In 2006, Americans were beginning to see technology become a necessity in a way we had yet to previously. YouTube was barely a thing (but growing quickly), Twitter was born (and seemed like a fad at best), and iPods not only still existed, but consumers had difficulty choosing what frosted color to order them in (who are you really if you purchased the yellow one?). Inventions come and go; 2006 wasn’t special in that regard. But a trend began to form: digital technology expanded the importance of personal branding, using 2D platforms and 3D items to speak on behalf of you in ways clothing and mixtapes couldn’t.
That same year, Boris rolled out Pink, an album that redefined their sound by embracing a similar mentality. You are not your stereotype. If anything, you’re as complicated as you pretend not to be. Boris certainly weren’t trying to mock an internet explosion. Pink is an hour-long record where a band who felt an urge to show their various personalities without separating those styles into multiple LPs.
Thank god, as 2006 needed insight on how to control, package, and deliver deconstructed stereotypes without idolizing someone simply for taking on the challenge. There was sludge metal, there was shoegaze, and there was hard rock. That landmark LP earned its accolades by combining genres both suddenly and seamlessly. To honor its 10th anniversary, the Japanese experimental metal act share an extended EP of cuts from those same recording sessions, and the nine tracks expand that original surge of personality and charisma. Pink shook with the force of a metal act bold enough to combine other elements in headstrong fashion, and a decade later, it holds up with contagious energy and genuinely mesmerizing atmosphere.
Pink’s strength comes with a poised grip on shoegaze. From the dreamy wails of opener “Farewell” to the pooling reverb of “My Machine”, Boris channel the nature-heavy sounds of post-rock acts like Mogwai or This Will Destroy You. Here was a metal band evoking a type of intimacy and pause absent in prior records. Various forms of metal offer similar refuge, usually found by the listener choosing to let nonstop noise wash over them until it becomes a meditative lull, but Boris took the active role here. B-side “Your Name Part 2” sees a lonely guitar walking drunkenly along a river at night. Introspection replaces irritation. Melancholy rises without the usual backbone of gloom. Guitarist Wata, bassist Takeshi, and drummer Atsuo work through it like they’ve been making these songs for ages. Then again, this is a band that, even back then, was all over the board, be it collaborating with Merzbow, taking their name from a Melvins song, or performing with Keiji Haino. Their interests never end, and neither does their desire to learn from those interests.
Yet Pink still runs on noise metal. From the hard rock riffs of “Pseudo Bread” and the title-track to the maxed-out distortion of “Nothing Special”, Boris crank the volume up over and over, honing in on their signature style ten years into a career that was, until a few years prior, considered underground. Wata soars through her sections, in part made all the better by amps twice her size. Takeshi rages, offering up stoner metal, garage bass lines, and thrashing noise that slobbers in a strangely enticing way. Each member leans into their instruments heavily. By the time the near-20-minute closer “Just Abandoned Myself” comes around, they shoot off electric, pummeling notes. Pink is full of heat and noise, but Boris give it that alluring tint by keeping each segment melodic when their parts line up.
The nine unreleased tracks on the reissue reveal even more depth, a voyage into the limbs of Pink that likely was cut to avoid straying from their metal core. The repetition of “Tiptoe” and “Room Noise” find bliss within British shoegaze, the latter complete with a beautiful, passionate guitar solo. The stoner metal of “non/sha/lant” expands into traditional growls on “Talisman”, once again showing the trio’s talent at stretching their sound into something massive, no matter the genre. On bonus tracks “SOFUN” and “Are You Ready?”, Boris reveal how many gems were left on the cutting floor. Both see Wata zipping around in a frenzy, her guitar lines squealing like a child, occasionally looping in an addictive trill that brings enough melody to open up a mosh pit. Though it would’ve been an ego stroke at the time, Boris should have released Pink with all 20 songs at its initial release. The reissue expands into joyful, endearing themes, and if someone were to pick up a copy of Pink today, they may find that aids in swallowing the record’s gargantuan sound.
Of course, an album the length of a feature film isn’t welcoming, but its commitment to varied sound brings something to the table that metal often fails to do. Pink is a welcoming hand, a bridge to the metal world that few albums extend with sincerity to non-metalheads. Like Deafheaven’s Sunbather, Pink offers elements of shoegaze and melodic rock that lure in newcomers. When you open yourself up, you invite people to get to know you who otherwise may not have, and to be more comfortable with trends they usually find too foreign to engage with. Maybe it’s a pink album art thing that signals this isn’t the scraggly-font metal heard blaring from your cousin’s bedroom. To break the barriers of stereotypes, hammers must swing at the concrete not by potential fans, but by those embodying the stereotypes themselves. Pink was Boris’ opportunity to do that. Today, the trio continue to alter their sound, but hearing one of their first albums take these leaps reminds listeners that the human spirit, even when deafening, can’t be summed up in one sound, one word, one genre. Though if forced to choose, the word “pink” works rather well, if only because having a bright pink album appear on the screen of your iPod mini just felt right.
Essential Tracks: “Farewell”, “Are You Ready?”, and “SOFUN”