K-Pop Double Take is a weekly review column highlighting recent releases that have yet to receive the attention we feel they deserve.
When South Korean pop rock band F.T. Island returned on Aug. 16 with their 22nd single release "Puppy," they unleashed a sound that is an exciting stylistic departure for the group.
Although they are perhaps better known for their guitar-led power ballads and anthemic hooks, on "Puppy," F.T. Island choose to mix things up with a sound that owes a lot more to '90s alterna-funk and even a bit of Beastie Boys-style rock-infused rap.
"Puppy" is a funky and hard-charging rocker, led by aggressive chicken scratch guitar and a powerful horn section.
Although the big and brassy track could potentially fit in with the glut of new American pop smashes that take cues from 1970s funk music, like the Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars smash hit "Uptown Funk" or Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's "Downtown," there is something decidedly more hard-edged about "Puppy," pushing it into highly original terrain.
The aggressive bassline driving "Puppy" recalls the inimitable technique of Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who filtered classic funk bass styles through a punk rock lens. If you wanted to go even further back in time, you could argue that Andy Gill of the seminal British post-punk band Gang Of Four pioneered this technique.
Whether directly or indirectly, F.T. Island's chanted chorus on "Puppy" and canine-friendly lyrics point to the seminal funk standard, "Atomic Dog" by George Clinton, but as interpreted by a bunch of hopped up punks. Because of this, The Red Hot Chili Peppers once again come to mind, as do other 90s alternative groove rock legends like Primus and Faith No More.
A highly melodic chorus puts the listener back into more of a familiar zone in line with the group's other smash singles. Although the track is funky, there are still pop rock elements that anchor the track, keeping fans of the group within a musical comfort zone. The best of both worlds!
"Puppy" shows a veteran group stretching out and displaying an undeniable range and command of material. I, for one, would love to hear a full record of this kind of thing.
This is one "Puppy" that has some serious bite!
Watch the video for F.T. Island's newest single "Puppy" RIGHT HERE.
John Chiaverina is a musician and journalist living in New York City. He has performed in over 18 countries, including two tours of South Korea, under the name "Juiceboxxx."