer and Courtney Love, Higurashi's songs weren't always perfect, but in their emotional intensity, both dark and beautiful, they were compelling.

Pulling back from the brink, Higurashi dissolved Seagull Screaming in late 2001. After an extended break that included a stint writing songs for Judy and Mary vocalist Yuki, she is back with her first solo album, "Born Beautiful." Higurashi's musical interests always extended well beyond punk, and on this record, she draws from a wider musical spectrum. Listening to "Born Beautiful," Laurie Nyro's heartfelt sentiments come to mind, as does the quiet loneliness of Big Star's "Sister Lover."

Higurashi also benefits from a more able backing group, Wigwise (who also perform as the avant-noise group Downy). Though the songs may lack the punk punch of her Seagull' days, the arrangements are more fully realized and less hasty. It's tempting to call the album more adult than Higurashi's previous music, but that would imply that it lacked her trademark soul-bearing. Higurashi is still startlingly honest in a way that most songwriters, particularly in Japan, are not. She's just not constantly distraught. Higurashi still burns, only a little more slowly.

Aiha Higurashi: Feb. 18, 7:30 p.m. at Club Quattro. Tickets 3,300 yen at the door, one free drink. For more information, call SOGO at (03) 3405-9999.


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