Forgotten Gem: Japanese Voyeurs "You're So Cool"

Released in 2011 on Japanese Voyeurs’ debut album Yolk, “You’re So Cool” is one of those songs that creeps back into your head, unexpected - and sometimes, uninvited - and remains there like a splinter. Having formed in 2007, the London based band were a post-grunge throwback who sounded like the jagged, guttural rumble that would be blasted if Daisy Chainsaw’s Eleventeen, Hole’s Pretty on the Inside, and Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff were thrown in a blender together.

With a refrain that offers a dazzling echo of Alabama Worley’s romantic salutation to her beau Clarence at the end of True Romance, “You’re So Cool” is a love song with a toxic core. By leaning on Romily Alice’s uber-feminine vocals, the song takes on an edge of girly flirtation but also frustration. It bleats heavy with the pains of schoolyard teasing, where a punched arm or pulled hair is boy-code for “I like you.”

“In the garden/ You made fun of me/ Pulled my hair and pushed me over/ Made me cry when you tore my dress up.”

By looking back at inappropriate modes of childhood courtship rituals, the song offers a challenging interrogation of the destructive, infantile habits that can follow through into adulthood. At it’s heart, “You’re So Cool” is a song about enduring vast amounts of hurt to fulfil someone else’s fantasy, but it’s also a song about consent and laying down boundaries.

The phrase “you’re so cool” is repeated with a sarcastic grimace - a vibe that’s miles away from Alabama’s dreamy, heart dotted version of the sentiment. It’s a scarred platitude; a romantic statement that used to be a full sheet and is now reduced to a tattered scrap. But it’s given a whole new meaning by the end of the song where a closing refrain offers a powerful revelation and an embrace of resistance.

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Following a rundown of a noxious menu recommendation (“Eat your dinner with Nitrobenzene/ Have your oxygen with ethylene") the song battens down the hatches with a final, fighting message: “I love you and I’ve got rights”. With that the song is instantly transformed from one that could have initially been read as glamorising toxic relationships into one that is fervently swinging fists against them.

“You’re So Cool” isn’t a song about giving up on a paramour who has failed to recognise your value or your rights, but rather it’s about fighting back, drawing boundaries, and educating a lover about what you want and expect from a relationship: Something that you can still jot down on a hotel napkin and dot with hearts like Alabama Worley.