The ultra-stylish Japanese dance-pop duo Pizzicato Five has released countless records in its homeland, but only three U.S. full-lengths—the first two of which (Made In USA and The Sound Of Music) were excellent compilations of previously issued Japanese hits. (Domestically issued EPs have been somewhat more plentiful.) The new Happy End Of The World is the duo's first to be released concurrently in both countries, which is testimony to P5's commercial potential and growing fan base. That makes a lot of sense, since, like its predecessors, the new record is bursting with bandleader Yasuharu Konishi's impossibly catchy dance beats, restlessly innovative sound-manipulation tricks, and impeccably chosen samples, coupled with the stylish, mostly Japanese-language vocals of lead diva Maki Nomiya. Combining electronica, dance, lounge and the coolest pop around, Happy End Of The World effortlessly continues in Pizzicato Five's unblemished tradition of balancing accessibility with high fashion, and playfulness with kitsch. It's an excellent addition to the duo's expansive canon, and a must for any pop fan who thinks mainstream dance music can and must be better than the "Barbie Girl" drivel that populates Top 40 radio playlists.

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