Kero Kero Bonito – Time ‘n’ Place
By Tifa Nguyen
Content Warning: Contains Reference to Self Harm
Kero Kero Bonito is a band you’ve probably heard of if you were in those kind of edgy online “meme” spaces back in 2016 where middle schoolers would worship alt-right Youtubers and unironically do Fortnite emotes in dance circles during poorly-funded school dances in the gym where they had to force underpaid teachers and parent volunteers to chaperone and supervise hormonal little children who reeked of Axe Body Spray. If you were a part of that crowd, then you’ve probably heard of Kero Kero Bonito, also known as KKB, due to their popular song “Flamingo”, a single released in 2014, where the lead singer goes on for 3 minutes in a mishmash of English and funnily-pronounced Japanese. If you’re from an immigrant family, think of the times when you’ve had to say something to your relatives in your native language but it’s been so many years since you were actually fluent that you end up butchering everything and then your family flames you about it nonstop.
Despite “Flamingo” being KKB’s most well-known project, Time ‘n’ Place, the group’s second studio album, is a fan-favorite and has had a special place in my heart since its release in 2018. This will definitely be a biased review, but also one that is personal and vulnerable.
Probably the best KKB album so far, Time ‘n’ Place has upbeat melodies that are accompanied by the lead singer Sarah’s mellowed vocals along with various synths that are used throughout their other projects. Overall the synths add a playfulness to each individual track, which is why KKB was later selected to produce music for the silly adventure video game Bugsnax (which by the way, is probably the most fitting and catchiest theme song a video game could possibly ever have).
One of the first tracks on the project, “Time Today” helps to establish the album’s tone and lays groundwork for the overall themes and feelings for the album as a whole. In the music video for the song, Sarah appears to be mindlessly going through daily activities in a psych ward to pass the time until she can finally get discharged and leave. Everything from the sheer apathy while nurses interact with you, staring at random objects to pass the time, running in place so you don’t rot from physical inactivity being confined to one hospital unit, and the arts and crafts are extremely accurate. The lyrics of “Time Today” also strongly accompany the song’s theme of mental health, as when you are in a rehab facility you really do have “so much time today”. It feels as though you are in a gray space of time where everything in your life is put on pause and all you can really do is just write down your goals for the day, keep yourself entertained, and take things one at a time.
The following track, “Only Acting”, is the album’s most popular song which is fascinating since it’s more out there than the other songs. This song stands out due to its use of rock-esque instrumentals along with its harsh glitch noises that are woven into the chorus and bridge. The ending of abrasive and loud harsh noises also prevents the song from really fitting well into any playlist. The band has also stated in a tweet dating back to 2021 that the track was to some extent an homage to Merzbow, who is probably most well-known for his track “Woodpecker No.1” (which you may have heard if you have had any chronically online friends who think it’s funny to add it to queue while everyone is sharing a speaker on full volume).
Skip a few tracks and you’ll get to “Visiting Hours”, a song inspired by a life-threatening incident experienced by one of the members’ fathers that made him end up in the ICU. Although this is the second hospital inspired song of the album, I promise it was just a coincidence that I decided to highlight two songs kind of about hospitals and with similar themes. The lyrics depict a somewhat one-sided conversation between a hospital visitor and them recalling to the patient everything that’s been going on in the “outside world” as the patient is recovering. This song is kind of ironic to me as I write this because I was actually in the hospital just a few weeks ago and the only people who would come in for my visiting hours were my parents and one of the other WGMU staff members (who also somehow sat through the full 6 hours of waiting in the ER with me, but we both got to talk about JJK leaks and my irrational childhood fear of Drake with the sitter that was assigned to me).
The rest of the tracks have an upbeat and silly mood that is simultaneously mellow, which can be accredited to KKB’s use of childish/playful instruments like the glockenspiel and video game synths.
As I mentioned earlier, this would be a biased review due to the fact that Time ‘n’ Place is my favorite album of all time. I used to listen to it on repeat back in middle school when I felt insecure and bullied due to the fact that I went to the most conservative PWI Catholic school in the diocese.
There was always something oddly comforting about the album, and the songs were catchy. The album worked well as both background noise if I just wanted something to hear, and it also worked well if I wanted something to really listen to and think about.
In high school, after a failed suicide attempt, I just listened to the album on repeat while on the way to the hospital. Later that year, my family gifted me a cassette copy of the album for Christmas. I don’t know why I was so oddly drawn to this album while I was younger, but I don’t regret it in the slightest.
Would I say it’s the greatest album of all time? No.
Would I say that it’s my favorite album of all time? Yes.