This Month in J-Rock: June 2008July 1, 2008
My latest attempt at a listen and review article. The plan is to post one of these at the end of every month with my opinions on this month’s releases. In addition, at the end of every post you will find my “hype” list for the following month. However, thanks to Wizard World and Wall-E last weekend this first one has come a little late! But enjoy it anyway. Comments, etc. would be appreciated. I added myspace pages where available so you can listen to the artist. I was going to post videos but youtube deletes them the day after I post them so…why bother. Any release with a (*) after the review is highly recommended.
DOPING PANDA- Beautiful Survivor
DOPING PANDA’s latest single comes 3 months after their 3rd full length album Dopamaniacs. “Beautiful Survivor” is your typical Dopan song with sweeping synth beats and a catchy chorus. The b-side “We say we love each other” has a more laid back r&b style. Over-all, this isn’t a groundbreaking single that brings DOPING PANDA into new musical territory like “Miracle” or “I’ll Be There” did but will undoubtedly please the fan’s fix.
Genki Rockets- Star Line/Smile
And then it dawned it on me half way through “Smile,” Genki Rockets sounds a lot like Hilary Duff. The lyrics are cheesy and sound like it was written by a pre-teen. Yeah I was a little disappointed with this one. Last summer, this “computer experiment” released the really great “Heavenly Star” and “Breeze” singles which had a great techno beat and were super happy. Although “Smile” was a let down, “Star Line” was pretty great. The song has a rock beat but has a very catchy chorus. The remixes are fun but absolutely forgettable. Their first full-length is supposed to come out tomorrow so I still have hope.
NICO Touches the Walls- The Bungy
A random download worth noting. “The Bungy” is a really fun song with a lot of handclaps and country twanging. The b-side “Simon Said” is much slower with a lot more emphasis on vocals. The band hasn’t released a full length album yet but have another new single coming out in August. They’ve been put on my radar. (*)
Asian Kung-Fu Generation- Imada Minu Asu Ni
Arriving three months after their last full-length album, I didn’t see this coming. Seriously. I just found it randomly on my torrent site and assumed it was an old release with higher bit rate. Oh well. This mini-album compiles 6 b-sides from World, World, World. It sounds a lot like their old songs but none of them are very distinguishing or memorable. I can see why they were left on the cutting room floor.
ketchup mania- F.L.A.G.
I came into this album expecting ska but what I got was uber fast punk rock with a tint of metal. Songs here are simple with repetitious lyrics but that’s not a bad thing. Many songs such as “BAD! BAD! BAD!,” “Please! Marry Me,” and “Just a Mess!” essentially repeat the title of the song over and over. Now that you mention it, half the songs have an exclamation point in their title! Song’s like “Ping-Pong” venture into metal territory and sounds similar to Maximum the Hormone. It’s hard not to smile when listening to this album. From track one, Ketchup Mania has never backed down on this album. Each song is faster and catchier than the one before it. With their increased exposure in America, I think we can expect great things from them in the future. (*)
Locofrank- BRAND-NEW OLD-STYLE
As the album title implies, if you expected anything less than the sweet pop-punk they’ve always made, you’re a fool. The new album continues with their full Engrish vocals that are more incomprehensible than ever. Seriously, if an English speaking population can’t make sense of your lyrics, why bother? It just sounds a lot like whining.
The Novembers- Picnic
Gotta love picnics. A smorgasbord or sandwiches, cheeses, bread, etc. Simply put, The Novembers debut album brings nothing unique to the picnic table. It’s the same J-rock song over and over. It doesn’t get interesting until the singer starts screaming half-way through the ninth track. As disappointed as I was, I gotta give props to the artist who drew the album cover for this and their debut EP. Very neat.
Perfect Piano Lesson- Terra Incognita
I have to say, I was disappointed the first time I listened to this band. Perhaps because their song titles implied “dance band” and what I got was “indie rock.” I’m proud to say my opinion of perfect piano lesson has changed dramatically with this release. They have took on a post-rock atmosphere with this latest mini-album. Actually, they remind me of one of my greatest J-Rock finds from last year–eksperimentoj. Although piano’s songs are shorter, both bands sing in ok English and have great guitar work (and they both have an epic 7-minute track by the name “untitled”). “Death At the Library” is great and I love the gang vocals on “Electric City.” (*)
the pillows- Pied Piper
Just because you’re signed to a major label doesn’t mean you have to make shitty pop music! “I am scarecrowoh,” remember that horror of a tune from their last album? Well, luckily the pillows realized it was shit and moved back to their rock n’ roll roots with PIED PIPER. This is such a dramatic improvement it has actually rejuvenated my interest in the band and they’re one of my favorites again. The album contains the singles “New Surrender,” “Ladybird Girl,” and my favorite, the heavy ska influenced “Tokyo Bambi” featuring the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. In addition we get another great instrumental named “Tokyo Zombie” and even a little cello in “Last Holiday.” My other favorite is easily the hand clap laden “Purple Apple” which has been on repeat the past few days. (*)
PICK OF THE MONTH
What a surprise, he chose the new BEAT CRUSADERS album as the pick of the month? Indeed. Coming a year after their last album, EPopMaking, and after only one single (wasn’t it like 5 or 6 last time?) “Winterlong,” this came as quite a surprise. Popdod celebrates the 10th anniversary of the band as well as Toru Hidaka’s 40th birthday. The album starts off with their latest single “Time Flies, Everything Goes,” a feel good song. In fact, they all are. If you’ve ever listened to the band before, you’ll know to expect. My favorite songs are “Work It Out,” the traditional 1 experimental techno song per BECR album, and “Chinese Jet Song,” which has a great call and response chorus. “Summer End” is a bit more mainstream rock, and feels similar to past songs “Say Goodnight” or “Zenith.” The album ends with “Jive” whose style hails back to their good old indie days.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR NEXT MONTH
Electrico- We Satellites: Third full length album. Considering that I haven’t been able to find their first two albums legally or illegally, I doubt I will be able to review this.
ELLEGARDEN- ELLEGARDEN BEST (1999-2008 ): Weak. Very Weak. First off, it should be titled “1999-2006″ since they haven’t released anything since Eleven Fire Crackers. You will be missed.
enie meenie- Fantasy of Life: At least this band will carry ELLEGARDEN’s torch. Semi-cheesy pop-punk with neat synthesizers. They remind me of old school Motion City Soundtrack.
GALLOW- TOO VIRGIN!!: This band is in one way, shape, or form related to Toru Hidaka of BEAT CRUSADERS. Therefore it must be good.
GENKI ROCKETS- I -Heavenly Star-: This has been delayed several months now so we’ll see.
Saw Loser- Hits Hit the Fan: These guys have been blowing up around Asia the past few years. This album contains 10 classic cover songs such as “You’re Beautiful” and “Fly Me to the Moon.”
Versailles- Noble: “OMG, he’s excited about a visual-kei band?” Yeah…I was shocked too. This is their 2nd shot at a “full-length” album. They remembered “The Revenant Choir” this time.
See you next month!