This Month In J-Rock: August 2008September 22, 2008
This month’s column is relatively shorter with more emphasis on singles. Why? Can’t say there have been many mentionable August releases. Also, I have writer’s block. That’s what you get for singing up for three writing intensive courses in one semester. Bitch bitch bitch on with the show.
Avengers In Sci-Fi- PLANET ROCK
Some bands take two years off to perfect their sound. Others just don’t have money to enter the studio. Avengers in Sci-Fi seem to be in the latter category. “Save Our Rock” is essentially “Avenger Strikes Back” Part II. The melody is mostly the same with different lyrics. After a few listens, I stopped caring, but c’mon. “Starmine Sister (miss you so much!),” is luckily more original, although on the long side. I like the Avenger’s take on dance-rock and I still play their first album Avenger Strikes Back on a regular basis. Both songs on the EP will be available on their 2nd full-length album SCIENCE ROCK due out November 11.
Bonnie Pink- Kane wo Kameshite
Believe me when I say “Kane wo Kameshite” is an unremarkable single. But the b-sides more than make up for it. “Pump It Up!” is easily the best J-pop song I’ve heard this year. So fast, so catchy. It’s like cotton candy. So colorful, so retro! Pump it up! Pump it up! Also included on the single is a great remix of “A Perfect Sky” by some dude named Bjorn which reminds me of a fun day at the carnival. I enjoyed this single far more than I thought I would, even if the real “single” was a stinker. (*)
I mentioned last month that this would be my first time listening to D’espairsRay. I’ve been putting them on the back burner, mostly because they’re visual-kei and have been getting far too much attention over at JRR and the other “J-Rock” websites. “Kamikaze” is the second unremarkable single in this month’s column that was overshadowed by it’s superior b-side. I’m sure most D’espairsRay fans will disagree but “Scissors” is so much better. It’s got a cool techno-metal vibe to it. I thought they were Blood Stain Child for a second. It’s great to play while I’m doing 40mph in the construction areas by school, and there are so many streets by school getting cut up…
Detroit Metal City x Negishi- Satsugai/Amai Koibito
Murder! Murder! Kill! Kill! Kill! Detroit Metal City is easily one of the best manga/anime that have come out over the past few years. “Satsugai” and “Amai Koibito” are used as the opening and end theme, respectively, for the anime and probably the live-action movie (I so want to see this!). In the series, “Satsugai” is the debut single by heavy metal gods Detroit Metal City. The song is about raping and murdering your parents. Gross! But the DMC fans eat this shit up. And it’s hard not to laugh at them. The second song on this single is “Amai Koibito” performed by Negishi, the real-life identity of Krauser II, lead singer of DMC. It’s such a catchy love song about making sweet breads and eventually making love to your “swiitsu baby.” Did it make me smile? YES. (*)
L’arc~en~ciel- NEXUS 4/Shine
L’arc~en ~ciel are back with their new single “NEXUS 4” which hasn’t been used as an anime theme song, yet. But don’t fret, it’s reportedly used in a commercial for the Subaru Legacy automobile. It’s a competent single, they know what the public wants. It has some cool dance vibes in the beginning but they quickly fall back into routine. “Shine,” on the other hand, has been used as the theme song for the anime Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, currently airing on [adult swim] at their 5:30a.m. deathslot. It’s strange that it took the band this long to release “Shine” as a single, considering Moribito first aired in April 2007 in Japan. It’s your typical L’arc~en~single, which is to say it’s expected. “Hydeless” versions of the two singles are included, which means they have no vocals.
NICO Touches the Walls- Broken Youth
I just can’t get away from my anime themes this month. “Broken Youth” is the current theme for Naruto Shippuden. I congratulate NICO on making the big leagues. The single is catchy but not as much as “The Bungy.” It’s definitely a safe song, it doesn’t break the mold but fits in nicely with Naruto’s rock catelog, not to hide my disdain for all things Naruto. The next song is slower, quite possibly a love song, and unremarkable. The ten minute “Guernica” has its epic moments with some awesome harmonica half-way through. But they’re no post-rock band and shouldn’t do this again.
GOLLBETTY- Betty’s Buggy
What could be better than female ska bands? Well, a lot, but GOLLBETTY have recently released their third full-length album Betty’s Buggy. I like to compare them to Oreskaband with the aggressiveness of Ketchup Mania. “Cool Music,” “HAPPYRAMID,” and “bonds of friendship” have great horn sections and “99%” is a another great 1999-themed song to add to my list. For the most part, I was unimpressed by this album as it tends to go into pop-rock mode far too often. (-)
Detroit Metal City- ~for the movie~
I think…they turned…DMC…into a visual-kei band. I’m sorry but that’s all that comes to mind when I listen to this ten song soundtrack. “Satsugai” is on here, which I love, but these are all DMC songs. None of the songs by Negishi or Tetrapot Melan Tea are on here which kind of makes it hard for me to listen to. Just from reading the manga and watching the first four episodes of the anime, I can’t recognize any of the other songs on the soundtrack except for the “Rape x10 a second” and the “F*ck” tracks. I’m sure I’ll like this more after I’ve seen the live-action movie, but it’s a big pass from me right now. (-)
enie meenie- Fantasy of Life
Officially released in July, I decided to include this in this month’s column for two reasons: I wasn’t able to find it until a couple of weeks ago and this band needs more exposure. Before this album, enie meenie were mainly a synth driven pop-punk band comparable to Motion City Soundtrack. They’ve kept some of that for this album but they’ve also added some amazing saloon-style piano to the mix. The album starts off with the nursury rhyme “enie meenie minie moe, catch a tiger by the toe.” Frankly, I’m shocked it took them this long to do it but at least it’s out of their system. “Short Drama” and “Play the Hero” lead off the album strongly while “I May” will go down as one of the finest songs of their carreer. Unfortunately, there are plenty of slow songs on here such as “Different Nights,” “Parting Song,” and “Sleep” that drag the second half of the album down. However, the first three songs I mentioned are more than enough to recommend this album for. (*)
PICK OF THE MONTH
Muon- The New Mutants
I give credit to bands who frequently and consistently give away their music for free. Muon is a three-piece ambient/electronic act from Singapore. The New Mutants is their third full-length album. It begins with a guy named Marny doing some spoken word dialog, “how many times do I have to tell I don’t have no fcking money?” It continues with “From the Cold” and “Against the Grain,” fan favorites from their live material. “This Is Not The End,” has marching band drums and pounding synths for an epic nine-minutes. “Cylons Dream of Electric Sheep” is the oddball track on the album with sheep “baaaa”-ing every so often. Outside of the sheep song and “Marny,” there’s no vocals on this album. They sound and present their material very much like a post-rock band, such as Explosions in the Sky or Mono. This might not be the flashiest album this month, but it’s quiet and reflective mood will surely resonate with many new fans. And besides, it’s free, why not pick it up?
WHAT TO LOOK FOR NEXT MONTH
8otto- Hyper Hyper Hyp8r: This month may have been lackluster but we’ll start next month with the latest album from indie-rockers 8otto.
Dir en grey- Glass Skin: The latest single from their upcoming album Uroboros.
Glory Hill- Going Nowhere: The latest album from the ELLEGARDEN wannabes.
mutyumu- i l ya: Just letting you know this is a top contender for album of the year.
NICO Touches the Walls- Who Are You?: First full-length album from the Naruto rockers.
OLIVIA- Trinka Trinka: It’s been a couple of years, OLIVIA. I need to hear your angelic voice again!
Zazen Boys- Zazen Boys 4: Damn! So much great stuff coming out this month. So far this is dead tied with mutyumu for most amazing album of the year.