Such slights are rather galling, considering that the duo has sold over 14 million records in its homeland, where Puffy AmiYumi's bigger than Britney and Madonna combined. For the past five years, the cutesy twentysomethings have been crafting the kind of music karaoke dreams are made of--super-catchy numbers that interpolate power pop, techno, samba, disco, and more.
Puffy AmiYumi's latest U.S. release, An Illustrated History, takes the listener on a madcap ride through the band's last three Japanese albums. After kicking off the CD with a throwaway grab at the English-speaking market called "Love So Pure," the girls hit their stride with a remix of their 1996 debut single, "Asia No Junshin," a synth-rock number as addictive as any ELO song. From there, you get the disco strut of "Electric Beach Fever," the Latin swish of "Puffy de Rumba," the guitar rush of "Puffy's Rule," and other chipper amalgamations.
Throughout the disc, it's obvious Puffy has a secret songwriting weapon: American Svengali and former Jellyfish drummer Andy Sturmer. Sturmer helped produce and write many of the twosome's songs and, apparently not being a huge hip hop fan, suggested the name Puffy to the girls. Lest you think that Ami and Yumi are simply pop puppets, however, it should be pointed out that the ladies both sing and play their parts well -- rare for a Japanese group with its own dolls, TV show (Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Puffy), and line of shoes. Quite simply, Puffy AmiYumi is one of the hottest acts to come out of Japan since Cibo Matto. And while Puffy AmiYumi, unlike Cibo Matto, sings very few songs in English and has no "cool" friends like Beck or Sean Lennon, the duo's shows are usually 10 times more satisfying than those of boring Japanese expat hipsters.