‘Tween pop band gives it another go with an album of rehashes

Undeniable pop successes in its native Japan, Puffy was forced to be clumsily referred to as Puffy AmiYumi in the United States after legal threats from a querulous Sean Combs. Now, after no fewer than 10 years of attempting to break into the American mainstream pop idol arena, this insidiously manic entity unleashes its last, best hope with an album simply called “Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi.”

Ostensibly a soundtrack to the new cartoon show of the same name, the CD is actually a hodgepodge of old tracks, along with some of what the duo does best: theme songs to Saturday morning cartoon shows. The cartoon “Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi” itself is a perfect microcosm of Puffy AmiYumi, the musical act. It features hideously animated PowerPuffy versions of Ami and Yumi, the girls who form the public face of Puffy AmiYumi, capering about and having rock star themed adventures. Every aspect is thoroughly focus-grouped. From the color palette to the character designs, everything is mall-ready. Make no mistake, this is pop.

The only interesting thing about “Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi” is that it takes material that had been, up until this point, almost exclusively the domain of music nerds and anime geeks in this country and explicitly markets it to 11-year-old girls. Music store clerks who could once think of themselves as cool or worldly for having heard the group’s previous stateside releases now seem somewhat stunted in their tastes. This transformation shows just what a dubious and unstable divide it truly is between fringe novelty and total mainstream pop. Whatever the case, unless you’re well within the demographic boundaries of pre-teen girl, do not think that it’s cool to be really into this stuff. Please.